Page 153 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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Remembering Stefan Zweig
On the Semicentennial of His Death
h a l f
c e n t u r y
a g o
on February 23, 1942, Stefan Zweig, the
internationally renowned Austrian-Jewish poet, dramatist, n a r­
rator, essayist and biographer, voluntarily depa rted from life,
after completing his autobiography
The World o f Yesterday (Die
Welt von Gestern).
The Nazi deluge had then reached its crest.
Zweig, the “Good Eu ropean” and “Citizen o f the World,” had
been forced to flee from the European continent and had found
temporary refuge in Persopolis, capital o f Brazil. He was phys­
ically exhausted and emotionally depressed after decades o f
fighting for cosmopolitan, pacifistic causes whose realization
seemed doomed.
What drew me to Zweig since the 1920’s was not primarily
his intellectual approach , which was that o f an epigone o f
but ra th e r the warmth and affection which streamed
from him and that was reflected in the very first letter I received
from him, dated May 11, 1928. I adm ired him, above all, as
a moral personality, as a good human being with a yearning
for holiness, for saintliness. This yearning was not always ful­
filled, for he suffered from many human frailties as do all o f
us, bu t it was the deepest force in him, as it was in his older
friend Richard Beer-Hofmann, the profoundest member o f
It crops ou t best in an essay Zweig wrote on an allied spirit,
one who, like himself, was born healthy and wealthy, who be­
came a writer o f world renown who associated with the great
and noble spirits o f his age, and who at the height o f his literary
career, approach ing fifty, realized that fame and wealth and
power were but the vanity o f vanities. This writer, in his despair,
took down the pistols from the wall o f his home and was ready