Arnold Zweig (November 10, 1887 – November 26, 1968) was a German writer and an active pacifist.
Life and work
Zweig was born in Glogau, Silesia (today Glogow, Poland) son of a Jewish saddler. After attending a gymnasium in Kattowitz (Katowice), he made extensive studies in history, philosophy and literature at several universities - Breslau (Wrocław), Munich, Berlin, Göttingen, Rostock and Tübingen. He was especially influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche's thinking.
His first literary works Novellen um Claudia (1913) and Ritualmord in Ungarn gain him wider recognition.
Zweig volunteered for the German army in World War I and saw action as a private in France, Hungary and Serbia. The war changed him from a Prussian patriot to an eager pacifist.
By the end of the war he was assigned to the Press department of the German Army Headquarters in Kaunas and there he was first introduced to the East European Jewish organisations.
In a quite literal effort to put a face to the hated Ostjude (Eastern European Jew), due to their Orthodox, economically depressed, "unenlightened," "un-German" ways, Zweig published with the artist Hermann Struck Das ostjüdische Antlitz (The Face of East European Jewry) in 1920. This was a blatant effort to at least gain sympathy among German Jews for the plight of their eastern European brethren. With the help of many simple sketches of faces, Zweig supplied interpretations and meaning behind them.
After World War I he was an active socialistic zionist in Germany. After Hitler's attempted coup in 1923 Zweig went to Berlin and worked there as the editor-in-chief of a newspaper "Jüdische Rundschau".
In the 1920s, Zweig was taken by the psychiatric theories of Sigmund Freud and underwent Freudian therapy. In March 1927, Zweig wrote to Freud asking permission to dedicate his new book to Freud. In the letter Zweig told Freud: "I personally owe to your psychological therapy the restoration of my whole personality, the discovery that I was suffering from a neurosis and finally the curing of this neurosis by your method of treatment."
Freud returned this ardent letter with a warm letter of his own, and the Freud-Zweig correspondence continued for a dozen years -- momentous years in Germany's history. This correspondence is extensive and interesting enough to have been published in book form.
In 1927, Zweig published the pacifist novel The Case of Sergeant Grischa, which made him an international literary figure.
From 1929 he was a contributing journalist of anti-Nazi newspaper Die Weltbühne (World Stage).
When the Nazis took power in Germany in 1933, Zweig was one of many Jews who packed their bags and went into exile. Zweig went first to Czechoslovakia, then Switzerland and France. After spending some time with Thomas Mann, Lion Feuchtwanger, Anna Seghers and Bertolt Brecht in France he set out for Palestine.
In Haifa, Palestine he published a German newspaper "Orient". During the years spent in Palestine he became disillusioned with Zionism and turned to socialism.
In 1948, after a formal invitation from the East German government, Zweig decided to return to the Soviet Zone (later called the GDR).
In East Germany he was in many ways involved in the communist system. He was a member of parliament, delegate to the World Peace Council Congresses and the cultural advisory board of the communist party. He was President of the German Academy of the Arts from 1950-53.
He was rewarded with many prizes and medals by the regime. The USSR awarded him the Lenin Peace Prize (1958) for his anti-war novels.
After 1962, due to poor health, Zweig virtually withdrew from the political and artistic fields.
Arnold Zweig died in East Berlin on the November 26, 1968.
He is best known for his World War I tetralogy.
- Claudia (1913)
- Young Woman of 1914
- Playthings of Time
- The Time is Ripe
- De Vriendt Goes Home
- The Case of Sergeant Grischa (1927)
- Education before Verdun (1935)
- Crowning of a King
- The Axe of Wandsbek (1947)