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Zweig, Arnold (1887-1968)

ZWEIG, ARNOLD (1887-1968)

Born to a Jewish family in Glogau, Silesia, on November 10, 1887, novelist and author Arnold Zweig died in East Berlin, almost completely blind, on November 26, 1968. At his death Zweig was the most celebrated author in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).

Zweig was unrelated to the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, but both men were important to Sigmund Freud, albeit in different ways. According to Ernest Jones: "Freud's attitude toward the two men was indicated by his mode of address. Stefan was Lieber Herr Doktor, Arnold was Lieber Meister Arnold" (1957, p. 133).

Between 1927 and 1939 Zweig and Sigmund Freud conducted an exceptionally important correspondence. When it was published in 1968, Freud's son Ernst and Arnold's son Adam decided to withhold twenty-five letters as being too personal or of insufficient scientific value, creating an impression that they wished to conceal something in their fathers' private lives.

Originally a saddler by trade, Adolf Zweig became a supplier to the Prussian army before anti-Semitic regulations forced him to return to his former profession, an incident that seems to have had a powerful impact on his son. Zweig was a brilliant student who matriculated at various European universities before being conscripted during World War I, a painful experience that undoubtedly played a role in his later antimilitarism.

Zweig began publishing fiction in 1911, and was a profound admirer both of Thomas Mann and of the nineteenth-century realists. Publication of The Case of Sergeant Grischa (1927) made him known to a wide audience and brought him to the attention of Freud.

After the National Socialists came to power in Germany, Zweig emigrated to Palestine in 1933 and lived for some years in Haifa. He traveled widely, and a trip to New York in 1939 enabled him to meet other well-known Germanémigrés. Zweig had long been interested in Zionism and socialism, but by the time Israel became a state he was both disillusioned and impoverished. He returned to East Germany in 1948, and was soon elected a parliament deputy in the new socialist republic. Zweig also succeeded Heinrich Mann as president of the German Academy of Arts. Henceforth, Zweig was a government-sponsored author and member of the Communist Party. For his efforts to legitimize East German literature, he was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize.

Zweig's literary workfeatures a severe critique of militarism and lively political and social convictions. These traits are also characteristic of his correspondence with Freud; their subjects range from incest and homosexuality to a wide variety of reflections on political, historical, and poetical issues.

In one of the most famous letters in their correspondence (May 11, 1934), Freud's comments about Zweig's plan for a book on Friedrich Nietzsche served as an opening for his own ideas on the problems of psychological and psychopathological biography. He wrote: "I cannot say whether these are my true reasons against your plan. Perhaps they have something to do with the way in which you compare me to him. In my youth [Nietzsche] signified a nobility to which I could not attain" (Jones, 1957, p. 460). This passage probably reflects the character of transference love that more or less pervades the Freud-Zweig relationship. Zweig also alludes briefly in the correspondence to the difficulties he encountered in his own analysis in Berlin, by which he hoped to treat severe depression and anxiety.

The year Freud began writing Moses and Monotheism, he reported on the work and its difficulties in a letter to Zweig (September 30, 1934). In discussing the project with Max Eitington, Zweig remarked that he had advised Freud to publish his book in Palestine. Judaism was an important topic for both men and the subject of many of their letters. In one letter (May, 31 1936) Zweig reports on an archaeological discovery that might confirm Freud's theory about the origins of the man Moses. In 1937, Freud, who thought that his "hereditary claim to life would run out in November," (Jones, 1957, p. 213) asked Zweig, who was considering a visit to Europe, not to postpone it any longer.

In 1938, Zweig made a final attempt to intervene on Freud's behalf in favor of his being awarded the Nobel Prize. Freud held out little hope for this, considering opposition to psychoanalysis and his reputation in the eyes of the Nazis. He wrote Zweig on June 28, 1938: "[I]t can hardly be expected that the official circles could bring themselves to make such a provocative challenge to Nazi Germany as bestowing the honor on me would be." (Jones, 1957, p. 234)

Arnold Zweig was one of many celebrated literary figures whose friendship Freud cultivated. Their common interests in Judaism, pacifism, and such historical figures as Napoleon, Nietzsche, and Moses brought them particularly close.

Bernard Golse

See also: Autobiography; Literature and psychoanalysis.


Freud, Sigmund. (1968a [1927-39]). The letters of Sigmund Freud and Arnold Zweig (Ernst L. Freud, Ed.; Professor and Mrs. W. D. Robson-Scott, Trans.). London: Hogarth Press, 1970.

Jones, Ernest. (1957). Life and work of Sigmund Freud (Vol. 3). New York: Basic Books.

Further Reading

Mijolla, Alain de. (1993). Freud, biography, his autobiography, and his biographers. Psychoanalysis and History, 1 (1), 4-27.

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Zweig, Arnold

Arnold Zweig (är´nôlt tsvīk), 1887–1968, German novelist and dramatist. A Zionist, he was denationalized under National Socialism and went to Palestine. There he wrote about the plight of German Jews in Insulted and Exiled (1933, tr. 1937). After 1948 he returned to live in East Germany. Zweig's realistic novels are characterized by profound humanity and ironic style; the best known, which form a trilogy, are Education before Verdun (1935, tr. 1936), The Case of Sergeant Grischa (1927, tr. 1927), and The Crowning of a King (1937, tr. 1938). His powerful fictional study of life in Germany in 1937, The Axe of Wandsbek, appeared in 1947 (tr. 1947). Among his later works are Five Romances (tr. 1959). His reminiscences were published in 1967.

See his correspondence with Sigmund Freud, ed. by E. L. Freud (1970).

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"Zweig, Arnold." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 11 Dec. 2017 <>.

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"Zweig, Arnold." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from