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Zweig, Arnold


ZWEIG, ARNOLD (1887–1968), German novelist and playwright. Zweig was born in Gross-Glogau, Silesia. In 1915, while a university student, he volunteered for the German army and spent over a year in the trenches. After the war he became a freelance writer, living first in Bavaria and from 1923 in Berlin. There he was for a time editor of the Zionist *Juedische Rundschau, having, unlike the vast majority of German-Jewish writers, turned to Jewish nationalism. With Lion Feuchtwanger he wrote Die Aufgabe des Judentums (1933). When the Nazis came to power, Zweig left Germany for Ereẓ Israel by way of Czechoslovakia, Switzerland, and France. He lived in Haifa where he coedited the short-lived weekly Orient (1942–43). In 1948 he settled in East Berlin, remaining there until his death.

Zweig first attracted attention with his Novellen um Claudia (1912, Claudia, Eng. 1930). The biblical drama Abigail und Nabal (1913) and the novella Aufzeichnungen ueber eine Familie Klopfer (1911) were followed by a more important drama of Jewish life, the prizewinning Ritualmord in Ungarn (1914, revised as Die Sendung Semaels, 1918). It was, however, his bestselling novel, Der Streit um den Sergeanten Grischa (1927; The Case of Sergeant Grischa, 1928), which (translated into nearly 20 languages) spread Zweig's reputation far beyond the German-speaking world. Perhaps the outstanding war novel of the Weimar Republic, this scathing exposure of Prussian justice dealt with the trial and execution of an innocent and inarticulate Russian prisoner of war. Over the years Zweig wrote a series of prose epics on Germany before, during, and after World War i (parts of an eight-volume cycle entitled Der grosse Krieg der weissen Maenner); Erziehung vor Verdun (1935; Education Before Verdun, 1936); Einsetzung eines Koenigs (1937; Crowning of a King, 1938); Junge Frau von 1914 (1931; Young Woman of 1914, 1932); and Die Feuerpause (1954). The Nazi terror was described in another fine novel, Das Beil von Wandsbek (1947; The Axe of Wandsbeck, 1947), filmed in 1951; it was published first in Hebrew in 1943.

Zweig's thinking on Jewish problems found expression in the essays Das ostjuedische Antlitz (1920); Caliban (1927), a study of antisemitism; Juden auf der deutschen Buehne (1928); and Bilanz der deutschen Judenheit 1933 (1934; Insulted and Exiled, 1937); his drama Die Umkehr (1925), and the novel De Vriendt kehrt Heim (1932; De Vriendt Goes Home, 1933), based on the tragic career of Jacob Israël de *Haan. During his early Zionist period in Germany, Zweig held that Palestine could change the character of Jewish life everywhere by becoming once again the spiritual center of the Jews and by developing new forms of cooperative living. He nevertheless increasingly held internationalism to be the highest ideal. Zweig never felt at home in Palestine, being unable to adapt himself to a Hebrew-speaking milieu: local publishers were not inclined to translate his books, nor was *Habimah enthusiastic about staging his plays. He favored a binational, Jewish-Arab state and became increasingly critical of Zionist aims. Failing eyesight also increased his aggravations; after the declaration of Israel's independence, Zweig, now more sympathetic to Communism, made a much-publicized return to East Germany, where he succeeded Heinrich Mann as president of the Academy of Arts in 1950. He received many awards, including the International Lenin Peace Prize (1958). His correspondence with *Freud was published in 1968. Toward the end of his life, Zweig evidently reassessed his views on Zionism and courageously refused to sign an East German intellectuals' statement condemning Israel's "aggression" against the Arab states after the Six-Day War of 1967.


S. Liptzin, Germany's Stepchildren (1944), 281–4; Sinn und Form. Beitraege zur Literatur, Sonderheft (1952); J. Rudolph, Der Humanist Arnold Zweig (1955); H. Kamnitzer, Er kenntnis und Bekentnis: Arnold Zweig 70 Jahre (1958); E. Hilscher, A. Zweig: Brueckenbauer vom Gestern ins Morgen (1962); Welt und Wirkung eines Romans; Zu Arnold Zweigs " Der Streit um den Sergeanten Grischa " (1967), E.L. Freud (ed.), Letters of Sigmund Freund and Arnold Zweig (1971).

[Sol Liptzin]

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