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Prussian Academy of Arts Defends Werfel Against Anti-semites

February 21, 1928
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(Jewish Telegraphic Agency)

Franz Werfel, well known German Jewish dramatist, was attacked and defended on the occasion of his being awarded the Schiller prize recently.

The anti-Semitic press in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia criticised the award, asserting that the Jewish author should not have been given the Schiller prize since he is hostile to “Germanism”. In proof of this assertion they quoted extracts from World’s works, interpreting them as attacks on German character and culture.

In view of these attacks the poet’s division of the Prussian Academy of Arts issued a statement which warmly defends Werfel.

“The awarding of the Schiller prize to Franz Werfel caused a Berlin paper to protest and the protest was reproduced in other newspaper. In this protest quotations from the works of the author were jumbled to substantiate the protest.

He was attacked because he had termed Bethoven and Wagner “murderers of music” and because he had declared Bethoven to be the “chief of all Beelbebubs”. Werf was attacked because the following sentence is to be found in one of his works: “In Germany, every better man becomes either an alcoholic or a crank or both”

On the basis of this the newspaper charged that Werfel was a fanatic enemy of conscious Germanism and the distinction of receiving the Schiller prize should not have been confer must have gotten the impression that these quotations are the expression red upon him. The average reader and the opinion of Werfel himself. This is obviously wrong since the quotations represent the utterances of Werfel’s characters. If a poet were to be held responsible for every word uttered by his characters and if every opinion expressed by his characters was to be identified as the opinion of the author, then Shakespeare would have to be considered a criminal and just as the name of national poet should not be applied to Goethe, who employed Mephistopheles as his medium, and Heinrich von Kleist, because one of his characters exclaims: “What is Germany to me!” the statement of the Prussian Academy of Arts declares.

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