The Government of Brazil was represented today at impressive funeral services for Stefan Zweig, the 60-year old world-famed Austrian-Jewish writer, who, stricken by Austria’s spiritual death and exhausted by “long years of peregrination as one without a country,” died with his wife yesterday in a suicide pact at their home in Petropolis, the Brazilian summer capital outside Rio.
President Getulio Vargas, who was among the thousands who silently passed before the bodies today, ordered that the funeral be held at state expense. He also ordered that the autopsies be performed at the Zweig’ home instead of at the morgue as a mark of respect.
Born of Jewish parents in Vienna on Nov. 28, 1881, Zweig received an excellent education. He had published two volumes of verse before his university career was completed. For the next decade he wandered around the world. The shock of the first World War changed all this. Zweig sought new values. Deserting his beloved Vienna, he settled in Salzburg and began a serious literary career. He was often referred to as “the most translated author in the world,” and was considered one of the most important writers in modern German literature.
When the Nazis occupied Austria in 1938, Zweig fled to England where he was welcomed and given British citizenship. Nazi hordes in the meantime were burning his books all over Austria. Not politically minded, Zweig always advocated the idea that a writer should be above polities. He at first seemed to be little affected by his exile and continued his writing and lecturing. He also participated in aiding his fellow emigrees. Within the last few years, however, he began to show signs of despair. In statements which he made during his visit in America in 1940, and later during his stay in South America he constantly emphasized that there can be no spiritual development under dictatorship and complained that the war had upset all his literary work.
SUPPORTED JEWISH ACTIVITIES IN SOUTH AMERICA, WAS LOVED IN BRAZIL
Although not active in Jewish affairs, Zweig started to display interest in Jewish life in South America by attending Jewish gatherings. He was one of the principal speakers at a number of dinners arranged by Jewish groups in Argentina collecting funds for Palestine as well as at functions arranged by the B’nai B’rith. Despite the fact that he lived in Brazil for only 16 months, he was regarded as the most popular European writer in all the South American countries. Six years ago when he first visited Brazil, he was the guest of the Brazilian Government.
Zweig is the second German-Jewish writer of importance to commit suicide since the Nazis came to power. The other one was the famous play wright Ernst Toller. Zweig left a letter explaining the suicide pact, addressed to Claudio de Souze, president of the P.E.N. Club of Brazil. The letter said: “Before I depart from life by my own free will, I want to do my last duty, which is to thank this marvelous country – Brazil – which so hospitably received me. Each day I spent here I loved this country more, and in no other could I have had such hopes for reconstructing my life.
“After I saw the country of my own language fall, and my spiritual land-Europe destroying itself, and I have reached the age of 60, it would require immense strength to reconstruct my life, and my energy is exhausted by long years of peregrination as one without a country. Therefore, I believe it is time to and a life that was dedicated only to spiritual work, considering human liberty and my own as the greatest wealth in the world. I leave an affectionate goodbye to all my friends.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.