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Stefan Zweig Tickets

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19 Jul 2025, Sat 6 PM
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24 Jul 2025, Thu 7 PM
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About

Stefan Zweig was an Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist and biographer. At the height of his literary career, in the 1920s and 1930s, he was one of the most popular writers in the world.

Zweig was born in Vienna, the son of Moritz Zweig (1845–1926), a wealthy Jewish textile manufacturer, and Ida Brettauer (1854–1938), a daughter of a Jewish banking family. He was related to the Czech writer Egon Hostovský, who described him as "a very distant relative"; some sources describe them as cousins.

Zweig studied philosophy at the University of Vienna and in 1904 earned a doctoral degree with a thesis on "The Philosophy of Hippolyte Taine". Religion did not play a central role in his education. "My mother and father were Jewish only through accident of birth," Zweig said later in an interview. Yet he did not renounce his Jewish faith and wrote repeatedly on Jews and Jewish themes, as in his story Buchmendel. Zweig had a warm relationship with Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, whom he met when Herzl was still literary editor of the Neue Freie Presse, then Vienna's main newspaper; Herzl accepted for publication some of Zweig's early essays. Zweig, a committed cosmopolitan) believed in internationalism and in Europeanism, as The World of Yesterday, his autobiography, makes clear: "I was sure in my heart from the first of my identity as a citizen of the world." According to Amos Elon, Zweig called Herzl's book Der Judenstaat an "obtuse text, piece of nonsense".

Zweig served in the Archives of the Ministry of War and adopted a pacifist stance like his friend Romain Rolland, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1915. Zweig married Friderike Maria von Winternitz (born Burger) in 1920; they divorced in 1938. As Friderike Zweig she published a book on her former husband after his death. She later also published a picture book on Zweig. In the late summer of 1939, Zweig married his secretary Elisabet Charlotte "Lotte" Altmann in Bath, England. Zweig's secretary in Salzburg from November 1919 to March 1938 was Anna Meingast (13 May 1881, Vienna – 17 November 1953, Salzburg).

In 1934, following Hitler's rise to power in Germany, Zweig left Austria for England, living first in London, then from 1939 in Bath. Because of the swift advance of Hitler's troops westwards, Zweig and his second wife crossed the Atlantic to the United States, settling in 1940 in New York City; they lived for two months as guests of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, then they rented a house in Ossining, New York.

On 22 August 1940, they moved again to Petrópolis, a German-colonized mountain town 68 kilometres north of Rio de Janeiro. Zweig, feeling increasingly depressed about the situation in Europe and the future for humanity, wrote in a letter to author Jules Romains, "My inner crisis consists in that I am not able to identify myself with the me of passport, the self of exile". On 23 February 1942, the Zweigs were found dead of a barbiturate overdose in their house in the city of Petrópolis, holding hands. He had been despairing at the future of Europe and its culture. "I think it better to conclude in good time and in erect bearing a life in which intellectual labour meant the purest joy and personal freedom the highest good on Earth," he wrote.

The Zweigs' house in Brazil was later turned into a cultural centre and is now known as Casa Stefan Zweig.

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