A Great Austrian Jewish Writer’s Diaries of Europe on the Edge of the Holocaust

Nov. 10 2021

Best known for his memoir The World of Yesterday—an elegy for the pre-World War I Hapsburg empire—the Austrian Jewish writer Stefan Zweig also wrote fiction, biographies, and much else, becoming one of the most popular German-language writers of his day. His work even inspired a 2014 film by the director Wes Anderson. Reviewing Zweig’s diaries from the years 1931 to 1940, recently published in English, Robert Philpot writes:

Zweig’s pessimism about the fascist threat is evident from the outset of his 1931 diary. “The political panorama looks grim,” he writes in October 1931. And, referring to the armed far-right militia formed shortly after World War I: “The Heimwehr acting out in the open worries me. It is all causing me to become obsessed with finding a temporary refuge.” Days later, as the economic crisis worsened, Zweig wrote: “I am sure there’s another coup brewing, and I think it will be successful.”

On a trip from Paris to London four years later—by which time he had fled Austria and Hitler was installed in power—Zweig’s apprehensions about the future had grown. “Each new day we are more prepared for a new cataclysm, always feeling that low underground rumble in our hearts,” he notes. “We are constantly seeing the straight being made crooked and the plain being made rough. It’s as if a drunken madman has taken hold of the world’s rudder and is sending us zigzagging into the abyss.”

Appalled by the growth of National Socialism in his native Austria, Zweig went into exile in Britain in 1934, but he remained on the Nazis’ radar: his books were banned, citizenship revoked, and his name and address in London entered into the notorious “Black Book”—a hit list of prominent Britons and refugees whom the SS intended to round up after it occupied the UK.”

Fearing just such an occupation of Britain, Zweig fled to Brazil in 1940. Two years later, he committed suicide.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Austrian Jewry, Nazi Germany, Stefan Zweig, World War II


Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship