The writer Stefan Zweig (1881–1942) was one of the most prominent intellectuals of the 20th century. His historical novels and novellas, which became bestsellers, have been translated into more than 50 languages and are sold worldwide to this day. Zweig was known as a man of peace, a pacifist and a humanist.
Zweig was born and raised in Vienna, then the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to a wealthy Jewish family. From an early age, he became interested in literature, writing poetry and stories, and publishing them in the leading Viennese newspaper, Neue Freie Presse. The newspaper’s culture editor was Theodor Herzl, who essentially became the young Zweig’s literary tutor.
The peak of his literary activity was between the years 1919 and 1929. During that time, he published at least one book each year, sometimes more. He became famous as the author of poignant novels (Amok, Confusion of Feelings, Letter from an Unknown Woman) and as a writer of historical-biographies (Joseph Fouché, Marie Antoinette: The Portrait of an Average Woman, Conqueror of the Seas: The Story of Magellan). Among his notable works were the novella The Royal Game and his autobiography The World of Yesterday, which he completed shortly before committing suicide in February 1942.
Despite his acquaintance with Herzl, Zweig never became a Zionist and never visited the Land of Israel, preferring to remain in the European diaspora. Despite this, in November 1933 Zweig contacted Dr. Hugo Samuel Bergmann, then the director of the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem, in regards to depositing some of his correspondence with the Library.
Before leaving Austria in 1934, Zweig sent a significant portion of his personal archives to Jerusalem, including his correspondence with Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Romain Rolland, Thomas Mann and others. Over the years, other significant items were added to this important collection, including a typed manuscript copy of Zweig’s autobiography The World of Yesterday as well as his suicide note—the last text he wrote before ending his life in Brazil.
The Stefan Zweig Collection at the National Library has been digitally scanned, and is now available to researchers and readers on the National Library website.