Arnold Zweig

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Arnold Zweig (left) with Otto Nagel , 1955
Arnold Zweig-signature-20150608-vector.svg

Arnold Zweig (born November 10, 1887 in Glogau , Province of Silesia , † November 26, 1968 in East Berlin ) was a German writer .



Berlin memorial plaque on Zikadenweg 59, in Berlin-Westend

Arnold Zweig was born the son of a Jewish saddler who was active in the Zionist movement (he is not related to Stefan Zweig ). After attending the Oberrealschule zu Kattowitz, in 1907 he began studying German , philosophy , psychology , art history and economics at the University of Breslau . He later moved to Munich , Berlin , Göttingen , Rostock and Tübingen . During this time he was influenced by Neo-Kantianism and Nietzsche's philosophy.

His literary debut was in 1912 with the band Novellen around Claudia . In 1915 he received the Kleist Prize for the tragedy Ritual Murder in Hungary . In 1915 Zweig was drafted into military service. If he was previously clearly Prussian-national, he turned into a pacifist under the impact of the First World War , where he was deployed in Serbia , Belgium and near Verdun , among others . From 1917, Zweig worked in the press department of the Commander-in-Chief East , where he was responsible for censorship. There the secular Jew Zweig came into contact with Eastern Judaism , which left a lasting impression on him.

In 1916 Zweig married his cousin, the painter Beatrice Zweig . The marriage had two sons, Adam and Michael. Adam Zweig lives in Switzerland.


Memorial plaque on the house at Homeyerstraße 13, in Berlin-Niederschönhausen

After the First World War, Zweig settled down as a freelance writer on Lake Starnberg . A friendship developed with Lion Feuchtwanger and Sigmund Freud (to whom he also dedicated the novel Appointment of a King ). Zweig used essays, plays and short prose to depict his war experiences and his confrontation with Judaism. Zweig now admitted to a humanistically shaped socialism .

After the Hitler putsch in 1923, Zweig had to leave Starnberg. He moved to Berlin, where he worked as an editor for the Jüdische Rundschau . Contact with Martin Buber , which began during the war, brought Zweig close to Zionism , to which he remained closely connected in the following years.

In 1927 Zweig's best-known work appeared, the novel The Dispute over Sergeant Grischa . The book deals with a military judicial murder towards the end of the First World War. The novel, stylistically between Expressionism and New Objectivity , shapes the clash between secularized Judaism and Eastern Jewish piety, between enlightened Prussian tradition and Wilhelmine cadaver obedience - against the background of the collapse of the German Empire. The novel belongs to the cycle The Great White Men’s War on the First World War, the other parts of which are Young Woman from 1914 (1931), Education before Verdun (1935), Installation of a King (1937), The Break of Fire (1954) and The Time is ripe (1957).

1930–1931 Zweig had a studio house built according to plans by the architect Harry Rosenthal in the Eichkamp housing estate in Berlin-Charlottenburg , Kühler Weg 9, which is now a listed building.


Arnold Zweig on a GDR postage stamp

After the National Socialists took power , Zweig's books were publicly burned as part of book burns .

Zweig first emigrated to Czechoslovakia , then to Switzerland and finally to Sanary-sur-Mer (France). His Zionist attitude led him from there into exile to Palestine , where he settled in Haifa in 1934 .

In 1936 he was stripped of his German citizenship and his property was confiscated.

In Haifa he soon came into conflict with national Jewish groups who rejected both the German and the Yiddish language - while Zweig published in the German-language magazine Orient . The situation went so far that anti-Arab nationalists advocating “Hebrewization” carried out a bomb attack on the editorial staff of the Orient - which forced the magazine to be discontinued. As early as 1932, before fleeing into exile, Zweig had described a similar situation in his novel De Vriendt returns home ; how a Dutch Jew living in Palestine is murdered by a newly immigrating Zionist-oriented Jew from Eastern Europe after a defamatory Zionist press campaign because the former campaigned for an understanding with the Arab population on the basis of Orthodox Judaism . The novel refers to real events in 1924 when the Hagana murdered Jacob Israël de Haan in Jerusalem .

Arnold Zweig's
grave of honor in the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof , Department CM in Berlin.

Cut off from his literary environment, Zweig's existence in Palestine became economically untenable. Through the connection with Feuchtwanger and other left-wing intellectuals, Zweig became increasingly involved in socialism during his exile, published in anti-fascist publications such as the Neue Weltbühne and the Deutsche Volkszeitung and became honorary chairman of the Committee Free Germany . In 1947 the novel Das Beil von Wandsbek appeared , in which Zweig designed the adaptation of little people to National Socialism in a psychologically dense and historically consistent manner.


In 1948 Arnold Zweig returned to East Berlin from exile. As an avowed socialist, he was honored in the Soviet occupation zone and the later GDR . The fact that Georg Lukács praised his work in comparison to the supposedly “decadent” modernism and placed him in a traditional context with the authors of the realistic novel of the 19th century contributed to Zweig's recognition . Because of his advocacy of socialism and the GDR, Zweig's work received little recognition in the Federal Republic of Germany for many years.

In 1949 Arnold Zweig became a member of the World Peace Council and appeared in this capacity as a speaker at congresses in Paris and Warsaw. In 1951, his novel Das Beil von Wandsbek was filmed in DEFA studios under the direction of Falk Harnack . From 1949 to 1967 he was a member of the People's Chamber of the GDR, and in 1950 he was awarded the GDR National Prize, 1st class. From 1950 to 1953 Zweig was President of the German Academy of the Arts of the GDR, then its Honorary President. Zweig was a founding member (1956) of the Pirckheimer Society at the Kulturbund of the GDR. In 1957 he was appointed President of the German PEN Center East and West (from 1967: "PEN Center GDR"). In Berlin there is a primary school named after him (Wollankstrasse 131), there are also exhibitions about him.

In the course of the sixties Arnold Zweig withdrew from the political and artistic public, almost blind, for health reasons. He died in East Berlin on November 26, 1968, shortly after his 81st birthday.

In 1963, Joop Huisken portrayed his life and work in the DEFA documentary film Arnold Zweig .

Works (selection)

Film adaptations


Audio book


  • Maritta Rost: Bibliography Arnold Zweig . 2 vols. Berlin a. Weimar: Aufbau Verl., 1987


  • Georg Lukács : turning point. 1948.
  • Arnold Zweig on his 70th birthday. ed. from the Poetry and Language Maintenance Section of the German Academy of the Arts, Berlin (East) 1957.
  • Arnold Zweig. An almanac. ed. from the German Academy of the Arts, Berlin (East) 1962.
  • Marcel Reich-Ranicki : German literature in East and West. 1963.
  • Annie Voigtländer: World and Effect of a Novel. 1967.
  • Eva Kaufmann : Arnold Zweig's path to the novel. 1967.
  • E. Hilscher: Arnold Zweig. 1968.
  • Manuel Wiznitzer: Arnold Zweig - The life of a German-Jewish writer. Athenaeum, Königstein / Ts. 1983 etc. ISBN 3-596-25665-8 .
  • Marcel Reich-Ranicki: The Prussian Jew Arnold Zweig. In: Ders .: German literature in East and West. Stuttgart 1983.
  • Hans-Albert Walter: In the beginning there was action. Arnold Zweig's "ax from Wandsbek". Frankfurt / M. 1985.
  • Wilhelm von Sternburg (Ed.): Arnold Zweig. Frankfurt am Main 1987.
  • Thomas Koebner u. a (ed.) i. A. Society for Exile Research / Society for Exile Studies: Journalism in exile and other topics. Articles by Arie Wolf on AZ; Exile research, 7; Edition Text + Criticism, Munich 1989, ISBN 3-88377-321-2 .
  • Sigrid Thielking: On the wrong track into the “New Canaan”? Palestine and Zionism in Arnold Zweig's work before exile. Peter Lang, Bern et al. 1990; ISBN 3-631-42609-7 .
  • Aria Wolf: Greatness and tragedy of A. Zweig. A Jewish-German poet's fate from a Jewish perspective. World of Books, London 1991; ISBN 3-88325-420-7 . (Informative blurb reproduced on
  • Arnold Zweig: Jewish Will to Express - Journalism from Four Decades. edited by Detlev Claussen , 1991.
  • Dieter Schiller: Arnold Zweig and the shooting of 48 specialists in the Soviet Union in 1930. In: Contributions to the history of the workers' movement 40 (1998), II; Pp. 94-99.
  • Dieter Schiller: Arnold branch of the Academy of Arts (= Pankower lectures, booklet 29). Helle Panke eV, Berlin 2000.
  • Wilhelm von Sternburg: "We are concerned with Germany". Arnold Zweig. The biography. Construction Publishing House, Berlin 1998.
  • Eva Raffel: Familiar strangers. Eastern Judaism in the work of Joseph Roth and Arnold Zweig . Narr, Tübingen 2002, ISBN 3-8233-5654-2 (dissertation at the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg 2001).
  • Gabriella Racz: “Artful masquerade”: modernity and epigonality in A. Zweig's “The Novellas about Claudia”. Edition present, Vienna 2005, ISBN 3-7069-0338-5 .
  • Jörg Seidel: “Do we actually play chess or war?” On the importance of the game of chess in Arnold Zweig's work. Edition basic series, Rostock 2006, ISBN 3-937206-05-1 .
  • Reiner Scheel: Literary judicial criticism in Feuchtwanger, Musil, Wassermann and A. Zweig. Klartext, Essen 2008, ISBN 978-3-89861-919-6 .
  • Bernd-Rainer BarthZweig, Arnold . In: Who was who in the GDR? 5th edition. Volume 2. Ch. Links, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-86153-561-4 .
  • Jost Hermand: Arnold Zweig . Rowohlt, 1990.
  • Georg Wenzel (Ed.): Arnold Zweig. 1887-1968. Work and life in documents and images. With unpublished manuscripts and letters from the estate . Aufbau-Verlag, 1978.
  • Karl-Heinz Schulmeister: Between hope and disappointment. Arnold Zweig's work in the Kulturbund for the Democratic Renewal of Germany (= Pankower Lectures No. 16) Helle Panke, Berlin 1999.
  • Stefanie Leuenberger: Writing-Space Jerusalem: Identity Discourses in the Work of German-Jewish Authors . Böhlau, 2007, ISBN 978-3-412-20058-9 .

Web links

Commons : Arnold Zweig  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files


  1. ^ Registration of Arnold Zweig in the Rostock matriculation portal
  2. Ludger Heid : First World War: In the Reich Ober Ost Die Zeit , February 20, 2014
  3. ^ Deutscher Reichsanzeiger and Prussian State Gazette. No. 53 of March 3, 1936. After: Michael Hepp (Ed.): The expatriation of German citizens 1933–45 according to the lists published in the Reichsanzeiger , volumes 1–3; Munich: Saur, 1985–1988; ISBN 3-598-10537-1
  4. ^ Tilman Krause : First World War - Death Longing for a Generation in on December 7, 2012
  5. ^ DEFA Foundation Biography and Filmography Joop Huisken