»… With whom hadn’t we spent heartfelt hours there, looking out from the terrace over the beautiful and peaceful scenery without any notion that directly across on the Berchtesgaden mountain sat a man who would destroy all of this? Romain Rolland had stayed with us and Thomas Mann …«
Melancholy words from Stefan ZWEIG from the distance of his American exile. But it is strange that in his memoir The World of Yesterday there isn’t even a single mention of his first wife Friderike ZWEIG-WINTERNITZ, although both of them had shared heartfelt hours together with their dear friends and illustrious Nobel Prize winners in their Salzburg home at 5 Kapuzinerberg, the acclaimed »Villa Europa«.
Stefan ZWEIG was born on November 28, 1881 in the Habsburg capital and residential city Vienna. He was the younger of the two sons of the Jewish couple Ida, née Brettauer, and Moritz ZWEIG. Stefan’s mother had been born in Italian Ancona, but stemmed from a wealthy family with roots in the Jewish community of Hohenems (in Vorarlberg, the westernmost region of Austria). Stefan’s Hebrew name was Samuel, apparently in honor of his deceased grandfather, Samuel Brettauer from Hohenems. Stefan’s father Moritz ZWEIG had been born in the Moravian town of Proßnitz (Prostějov) near Olmütz (Olomouc). He was a textile manufacturer who had built a small weaving operation in Bohemia into an industrial concern during the long peaceful era of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy. He died in Vienna in 1926 and was buried in the Jewish section of the Vienna Central Cemetery. Stefan’s older brother Alfred ZWEIG took over the family concern that had flourished under the monarchy, but which had (like most Austrian industrial concerns) fared badly after the Austria-Hungarian Empire had been broken up in 1919.
At only 22 years of age Stefan ZWEIG was awarded a Ph.D.by the University of Vienna in 1904 (with a dissertation on »The Philosophy of Hippolyte Taine«). He had already made a name for himself as a lyricist, novelist, essay writer and dramatist by 1912 when he got to know the married Friderike Maria von Winternitz, who had sought to establish a correspondence with him as »Maria von W.« She announced her literary ambitions – »I write too« – and her desire for the intimate life of an author, far from relationship quarrels. Thanks to Stefan ZWEIG’s help her novels Traummenschen (Dream people), Der Ruf der Heimat (Call of the Homeland) and Vögelchen (Little Bird) were published before they became a couple – Stefan was her literary »birth helper«.
Friderike ZWEIG-WINTERNITZ, née Burger, was born in Vienna on December 4, 1882 as the last of the seven children of the Jewish couple Therese Burger, née Feigel and Emanuel Burger. Emanuel Burger was the general secretary of an insurance company and both of Friderike’s parents were buried in the Jewish section of the Vienna Central Cemetery.
Friderike attended a private girl’s lyceum in Vienna, but was unable to go on to study at a university. At age 22 she changed her religion and was baptized Roman Catholic in Vienna’s St. Michael’s Church, adopting Maria as a second name. A year later she married another Catholic convert at St. Michael’s, the finance officer Felix von Winternitz. The couple had two daughters, both born in Vienna: Alexia Elisabeth (nicknamed Alix, Lix), who was born on June 23, 1907, and Susanna Benediktine (nicknamed Suse), who was born on February 18, 1910. Both of the girls were baptized Roman Catholic. The Winternitz marriage failed and was annulled in a civil process in May 1914, an annulment that was not recognized by the Church which continued to view them as married.
The First World War began with the declaration of war by Austria-Hungary against Serbia and from December 1914 to November 1917 Stefan ZWEIG served as an author in the Imperial and Royal War Ministry archives where he was assigned to write »heroic fakes« to make the war seem heroic. During the same time period, ZWEIG wrote an anti-war play called Jeremiah that was dedicated »in gratitude to Friderike Maria Winternitz, Easter 1915 – Easter 1917«. In the fall of 1917 she hurried to Salzburg to see if the advertised »elegant mansion« on the Kapuzinerberg was the wonderful manor in the trees that they had marveled at in their first visit together to Salzburg. It was, and on October 27, 1917 Dr. Stefan ZWEIG signed the contract to buy the 7,816 square meter (84,131 sq., ft.) property at 5 Kapuzinerberg with house, garden and woods. It cost him 90 000 Crowns in cash [worth about $8,000 at the time, with a real value equal to around € 280,000 today].
His planned refuge soon turned out to be in need of major restoration, a leaking roof and more, as an inspection in November 1917 revealed. At this point another, better option developed: a stay with his partner and her children in neutral Switzerland which provided refuge for anti-war and revolutionary activists. On February 27, 1918 ZWEIG’s play Jeremiah had its premiere in Zürich. After the end of the war Ida ZWEIG was informed by her 37 year old son Stefan that he was thinking of marrying Mrs. Winternitz and living from then on in Salzburg. After their arrival in March 1919 the energetic Friderike was able to make the house on the Salzburg hill livable with a leak proof roof and a link to the outside world: telephone number 598. Most of the house problems were soon resolved and the master of the house was able to report his new address to his German publishers: Dr. Stefan ZWEIG, 5 Kapuzinerberg. It was reachable either by the Kapuziner stairs or up the steep road passing by the Stations of the Cross to end at the Capuchin Monastery [Kapuzinerkloster]. Diagonally across from the monastery, behind an overgrown garden with ancient trees lay the former hunting lodge of the Prince Archbishops, sometimes called the Paschingerschlössl. It had three floors, and a long and narrow floorplan that makes the house look bigger from outside than it really is.
The owners lived on the top floor, the »belle étage«. On the west side were Stefan ZWEIG’s personal rooms above the large terrace with a beautiful view, followed on the right by the Rococo Hall (a parlor with Joseph Dufour’s stunning early 19th century panoramic wallpaper Les Monuments de Paris), and an adjacent bathroom. On the east side of the upper floor were the rooms of his partner and her daughters. The middle floor functioned as dining room and library, and occasionally as guest quarters. There was no special guest room. The basement or cellar on the west side served as storage rooms, but were also occupied since April 1919 by uniformed tenants: police, who were able to provide security for the isolated house.
As the marriage laws of the Austrian Monarchy were still in effect Friderike Winternitz needed a governmental dispensation to remarry even though she had gotten a civil divorce because the Catholic Church didn’t recognize civil divorces and considered her to still be married. She applied for a dispensation on the grounds that: she wanted to marry the author Dr. Stefan ZWEIG in order to create the possibility of living in a moral household according to prevailing standards and to provide the children from her former marriage with paternal care and a proper family life. This request from Mrs. Winternitz was turned down by the Salzburg State administration which was under the powerful influence of the Catholic Church. The case was then appealed to the interior ministry in Vienna (where the responsible official was a friend of Stefan ZWEIG) which provided a welcome response: »The requested forbearance is hereby granted«. With this »marriage dispensation« nothing more stood in the way.
In the name of the property owner Dr. Stefan ZWEIG, Friderike Winternitz immediately notified the City of Salzburg administration that the owner: »intends to replace the old rusty fence grill on his property at 5 Kapuzinerberg with a simple wrought iron garden gate with conglomerate pillars in accordance with the enclosed sketch«. There was no problem with that and the new gate was the resolute woman’s marriage gift for her husband to be – a Catholic converted Jew and a Jew, a couple who planned to marry in the Vienna city hall and not in small town Salzburg.
Civil marriages were a common practice in the capitol city — unlike Salzburg. The bridegroom had to travel alone to Vienna, »sadly without female company« as the bride didn’t want to go through the ceremony again and wanted to avoid social obligations. Their friend Felix Braun had a power of attorney to represent her in the ceremony. So with the stand-in, the bridegroom, and the two witnesses — Eugen Antoine and Hans Prager — only men stood in front of the clerk to perform this peculiar marriage ceremony on January 28, 1920. When the clerk concluded by wishing lots of children for the bridal couple the bridegroom had to smile. His distant bride in Salzburg did not smile when she had to read that a train cancellation prevented the immediate return of her new husband. But the first letter written by the freshly married Mrs. ZWEIG showed that she knew how to hide her feelings behind a mask of humor and wit: »My darling, how did you spend our wedding night?«
Despite all the squabbles in 5 Kapuzinerberg Friderike and Stefan ZWEIG were solicitous family people who took care of difficult relatives in the house, especially Alix and Suse. But their child raising principles differed: bonding versus independence. The mother was very protective of her daughters who had been taken away early from their biological father while »Stefzi« (their step-father’s nickname) had hardly any say. Ignoring his wishes, his wife and their young daughters immersed themselves in a local social life that the master of the house dismissed as »Salzburgerei« [Salzburg foolishness].
As Stefan ZWEIG celebrated his 40th birthday in Berlin he wrote his wife back home that he had just gotten her new novel to read — her fourth, which was never published. She said her novel was »sometimes too personal and that could eventually hurt you, as did things in your last novel that disturbed me«. In his recent novel, Letter from an Unknown Woman, which had been written in Salzburg, Zweig had written about a young woman who confessed that she spent three nights with a Vienna author incapable of maintaining a relationship who refused to acknowledge her after that: »I don’t accuse you, you didn’t entice me, didn’t lie, didn’t deceive — I, I pushed myself towards you, threw myself on your breast threw myself into my fate …« — these words attributed to the anonymous woman had to have hurt Friderike ZWEIG. Had she really reached out to the relationship shy author Stefan ZWEIG in an anonymous letter a decade earlier to ask for contact and taken the active role in their difficult relationship.
The numerous letters of Friderike ZWEIG to her home shy husband – so often away on reading tours and working journeys – attest to the fact that she saw herself as a woman writer in a male preserve and felt herself pushed into the shadow of her famous husband – with growing distress. Both partners were characters, though of different sorts. The wife had achieved a moderate literary success, but she didn’t lead her to interfere with her husband’s writing, she encouraged him in his work on Jeremiah and Erasmus of Rotterdam and supported his political and religious moderation. The poetic wife, who was the soul of 5 Kapuzinerberg, was however influential in his literary work. Letters from her Salzburg time reflect the unprecedented series of successes by an Austrian author in Germany, one hardly recognized in Salzburg. By 1933 over 1.3 million copies of Stefan ZWEIG’s books had been sold there. His works also appeared in more than two dozen languages outside Germany. He was a world famous author when his books were burned in German university towns on May 10, 1933 — and then in Salzburg on April 30, 1938 when the Nazis took control over Austria — acts of violence that didn’t come out of the blue.
Although Stefan ZWEIG was neither religiously nor politically active in Salzburg he was targeted as an enemy there even in the 1920s. The Iron Broom, the newspaper of the Austrian Antisemitic League was published in Salzburg by competing factions of Nazis and Social Christians and every issue contained lists of Salzburg’s Jews from A to Z so that every Antisemite in Salzburg would know who was a Jew and make their lives as difficult as possible. Beyond naming on these lists the hate sheet attacked ZWEIG individually several times. A pamphlet on ZWEIG‘s erotic literature called in thinly veiled terms for his death. One of ZWEIG’s crimes in the eyes of the racists was his participation in the Tolstoy Celebration in the Soviet Union: as was evidenced by »The world plague. An open letter to Stefan Zweig«. But neither the Antisemitic public nor ZWEIG’s supporters were aware that after his trip to the Soviet Union the Austrian State Police had maintained a dossier on »Z« documenting his leftist tendencies. But it was well known that Stefan ZWEIG was friends with the writers Maxim Gorki and Romain Rolland, and that he also had close relations with the Austrian Social Democrats.
In 1933 two democracies were transformed into dictatorships. Soon after Weimar Germany was turned into a Nazi dictatorship Austrian democracy was dissolved under the leadership of the Christian Social Party. Its last legal opposition, the Austrian Social Democratic Party, was crushed on February 12, 1934 – after bloody fighting that could be heard throughout Vienna. Stefan ZWEIG witnessed these events in Vienna before he returned to Salzburg, where there was no fighting. The Austrian authorities claimed that as the State Capital, Salzburg was also seriously threatened: the armed militia of the Social Democrats, Republican Defense League, was allegedly planning to fire on the city’s bridges from the heights of the Kapuzinerberg — an imaginary threat that the Austrian dictatorship used as an excuse for a wave of arrests and a search for arms depots.
The police ignored the fact that ZWEIG was well known as a pacifist and that a policeman had been a renter in Stefan ZWEIG‘s house for the past fifteen years, and decided that his home was a suspected arms depot. Without any basis for suspicion and without a warrant, on the morning of February 18, 1934 four Austrian policemen searched 5 Kapuzinerberg for Republican Defense League weapons as the owner stood by. For ZWEIG this illegal action was not only a violation of his rights as a citizen and an invasion of his privacy, it was a real threat to his freedom. Stefan ZWEIG then turned his back on Salzburg, traveling first to Paris where he spoke pessimistically about Austria’s future with his friend Joseph Roth, and then on to London. There he heard that the Austrian authorities were blaming him for carrying out atrocity propaganda against Austria and that he was honoring radical leftist tendencies — creating an unbearable climate of suspicion against him.
As a result, Stefan ZWEIG decided to make London his permanent residence and in February 1934 he had himself removed from the registers of residents and tax payers in Salzburg. But he also made it clear that he was no longer willing to live together with his wife and her now grown daughters Alix and Suse, neither in Salzburg nor in London. In May 1934 the now 52 year old author hired the 26 year old Lotte Altmann, a German Jew who had fled to London, as his secretary. The two were soon lovers, something he couldn’t hide for long from his wife abandoned in Salzburg. And so both the household and the marriage fell apart step by step.
Stefan ZWEIG started feeling the pinch from his books having been banned in Germany and as his income fell he found that he could no longer afford to maintain the house in Salzburg where he hadn’t lived since February 1934. Selling it was a slow process: in April 1937 he accepted the offer of the Salzburg mercantile family Gollhofer: sale price 63 000 Schillings [worth about $17,000 at the time, with a real value equal to around € 600,000 today] — with 40 000 Schillings due at the time of the sale and the other 23 000 Schillings to be paid within two years at 5% interest (by June 1, 1939 at the latest). On May 4, 1937 ZWEIG traveled to Salzburg to sign the contract. The house on the Kapuzinerberg had already been cleared out and he stayed in the modest Hotel Traube in the Linzer Gasse — it was his last lodging in Salzburg. In the meantime he had already sold most of his manuscript collection and had the remaining manuscripts, valuable books, and Beethoven relics (secretary, writing desk, money box and lock of hair) shipped to London.
Friderike ZWEIG didn’t want to leave her two still unmarried daughters (then thirty and twenty-seven years old) alone and they didn’t want to leave Salzburg, so in May 1937 she rented a house with a garden in the Nonntal neighborhood. As a housewarming present her husband gave her the original manuscript of Goethe’s Song of May. He also gave her a year’s rent for the house, though she only lived there for seven months before she too went into exile.
At the beginning of 1938 Friderike ZWEIG and her press photographer younger daughter Suse WINTERNITZ went to Paris for a planned three month stay. But then the German takeover of Austria on March 12, 1938 made their return unthinkable. Alix WINTERNITZ, who had stayed in Salzburg, would have to endure the ensuing terror years. She cleared out her mother’s house, packed Friderike‘s furniture, books and valuables and put them in storage while waiting for permission to ship them to her mother. But it was all confiscated by the Gestapo, which auctioned the lot in Salzburg on November 18-19, 1940. And so Friderike ZWEIG lost everything she owned in Salzburg: savings, securities, family jewelry, tableware, furniture, carpets, pictures, and her library — including some 600 books, and manuscripts like that of Jeremiah with Stefan ZWEIG’s dedication to her, and the guestbook from 5 Kapuzinerberg, all that remained from their lives together. Stefan ZWEIG’s bank accounts, containing a large amount of money he still had in Austria because the strict currency controls of the time prevented him from transferring it out of the country, were closed and robbed by the Nazi Regime: 73 408 Schillings, which included the proceeds from the sale of 5 Kapuzinerberg.
After the sale of the house Stefan ZWEIG had no sympathy for his wife’s continued ties to Salzburg. Even after Friderike ZWEIG had abandoned Salzburg, on May 1, 1938, ranted at her: »I left you all the furniture, all the pictures, books, and sold the house. But where did you choose to live? In Salzburg, the biggest Nazi town, the city that had humiliated me — and the city that yesterday was the first in Austria to burn our books«.
The book burning Stefan ZWEIG referred to took place on the Salzburg Residence Square across from the cathedral on the evening of April 30, 1938. It was the only large staged book burning in Nazi Austria. It was instigated by Karl Springenschmid, a teacher and author who led the local Nazi teacher’s organization. He penned the words spoken as the books were thrown into the fire: »I throw into the fire the book of the Jew Stefan Zweig, which the flames will consume like all Jewish writings …«.
In view of the violence in Salzburg Stefan ZWEIG felt justified in his behavior towards his wife Friderike and pressed for a divorce — with a view to remarry and to become naturalized in Great Britain with Lotte. While he had little sympathy for Friderike, the remained concerned about his sick mother who was in danger in Nazi Vienna. On August 23, 1938 the 84 year old Ida ZWEIG died in her apartment from cardiac arrest. She was buried in the Jewish section of the Vienna Central Cemetery alongside her husband, but it pained both Alfred and Stefan ZWEIG greatly that they couldn’t succor their mama and couldn’t attend her funeral.
Friderike ZWEIG had fought for her marriage while in Salzburg, but she gave up in exile. She still wanted a divorce agreement in which her husband would be required to pay her alimony and agree to take sole blame for the failure of the marriage. But where could a married couple who lived in exile get legally divorced when the wife was a Jew according to the Nuremburg Race Laws that lived in Paris and the husband was an acknowledged Jew living in London? Neither in Paris nor in London, only in their last place of common residence: Salzburg, which had been under Nazi rule since March 12, 1938.
On September 1, 1938 Friderike ZWEIG’s application for a divorce was filed with the responsible court in Salzburg. Their attorneys arranged for the two parties not to have to appear in person. The court was satisfied that Alix WINTERNITZ, who still lived in Salzburg, could credibly testify that Stefan ZWEIG was solely to blame. Accordingly, On November 22, 1938 the Salzburg State Court declared the couple to be divorced »in the name of the German people« (effective December 24, 1938). Court costs were set at RM 177.27 and Stefan ZWEIG was ordered to pay the entire sum as he carried the sole blame.
Friderike and Stefan ZWEIG avoided mentioning in their memoirs that their marriage was ended in Salzburg, »the worst Nazi city«, and at the time of the Kristallnacht Pogrom no less. They also left out the experience of the 31 year old Alix WINTERNITZ, a »Jewess« according to the police registration records of the city of Salzburg. In January 1939 she managed to travel to her mother in Paris, along with her Jewish friend Dr. Herbert Carl Störk, a Vienna doctor. The two married in Paris on July 8, 1939. Alix left a small suitcase full of letters with Friderike ZWEIG‘s trusted Salzburg friend Josefine Junger at 6 Makartplatz — which was well hidden during the Nazi period: rescuing letters from Friderike’s Salzburg time that were published later. But saving people was the priority under the Nazi regime.
Shortly after the start of the Second World War, on September 6, 1939, the 31 year old Lotte Altmann and the 57 year old Stefan ZWEIG were married in the English spa town of Bath. After they got British citizenship they traveled to the US, arriving in New York on June 30, 1940. From there Stefan ZWEIG was able to make telegraphic contact with his ex-wife Friderike, who was in danger in occupied France. Shortly before German troops occupied Paris, on June 14, 1940 the entire ZWEIG-WINTERNITZ family, mother, daughter and daughter’s partner, fled the city for Montauban in southern France. There, on August 13, 1940 Suse WINTERNITZ married her long term friend Karl Höller — a non-Jewish photographer and film maker from Salzburg who had accompanied her into exile out of love. In Marseille the family was able, with the help of Varian Fry and the American Emergency Rescue Committee, to get the visas and affidavits needed to travel to the US — thanks to the efforts of Stefan ZWEIG and the American relatives of Friderike ZWEIG. In addition to the US papers they also needed visas to get to Portugal, where they could get a ship to America. That might have proved difficult if Stefan hadn’t published a biography of the Portuguese hero Ferdinand Magellan, but he had so the Portuguese government was happy to oblige him.
Equipped with the lifesaving papers the family crossed the Pyrenees in September 1940 and hurried across fascist Spain to Lisbon, where they could get on a ship to the free world. The passenger list of the Nea Hellas, departing Lisbon on October 4, 1940, noted »Hebrew« next to each of their names. Friderike ZWEIG, her daughters and sons-in-law reached New York on October 13, 1940 — greeted by dear relatives, by her sister Poldi and her brother Karl and their families.
On January 23, 1941 Friderike and Stefan ZWEIG met each other unexpectedly in the skyscraper at 25 Broadway. Friderike got a written confirmation from her ex-husband of his commitment to pay her alimony. When Friderike told him about the forced auctioning of the relics from their lives together in Salzburg he replied laconically »maybe it’s better to know right way that is all just gone, rather than to fight for it for years and still lose«. But Stefan ZWEIG never knew all that he had lost — he never learned that in May 1941 the University of Vienna cancelled as »unworthy« the doctorate he had been awarded under the Habsburg Monarchy.1
Stefan ZWEIG was deeply concerned about his endangered friends back in Europe. When he learned of their deaths he talked about suicide. As he worked on his memoirs in the Hudson Valley town of Ossining, New York, he fell into a severe depression. He and his wife Lotte saw no other way out than to flee to South America: arriving in Rio de Janeiro on August 27, 1941. On September 17, 1941 they arrived in Valparaiso, a suburb of Petropolis in Brazil, high above sea level at 813 meters. There he was able to finish his autobiography The World of Yesterday before his 60th birthday. And then — convinced he was being persecuted by the World War — he wrote his Chess Story to finally complete his literary efforts.
On Monday February 23, 1942 — after taking a toxic substance, »ingestao de substancia toxica«, as the doctor who wrote the death certificate put it — in their rented house at 34 rua Goncalves Dias, Lotte and Stefan ZWEIG ended their lives. The next day, on orders from the Brazilian government, their bodies were buried with official honors in the communal cemetery of Petropolis — in accord with Jewish rites. Friderike received a goodbye letter from her beloved Stefan dated February 22, 1942. He left her Mozart’s »The Violet«, a musical arrangement and elaboration of Goethe’s poem: the violet longs for love, wants to be the most beautiful flower so the shepherdess will pin him to her breast, but when she doesn’t notice him and tramples him the violet dies happily under her beloved feet — thus fulfilling his desire in death?
Friderike ZWEIG outlived Lotte and Stefan ZWEIG by nearly three decades. In 1946 she published her biographical memoir Stefan Zweig, wie ich ihn erlebte [now available in English translation as Married to Stefan Zweig]. There she portrayed her rival and successor Lotte as a figure of pity. Stefan ZWEIG’s second wife was completely obliterated from the correspondence she selected from 1912-1942 and published in 1951. In Friderika’s memoir of her life with Stefan ZWEIG she became the only one who counted — living a poetic life together (as she had wished for so many years before). She considered herself his widow and continued to describe herself as such until her death in Stamford, Connecticut on January 18, 1971. Her older daughter Elizabeth Stoerk died at the age of 78 in the same place on May 16, 1986, while her younger daughter Suzanne Hoeller died in Florida at age 87 on January 28, 1998.
After their deaths the complete and unaltered correspondence between Stefan and Friderike ZWEIG was reviewed, edited and published by Jeffrey B. Berlin and Gert Kerschbaumer as Wenn einen Augenblick die Wolken weichen: Briefwechsel 1912-1942 (2006). For decades the way Stefan ZWEIG, his wife and her daughters used to take to get to their home has been called the Stefan-Zweig-Weg. But the historic address remains unchanged: 5 Kapuzinerberg — with the still existing garden gate that was Friderike‘s wedding present for her Stefan.
1 The research of the author Gert Kerschbaumer for his biography of Stefan Zweig – Der fliegende Salzburger — led to the discovery that the cancelation of Stefan ZWEIG’s doctorate by the University of Vienna on May 8, 1941 was still in effect in 2003. On February 11, 2003 Gert Kerschbaumer received a letter from the Rector of the University: »… Finally I want to thank you once again for your comprehensive research. Your valuable book had achieved a great success even before it appeared: the restoration of the academic honor of one of the most important graduates of the Alma Mater Rudolphina Vindobonensis, Dr. Stefan Zweig. With greatest esteem Georg Winckler e. h.«
- Daniel A. Reed Library at Fredonia State of New York (Stefan Zweig Collection)
- Jewish Community [Israelitische Kultusgemeinde] Vienna
- St. Michael’s Parish, Vienna
- Municipality of Vienna
- University of Vienna
- Salzburg City Archives
- Salzburg State Archives
Translation: Stan Nadel
Laid 19.08.2016 at Salzburg, Kapuzinerberg 5