The National Library of Israel published online letters by Jewish-Austrian author Stefan Zweig including his suicide letter, on the 70th anniversary of his death, Wednesday. The documents that can be found on the library’s homepage include correspondence Zweig held with famous authors, as well as Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud.
Zweig, one of the most important writers of the 20th Century, committed suicide in Brazil on February 22, 1942. Brazil was the last stop in his path of exile from his native Austria, which fell under Nazi control in 1938.
“The background for his suicide wasn’t his economic situation, but rather the loss of European culture,” said Dr. Stefen Litt of the National Library’s archive department. “He was eventually broken by the loss of hope and decline of the spirit of peace, culture, and humanism, before the war,” he added.
Zweig’s suicide letter, written in German, was donated to the library in the early 90s, by a Jewish doctor from Brazil. The Brazilian police that found the suicide letter took it as evidence in the case. A local Jewish doctor, himself a German speaker, who was called to the scene, was asked by the police to provide a translation. He asked that they let him keep the original because of its historical significance, but was refused. 20 years later, he was able to purchase it from a retired police officer. In the 90s he donated it to the National Library of Israel.
“Before I leave this life on my own good will and with a sound mind, I am impelled to fill one final duty: Thank this wonderful country, Brazil, that provided me and my work with such great lodgingI wouldn’t want to try to rebuild my life anywhere else, after my own linguistic world sank and is lost to me, and my cultural homeland was gripped with madness,” Zweig wrote in his suicide letter.