Sholom Aleichem (1859-1916), a central figure in modern Yiddish literature, was born Sholom Rabinowitz in Voronko, Russia. Often called the “Jewish Mark Twain,” he published more than 40 volumes of work.
His merchant father’s business failed when Sholom was still a child, impoverishing the family. In the 1860s, Sholom attended a traditional cheder. Later, he attended the Russian district school in Pereyaslav, but wrote that the literature of the Haskala, the Jewish Enlightenment movement, was the main source of his education. At 15, he wrote a novel inspired by his reading of Robinson Crusoe and adopted the popular Hebrew/Yiddish greeting meaning “How do you do,” or “Peace be with you” as his pseudonym.
After graduating from high school in 1876, he spent three years tutoring Olga (Golde) Loyev, a girl from a wealthy family. They married, against parental wishes in 1883, and had six children.
Sholom Aleichem was influenced by Haskala author Mendele Mocher Seforim, a founding father of modern Yiddish and modern Hebrew literature. Initially, Aleichem shunned Yiddish until he realized that his work in Hebrew and Russian would be understood only by the intellectual elite. In 1883, he switched to Yiddish. Characters from his short-lived Hebrew period were overshadowed by Tevye the Dairyman, luftmentch Menachem Mendl, and the chatty population of Kasrilevke.
After 1905, when major pogroms spread across Russia, Aleichem settled his family in Geneva, Switzerland and pursued a strenuous international schedule of lectures to supplement his writing income. The family moved to the lower east side of Manhattan in 1914. When he died two years later, his funeral attracted 150,000 mourners, then one of the largest crowds in New York City’s history.
Henri Alleg (1921-2013), born Harry Salem to Jewish parents from Russia and Poland, studied literature at the Sorbonne, became a French-Algerian journalist and a member of the Communist Party. He started writing under the name Alleg for the Alger Républicain, a daily newspaper sympathetic to Algerian nationalism, and became its editor-in-chief in 1951. In June 1957, he was arrested on suspicion of undermining the power of the French state, and underwent torture for one month in El-Biar, a suburb of Algiers, at the hands of the French Army. Alleg’s account of his interrogation was smuggled out of prison and published in 1958 by Editions de Minuit as La Question, and that same year in English as The Question. Alleg gained international recognition for his stance against torture in the context of the Algerian War. The French government banned La Question after 60,000 copies had been sold. In 1960, a military court which barred the public and the press from the trial condemned Alleg to 10 years of hard labor in France, but he escaped from prison in 1961 and took refuge in Czechoslovakia.
After the 1962 Evian Accords, Alleg returned to France and then to Algeria. He helped rebuild the Alger Républicain but was declared persona non grata after the 1965 military coup by Houari Boumédienne. Alleg moved back to France where he worked as a journalist for L’Humanité until 1980 and wrote several books, including a three-volume history of the Algerian War of Independence and Algerian Memoirs published in 2005. He died at age 91.
Alfred Döblin (1878-1957) was an assimilated and ambivalent Prussian Jew, a psychiatrist, critic, essayist, mystic, and novelist. His works are considered classics of German modernism and include The Three Leaps of Wang Lun (1915), Wallenstein (1920) and Berlin Alexanderplatz (1929). When he fled Germany for Paris in 1933, he was one of the country's best-known authors and a serious contender for the Nobel Prize. His refugee trajectory, documented in Destiny’s Journey (1949), led through Marseilles, Lisbon and New York to the colony of European exile intellectuals in Hollywood. His entourage included his wife and children as well as the woman who was his long-time lover. In 1941, after a long period of religious searching, he converted to Catholicism. In a review of Destiny’s Journey, critic John Simon wrote: “Döblin was not at peace with any religion, philosophy, political theory, literary school or style. Though a Jew, he early on rejected many aspects of Judaism. Though a socialist, he had no use for Marx and militancy. Though a Westerner, Eastern mysticism played a substantial role in his thought.” Alfred Döblin returned to Germany in 1945 at the war's end. He could not adjust to life there and, with his wife, resettled in Paris in the early 1950s. (photo: S. Fischer Verlag GmbH)
Born in Prague in 1947, Helen Epstein grew up in New York City, where she graduated from Hunter College High School in 1965. She studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and became a journalist after the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia of 1968 when her personal account was published in the Jerusalem Post. She became a university correspondent for that newspaper while still an undergraduate. Subsequently, she studied at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and began freelancing for diverse publications including the New York Times.
Her profiles of legendary musicians such as Vladimir Horowitz, Leonard Bernstein and Yo-Yo Ma are collected in Music Talks that, like Children of the Holocaust and Where She Came From, has been translated into several other languages. She herself is the translator of Heda Kovály's Under A Cruel Star and Vlasta Schönová's Acting in Terezín. Her biographies of Joseph Papp and Tina Packer grew out of her journalistic work. She has an active speaking career and has lectured at a wide variety of venues in Europe, and North and South America. She blogs for The Arts Fuse, a New England cultural web site.
Born in Debrecen, Hungary in 1937, Charles Fenyvesi immigrated to the United States after the revolution of 1956 in which he was a student participant. He won a scholarship to Harvard University where he received his B.A. in 1960 and served as assistant to Prof. Clyde Kluckhohn researching medieval history. He went to India as a graduate student at Madras University and received an M.A. in philosophy in 1962.
Returning to the US, he edited various publications including The National Jewish Monthly and served as Washington correspondent for the Tel Aviv daily Ha’aretz before joining The Washington Post as a staff writer contributing a weekly garden column for nineteen years and scores of features and op-ed pieces. Next he worked for US News & World Report, filing a one-page weekly feature, “Washington Whispers,” for a decade. Fenyvesi also freelanced for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, and The New Republic.
He is author of six books on subjects ranging from interviews with Europe’s non-reigning kings to essays on trees, from archival research on three little known anti-Nazi conspiracies during World War II to profiles of rescuers of Jews in wartime Hungary. His own family’s history, When the World Was Whole, was published in six countries.
Frederic V. Grunfeld
Born in Berlin, Frederic Volker Grunfeld (1929-1987) and his family fled the Nazis in 1938 to settle in Queens, New York. After graduating from the University of Chicago in 1949, Grunfeld was a classical music broadcaster for WQXR, wrote book reviews for the New York Times and worked in the record industry in New York City. He moved to Deia, Mallorca in 1961, was cultural correspondent in Europe for The Reporter, and roving editor for Horizon. He also worked for other publications including Connoisseur, Queen magazine and New York. In 1974, he earned a Master of Fine Arts from Columbia University where he studied with Jacques Barzun. Grunfeld’s books include The Art and Times of the Guitar (1970), The Hitler File: A Social History of Germany and the Nazis, 1918-45 (1974), Games of the World (1975), Berlin (1977), Prophets Without Honour (1979), Rodin: A Biography (1987), and Wild Spain (1988). He died in Spain at the age of 58 of a heart attack.
Sebastian Haffner was born in 1907 as Raimund Pretzel the last of four children. His father was headmaster of a Berlin school and a noted liberal school reformer. Pretzel studied law and received his doctorate in 1934. Although he was not Jewish he abandoned his planned career as a lawyer in public service when the Nazis came to power. Instead he worked as a non-political journalist.
In 1938 he and his pregnant fiancée, who was of Jewish descent and for that reason had been dismissed from her post as university librarian, managed to emigrate to the UK, where they were married. There he started to write a memoir about his youth in Weimar Germany and the rise of the Nazis. The book (Defying Hitler) was abandoned at the outbreak of war and replaced by another (Germany, Jekyll and Hyde) offering an analysis of Germany for the benefit of the allies. This book, published under the pseudonym Sebastian Haffner which he used for the rest of his life, procured his release from internment in the summer of 1940. In 1942 he became a journalist at the Observer and quickly made a reputation as a political thinker.
Haffner returned to Germany in 1954, initially as a correspondent for the Observer. There he became an important commentator on current affairs and a well-known television personality. In the 1960s he started writing historical books, mostly about 20th century German history, including The Ailing Empire: Germany from Bismarck to Hitler. His most important and successful book, The Meaning of Hitler, appeared in 1978. He retired in 1991 and died in 1999 aged 91. (Image of the author from Mein Vater III, 1986 by Sarah Haffner; oil on canvas, 75 x 100 cm, Stadtmuseum, Berlin).
Lawrence Harmon writes editorials and a weekly column for the op-ed page of the Boston Globe. Before joining the editorial board of the Boston Globe in 1992, he was editor of the Citizen Group papers and wrote for the old Boston Ledger and Jewish Advocate. He co-authored The Death of an American Jewish Community: A Tragedy of Good Intentions (1992). Harmon writes extensively on urban affairs, education, law enforcement issues, and housing policy. He has a BS from Boston University’s Metropolitan College, and an MA from Simmons College. (drawing: Boston Globe)
Anthony Heilbut, born in New York City in 1940, the son of German-Jewish refugees, graduated from Queens College and received his Ph.D. in English Literature from Harvard University. He taught at New York University and Hunter College. Since 1976 he has been a full-time writer and record producer. His first book, The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times, appeared in 1971. Other books include Exiled in Paradise: German Refugee Artists and Intellectuals in America from the 1930s to the Present (1983, 1997); Thomas Mann: Eros and Literature (1996, 1997); and The Fan Who Knew Too Much: Aretha Franklin, The Rise of the Soap Opera, Children of the Gospel Church, and Other Meditations (2012). Heilbut’s work has appeared in Harper’s Magazine, The Nation, The New Yorker, The Village Voice, The Daily Beast, The New York Times Book Review and The Los Angeles Times Book Review. As a record producer, Heilbut specializes in black gospel music. He has produced over fifty albums for various labels.
Eva Hoffman grew up in Cracow, Poland, where she studied piano at the Cracow School of Music, before emigrating in her teens to Canada and then the United States. After receiving her Ph.D. in English and American literature from Harvard University, she worked as senior editor at the New York Times, serving for a while as one of its main literary critics. She has taught literature and creative writing at various universities, and has written and lectured internationally on issues of exile, memory, Polish-Jewish history, politics and culture. Her books include Lost in Translation, After Such Knowledge and Time, as well as two novels, The Secret, and Appassionata. She has presented radio programs and curated a series on "Writing and Music" at the South Bank Centre in London. She is the recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship and an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Kosciuszko Foundation award for Shtetl, and the Prix Italia for radio. She now lives in London.
Peter Stephan Jungk
Peter Stephan Jungk was born in Los Angeles, raised in several European cities, and now lives in Paris where he writes in German. A former screenwriting fellow of the American Film Institute, he is the author of eight books, including Franz Werfel: A Life in Prague, Vienna and Hollywood (1990) and the novels Snowflake Constant, a finalist for the British Foreign Book Award, and The Perfect American, a fictional biography of Walt Disney's last months, made into an opera by Philip Glass that will premiere in 2013.
Egon Erwin Kisch
Prague-born Egon Erwin Kisch (1885-1948) established narrative non-fiction as an art form in Central Europe. The son of a Jewish draper, he became a journalist and part of a circle of writers that included Franz Werfel, Max Brod, Rainer Maria Rilke, Hugo Bergmann and Franz Kafka. Their literary hybrid of Czech, Jewish and German cultures was unique and they were mocked for sitting in cafés where they “werfelt und brodet und kafkat und kischt.”
Kisch attended technical university, dropped out, and studied journalism in Berlin. After returning to Prague, he became police reporter for the German-language paper Bohemia from 1906 to 1913. His muckraking features ran under the headline “Roaming Through Prague” and explored the city’s underworld of bars, dives, gambling dens, prostitutes and murderers. His first major scoop was the story behind the sensational forced suicide of Colonel Alfred Redl, intelligence officer in the Austro-Hungarian army, in 1913. A homosexual, Redl had been blackmailed into spying for Russia. Kisch served in World War I and was wounded in action. He kept a diary, later published as Write It Down Kisch! His military experience further radicalized him and in 1918, Kisch participated as a Red Guard in a failed putsch in Vienna. He returned to Prague journalism and theater, but was drawn to Berlin. In Weimar Germany, his “literature of fact” became part of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) cultural movement.
In 1924, his collection of pieces Der rasende Reporter (The Raging Reporter) became a bestseller, followed by many other books of reportage from Europe, North Africa, the Soviet Union, China, and the U.S. The Nazis arrested Kisch, a Communist and a Jew, in 1933 and deported him to Czechoslovakia. His books were banned. That year, he wrote Tales from Seven Ghettos, accounts of Jewish communities from the Thirty Years’ War until the 1930s. Kisch was himself a secular Jew whose family claimed descent from Rabbi Loew, the Maharal of Prague. Kisch inspected the attic of Prague’s Old-New Synagogue for traces of the Golem.
In 1934, he sailed to Australia for an anti-war congress, was denied entry, but jumped off the boat, and broke his leg. The “Kisch Affair” became a cause célèbre, raising Australian awareness of Nazism. Kisch wrote it up in Australian Landfall before going to Spain to report on the Spanish Civil War. In 1939, Kisch fled to New York, was detained at Ellis Island and denied residence in the U.S. He and his wife Gisela spent the war in Mexico City where he completed his memoir Sensation Fair as Stefan Zweig was writing The World of Yesterday in Petropolis, Brazil. Unlike Zweig, Kisch lived to see Nazism defeated. In 1946, he returned to his birthplace a hero. He died in Prague in March of 1948.
Heda Margolius Kovály
Born in Prague in 1919, Heda Margolius Kovály's youth was cut short by the rise of Hitler and the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939. In 1941, she and her family were deported to the Lodz Ghetto, then to Auschwitz. She escaped from a death march, made her way back to Prague, and took part in the uprising against the Germans in May 1945. Heda then married her childhood sweetheart, Rudolf Margolius, who had survived Auschwitz and Dachau. After Margolius became Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade in the post-war Communist government, he was arrested and became a victim of Stalinist anti-semitic show trials. The Slansky Trials found Margolius one of eleven Jews guilty of conspiracy. After his execution in 1952, Heda, who never believed that her husband was guilty and spent her life trying to clear his name, and Ivan, her four-year-old son, were shunned by society. Heda was denied work and lodging, forced to live in poverty and to eke out a living surreptitiously editing and translating. She did not tell Ivan the truth about what happened to his father until he was sixteen years old. Her memoir of life under Stalinism, Under A Cruel Star: A Life in Prague 1941-1968, is dedicated to Ivan. She is the author of a novel, Innocence, and the translator of several American authors into Czech. In his book Cultural Amnesia, Clive James named Heda Margolius Kovály one of the "necessary" writers of the twentieth century. In 1968, after Soviet troops invaded Prague, mother and son fled Czechoslovakia. Heda Margolius Kovály settled in Boston, Massachusetts where she worked at the Harvard Law School library and lived with her second husband, Pavel Kovály. In 1996, they returned to Prague where Heda died in 2010.
Peter Kurth is the author of Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson, American Cassandra: The Life of Dorothy Thompson, Tsar: The Lost World of Nicholas and Alexandra, and Isadora: A Sensational Life. His work has appeared in Vanity Fair, Condé Nast Traveler, Forbes FYI, The New York Times Book Review, The New York Observer, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar and Salon.com. Peter Kurth lives in Vermont.
Hillel Levine, scholar, teacher, public intellectual, and activist, has authored many influential books and articles including In Search of Sugihara, The Death of an American Jewish Community, “Whodunit?!: Intolerance and the Secularization of Law,” Economic Origins of Antisemitism and “Jewish Reactions to Copernicus” and participated in film production.
Studying with Erik Erikson, A.J. Heschel, Elie Wiesel, and Peter Berger, he received rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary and doctorates in Sociology and Jewish History from Harvard. For 40 years he has been devoted to interfaith, civil rights, historical conciliation, and peacemaking activities and undergraduate, graduate, and adult education at Harvard, Yale, and Boston University. He founded the Yale and Boston University Centers for Judaic Studies and currently teaches sociology and religion at BU.
In 1995 he was appointed Life Time Distinguished Visiting Professor at Kyoto’s Logos Theological Seminary and has been a Visiting Professor at Tokyo University several times. He has also taught and held research positions in China, Ethiopia, South Korea, Poland, the Soviet Union, Brazil, Morocco, and Israel and worked with the US State Department on preventing ethnic conflicts in Western Europe, the Balkans, India and the Northeastern Territories of India. In 2001, he founded the International Center for Conciliation training community leaders to prevent and respond to religious and ethnic conflicts. Recently, he has worked with scientists and environmentalists in the Middle East, developing cross border hazard risk mitigation and emergency mobilization. He enjoys the friendship of several generations of accomplished former students.
Jan Garrigue Masaryk was born in 1886, the third of four children in a prominent family in Prague. His father Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk would become the first president of the Czechoslovak Republic; his mother Charlotte was an American intellectual. After an unpromising adolescence and young adulthood, Jan Masaryk became one of the most popular diplomats in London and one of the most admired broadcasters of the Second World War. Untold thousands of Czechs risked their lives to listen to his program Volá Londýn (London Calling), a public and personal diary of 1939-44, as experienced by the Foreign Minister of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile in London. In 1945, Jan Masaryk returned to Prague and became part of the post-war government. He died shortly after the Communist putsch of 1948.
Born in Berlin, Melita Maschmann (1918-2010) attended boarding school in Thuringia. She joined the BDM (Bund Deutscher Mädel, the Girls’ Section of the Hitler Youth) secretly in 1933 against the wishes of her parents who were conservative and nationalist, but not national-socialist. She worked for the Labor Service in East Prussia (1936-37), then as a journalist for the press section of the BDM (1937-41) in Frankfurt-an-der-Oder and in the Wartheland (German-occupied Poland). She was in charge of women’s Labor Service camps in Poland and Germany (1941-43) and responsible for the BDM’s press and propaganda division in Berlin (1943-45). She did war work, including preparation for “Werewolf” (S.S. sabotage) activities (1945) before the US Army captured her in Austria in July 1945 with a clandestine group manufacturing false documents for “comrades”. She was interned in the “Frauenlager 77” (internment camp for women) near Ludwigsburg, and later in Darmstadt until 1948. Denazification authorities considered her a “follower” (“indoctrinated” and too young to be fully responsible); Maschmann finally broke with National Socialism only in the 1950s.
After her release, Maschmann wrote for the Darmstädter Echo and the Frankfurter Rundschau. She travelled to Afghanistan and India in 1962-63 and moved permanently to India shortly thereafter, becoming a follower of Guru Sri Anandamayi Ma. In India, Maschmann lived mainly in her ashrams, and after Sri Anandamayi Ma’s death in 1982, worked in institutions for children. She returned to Darmstadt in 1998 due to Alzheimer’s disease and died in a retirement home. She was never married and had no children.
Account Rendered was first published in 1963 as Fazit: Kein Rechtfertigungsversuch (No attempt at justification), translated into several languages, and republished seven times in Germany where it became a required high school text. Maschmann also wrote fiction (Die Aschenspur, Der Dreizehnte, Das Wort Hiess Liebe) and books about Sri Anandamayi Ma and India (Der Tiger singt Kirtana, Indiras Schwestern, Eine ganz gewöhnliche Heilige).
Albert Memmi was born in Tunisia in 1920, the second of thirteen children of a poor, working-class Arabic-speaking Jewish family. He learned French in his Jewish elementary school and attended Lycée Carnot in Tunis. When the Nazis invaded Tunisia during World War II, he was unable to continue his studies and interned in a labor camp. He moved to Paris in 1945 where he met Germaine Dubach, a Catholic, whom he married in 1946. The couple moved back to Tunis, where two of their three children were born, and where Memmi taught high school philosophy and helped found a publication that would later become Jeune Afrique.
His first novel, The Pillar of Salt with a preface by Albert Camus, appeared in 1953. After Tunisia became independent in 1956, Memmi — a prominent leftist and Jew — returned to Paris where he has lived ever since. During the Algerian war, he published The Colonizer and the Colonized with a preface by Jean-Paul Sartre, in 1957. Portrait of a Jew and The Liberation of the Jew were published by Gallimard in 1962 and 1966. Memmi became a French citizen in 1973. He taught at Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes and Université de Paris-Nanterre, received the Académie Française’s Grand Prix de la Francophonie and is a Doctor Honoris Causa of the Ben Gurion University of the Negev.
Born in New York City in 1941, Sheldon Novick graduated from the Bronx High School of Science, Antioch College, and Washington University School of Law in St. Louis. He was editor of Environment Magazine and wrote books and articles on environmental subjects (The Careless Atom had the first public account of the “China Syndrome”) before leaving St. Louis in 1977 to practice law in New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, DC. For six years he was a regional counsel for the US Environmental Protection Agency. In 1987, he moved to Vermont and started a new career as an author and teacher. He continues to teach at Vermont Law School as Adjunct Professor of Law and History.
Honorable Justice: The Life of Oliver Wendell Holmes was the first full biography of Holmes based on unrestricted access to the Holmes papers. Published in 1989, it received the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award, and was short-listed for the National Book Critics Circle Award. After the biography appeared, Novick was invited to prepare the quasi-official Collected Works of Justice Holmes published by the Oliver Wendell Holmes Devise and the University of Chicago Press.
His biography of Holmes’s friend and rival, the novelist Henry James, was published in two volumes, Henry James: The Young Master (1997) and Henry James: The Mature Master (2007).
Tina Packer is Founding Artistic Director of Shakespeare & Company, in Lenox, Massachusetts, an internationally acclaimed theatrical performance, training and education company, where she directed over 50 productions and acted in many more.
As a young English actress, she trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where she won the Ronson Award for Most Outstanding Performer, was an associate artist with the Royal Shakespeare Company, performed in the West End, and acted with repertory companies in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leicester, and Coventry.
Her book, Power Plays: Shakespeare’s Lessons in Leadership & Management, was published in 2001. Her children's book Tales from Shakespeare was published in 2004. Along with acting, lecturing, directing, and writing, Tina continues to spearhead the international effort to reconstruct a historically accurate 1587 Rose Playhouse, where Shakespeare’s plays were first performed, in Lenox, Massachusetts.
Susan Quinn grew up in Ohio and graduated from Oberlin College. Her biography, Marie Curie: A Life, won the Prix Littéraire des Lectrices de Elle in France, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times book award, and was shortlisted for the Fawcett Book Prize in England. Marie Curie has been translated into eight languages.
Her previous biography, A Mind of Her Own: The Life of Karen Horney, won the Boston Globe’s Winship Prize. Susan Quinn, the recipient of numerous awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Rockefeller Foundation residency, is also the author of Human Trials: Scientists, Investors and Patients in the Quest for a Cure (2001) and Furious Improvisation: How the WPA and a Cast of Thousands Made High Art Out of Desperate Times (2008). She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts. (photo: Barry Goldstein)
Santha Rama Rau
Santha Rama Rau (1923-2009) was the first widely-read female South Asian writer in the United States. Born in Madras, India, into an elite Indian family — her father, a high-ranking civil servant, became ambassador to Japan and the United States, and her mother was a founder of International Planned Parenthood —, she grew up in India, Great Britain, and South Africa and made the unusual choice of attending college in the United States rather than in England. She became Wellesley College’s first graduate from India. Between 1945 and 1970, she worked as a journalist for publications as varied as the New Yorker and the Reader’s Digest, writing mainly travel stories from Asia, Africa and the former Soviet Union. Many were collected as East of Home (1950), View to the Southeast (1957) and My Russian Journey (1959). Santha Rama Rau also wrote an autobiography, Gifts of Passage (1961), several novels, and adapted the E. M. Forster novel A Passage to India for Broadway and the London stage.
Born in Staten Island, New York, Gus Rancatore came to Boston to finish college, and never did.
Instead, he blundered into the ice cream business, and founded Toscanini’s Ice Cream in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1981. The store is now a local institution with an international clientele. (photo: Michelle McDonald)
Vlasta Schönová (1919-2001) or Vava was the third of four daughters of Solomon and Magdalena Schön. Following in her mother’s footsteps, she became an actress and began her career just before the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia. For a while, she was able to continue acting by passing as a non-Jew. After she and her family were deported to Terezín, she performed, directed and wrote plays as a prisoner.
Theater was her passion since childhood, she writes. It invested her life with meaning and kept her alive, even in the Theresienstadt Ghetto where she was one of the only artists who was not eventually transported east for extermination. After liberation by the Soviet Army in 1945, Vava returned to Prague and resumed her career in Czech theater. After the Communist coup of 1948, she fled Czechoslovakia and settled in Israel. There she lived and worked in many different venues as the Israeli actress Nava Shean.
Susan Rubin Suleiman
Born in Budapest, Susan Rubin Suleiman emigrated to the United States as a child with her parents. She earned a B.A. from Barnard College and a Ph.D. from Harvard University, where she has been on the faculty since 1981, now as the C. Douglas Dillon Professor of the Civilization of France and Professor of Comparative Literature. Suleiman has written widely on contemporary literature and culture, and has published poetry and autobiographical works. Budapest Diary (1996) is her memoir about returning to her native city after many years, where she speaks Hungarian "like a native, but with an accent."
Her other books include Crises of Memory and the Second World War (2006), Risking Who One Is: Encounters with Contemporary Art and Literature (1994), Subversive Intent: Gender, Politics, and the Avant-Garde (1990) and French Global: A New Approach to Literary History (2010), co-edited with Christie McDonald.
Suleiman’s many honors include the Radcliffe Medal for Distinguished Achievement, and France’s Palmes Académiques. She has held Fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Radcliffe Institute, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Suleiman lives in Belmont, Massachusetts.
Dorothy Thompson (1893-1961), journalist and broadcaster, was born in Lancaster, New York, the daughter of a Methodist preacher. She was educated at Syracuse University (class of 1914) and found her first work as a publicist and organizer for woman suffrage. In 1920 she sailed to Europe, and for the next thirty years worked as a free-lance correspondent, becoming America’s expert on Central Europe. In 1927 she married the novelist Sinclair Lewis. The union was marred by Lewis’s alcoholism, the pressures of Thompson’s success, and by her sexual ambiguity, which led her, in the early ‘30s, to a love affair with the German writer Christa Winsloe, author of Mädchen in Uniform.
In 1934 she became the first correspondent to be expelled from Berlin on the orders of Adolf Hitler: she was the loudest and strongest voice in American journalism against the menace of the Nazis. Her thrice-weekly column, “On the Record,” was syndicated to hundreds of newspapers; she wrote a monthly essay for the Ladies’ Home Journal and broadcast weekly, sometimes daily, on news topics over the NBC radio network. Time magazine in 1939 called her the most influential woman in America after Eleanor Roosevelt.
Her career declined after World War II, when she argued for a “humane” peace with the defeated Germans and, later, took up the cause of the Palestinian Arabs in opposition to the State of Israel. Divorced from Lewis in 1942, she enjoyed a happy (and lusty) final marriage with the Czech painter Maxim Kopf (1892-1958). She died in Portugal in 1961 and left instructions for her epitaph: “Dorothy Thompson Kopf — Writer.” She was unquestionably the preeminent woman journalist of her era — perhaps of all time in the United States. Peter Kurth wrote her biography, American Cassandra: The Life of Dorothy Thompson.
Joseph Wechsberg (1907-1983) was born to Jewish parents in Ostrava, Moravia, a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His grandfather had been a prosperous banker, but the family assets were lost in World War I. Wechsberg attended Prague University Law School, Vienna’s State Academy of Music, and the Sorbonne. A lawyer for a short while, he worked as a musician on ocean liners and played the violin in Paris nightclubs. In Prague, he became a reporter for the Prager Tagblatt. In 1938 he was a lieutenant in the Czechoslovak army commanding a machine gun company on the Polish frontier and was sent with his wife to the United States to discuss the Sudeten crisis. Both requested asylum after World War II broke out. In 1939, Wechsberg knew only a few hundred words in English, but decided he would someday write for The New Yorker. In 1943, he was drafted into the US Army and sent to Europe as a technical sergeant in psychological warfare. His account of getting back to Ostrava was the first of over one hundred pieces for The New Yorker over three decades — profiles of Artur Rubinstein, Isaac Stern, George Szell, of merchant bankers and of great French restaurateurs, and letters from Berlin, Karlsbad, Bonn, Vienna, Trieste, Budapest, Belgrade, Ankara, Bucharest, Warsaw, Athens, and Baghdad. He also contributed hundreds of articles to magazines such as Gourmet, Esquire, Playboy, The Atlantic and The Saturday Evening Post and wrote features on cuisine and travel throughout Europe.
Victor Weisskopf (1908-2002), born in Vienna, Austria, joined a socialist student group while in gymnasium and started studying physics at the University of Vienna. In 1928, he went to study with Max Born in Göttingen where he received his Ph.D. in 1931. Weisskopf worked on basic quantum physics with Werner Heisenberg in Leipzig, then for a short time with Ernest Schrödinger in Berlin. In 1932, a Rockefeller Foundation grant allowed Weisskopf to join Niels Bohr in Copenhagen and Paul Dirac in Cambridge, England. In 1934-36, Weisskopf was research associate to Wolfgang Pauli in Zurich before working again with Niels Bohr in Copenhagen (April 1936 - September 1937).
Weisskopf fled the Nazis in the fall of 1937 and became an assistant professor at the University of Rochester. From 1943 to 1946 Weisskopf was deputy chairman of the theoretical division of the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, under Hans Bethe. In 1945, he joined the MIT physics department; he was named Institute Professor in 1965, a position he held until he retired in 1974.
Weisskopf played a major role in particle physics in the US and in Europe: he was director general of CERN (Conseil Européen de Recherches Nucléaires) in Geneva (1961-65), and chaired the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel of the US Atomic Energy Commission (1967-73). A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Physical Society, Pontifical Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Sciences, Academy of Arts and Sciences, and of many international organizations including French, Austrian, Danish, Bavarian, Scottish, Spanish, and Russian academies, Weisskopf received numerous awards for his work in quantum electrodynamics, in nuclear and elementary particle physics and as an advocate of nuclear disarmament, open exchanges of information among scientists of all nations, and individual freedom. He published over two hundred papers, and several books including in 1991 his autobiography, The Joy of Insight: Passions of a Physicist.
Chaim Weizmann (1874-1952) was a scientist and diplomat, a leader of the Zionist movement for an entire generation, and the first President of the State of Israel. Born in Motol, Belarus, he studied chemistry in Germany, received his doctorate from University of Fribourg in Switzerland in 1899 and took a position at Manchester University in 1904. He married Vera Chatzman in 1906. They had two sons: Benjamin (1907) and Michael (1916).
Considered a master negotiator, Weizmann convinced the British government to issue the Balfour Declaration just before the British conquered Palestine in November 1917. The document, in which “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” was a turning point in the history of the Jewish people and made Weizmann the figure most identified with the Zionist movement. Weizmann achieved significant breakthroughs in organic chemistry, discovering in 1916 in Manchester a process to synthesize acetone (used to manufacture munitions), and later established leading academic and research institutions in Israel (the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Sieff Research Institute in Rehovot, now the Weizmann Institute of Science). He viewed Zionism as fulfillment of political and spiritual independence for the Jewish people and considered science a noble activity, but also the economic basis for a modern economy.
Seeking friendly relations between Zionism and Arab nationalism, Weizmann met with Emir Faisal in 1918. During World War II, he recruited the Jewish home front in Palestine for the British war effort against Germany and fought for the establishment of the Jewish Brigade. He worked to establish democratic institutions in the Zionist movement and for the integration of the State of Israel into the international community.
When the State of Israel was established, Weizmann was appointed President of the Provisional State Council. In February 1949, after the first Knesset met, Weizmann was elected as the first President of the State of Israel. He served in this position, to which he was re-elected in 1951, until his death in November 1952 in Rehovot, Israel.
Charlotte Wolff (1897-1986) was born into a middle-class family of secular German Jews in Riesenburg, West Prussia. She was attracted to girls and women and her family accepted her sexual orientation. She studied philosophy before obtaining her medical degree in 1926 in Weimar Berlin where she was befriended by Walter and Dora Benjamin. One of the 700 or so women physicians then practicing in the city, Wolff treated prostitutes and poor women in working-class neighborhoods. Her volunteer work at a birth control clinic led her to the fields of psychotherapy, sexology and chirology (the study of hands). After being detained by the Gestapo in 1933, she fled to Paris.
In Paris and the artists’ colony of Sanary, Wolff met an international circle of artists and writers including Maria and Aldous Huxley, Thomas and Heinrich Mann, and Man Ray, who photographed her in 1935. Since her medical degree was not recognized in France and she feared a Nazi invasion of France, Wolff travelled to England in 1936. She became a permanent resident in 1937, with permission to practice psychotherapy but not medicine. At first, she read the hands of Maria Huxley’s friends to earn her living, but soon found work as a researcher and was re-instated as a physician in 1952. She maintained her interest in sexology and published the books Love Between Women, Bisexuality, the novel An Older Love, and the biography Magnus Hirschfeld: Portrait of a Pioneer in Sexology. Before Hindsight, she wrote a shorter memoir titled On The Way To Myself. She died in London, shortly before her eighty-ninth birthday.
Friderike Zweig is one of the most accomplished 20th century women to have written memoirs of their men. Born Friderike Maria Burger in Vienna on December 4, 1882, she was a teacher, translator, journalist, novelist and political activist at a time when most Viennese women didn’t finish high school. Friderike was married to Felix von Winternitz and mother of two daughters when she began to share a household with Stefan Zweig during the first world war.
The Winternitzes divorced and in 1920, Friderike married Stefan Zweig, then the most widely-translated writer in the world. They established a home in Salzburg that admirers called “the Villa in Europe” where Friderike served as Zweig’s researcher and editor as well as marital partner. Their strong and unconventional relationship survived the chaotic aftermath of the first world war in Austria; the Nazi occupation of Europe; their divorce in 1938; Stefan’s remarriage to Lotte Altmann, whom Friderike had hired as her husband’s secretary; and their separate paths to the Americas.
Their correspondence continued until the day before Zweig’s death by suicide in 1942. Friderike lived almost three decades longer in New York and Connecticut where she devoted herself to literary projects and social activism.
Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) was the most widely read German-language author of the twentieth century. Zweig was a secular Jew, a Pan-European and a pacifist. He was born in Vienna on November 28, 1881 and studied there and in Berlin. As a young man, he translated French poetry by Verlaine, Baudelaire, and Verhaeren into German. He quickly branched out into journalism, fiction, biography and writing for the theater. His plays, including the anti-war Jeremiah, were produced throughout Europe. His books were eventually translated into over 50 languages. Today, he is best known for his many works of non-fiction. They include the classic memoir The World of Yesterday and many biographical essays on famous writers and thinkers such as Erasmus, Tolstoy, Balzac, Stendhal, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Dickens, Freud and Mesmer. He lived in Salzburg with his first wife Friderike until 1933, when his books were burned by the Nazis. In 1934, he emigrated to England where he continued writing and met his second wife Lotte Altmann. In 1941, the couple moved to Brazil where they committed suicide in 1942.