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Biographical/Historical Information

Franz Werfel was born in Prague in 1890. After studies in Leipzig and Hamburg, he worked at a publishing company from 1911 to 1914. Werfel's first verse collection, “Der Weltfreund”, was published in 1911. On the eve of World War I, he was active in a pacifist society that he organized together with Martin Buber and others. From 1915 to 1917, Werfel served in the Austrian army on the Russian front. He was transferred to the war press bureau in Vienna, but his outspoken pacifism led to a charge of treason. In 1929, Werfel got married to Alma Mahler who shortly before was married to the architect Walter Gropius after having been the widow of the composer Gustav Mahler. Werfel worked as a full-time writer, primarily of dramas and novels. His plays were especially popular in England and in the United States. Werfel lived in Austria until 1938, when the Anschluss forced him into exile in France, then Spain and finally in the United States in 1940. Franz Werfel died in Beverly Hills, California in 1945 while correcting galley proofs of his last book of poetry.

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Franz Werfel / Photo Trude Geiringer, Leo Baeck Institute, F 3794.