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December 01, 1989 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-12-01

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

PURELY COMMENTARY

The Universality Of Franz Werfel Newly Unfurled

As impressario of The Eternal Road,
as its initiator in enrolling the par-
ticipation of Werfel, Reinhardt and
other literary and stage masters,
Weisgal secured the funds to assure the
staging of the great spectacle. He
therefore was close to Werfel and he
related the procedures in arranging and
staging the great play in his
autobiography. That's where he deals
with Werfel's Jewishness. In his
autobiography, Weisgal related these
recollections:

PHILIP SLOMOVITZ

Editor Emeritus

A

universal vista — cultural,
dynamic, religious — unfurls
with the publication for the first
time in the English translation of Cella,
or "The Survivors" (Henry Holt). The
translation is by Joachim
Meirgroschell. It is a novel with the
Holocaust theme by Franz Werfel. It in-
corporates the events in the life of a
world-famous poet and novelist, his
dramatic skills, his flirting with Chris-
tianity. Yet he not only did not abandon
the Jewish faith but left it with the
great glory of writing the text for the
Eternal Road. These are among the
many elements in a great legacy incor-
porated in the very name Franz Werfel.
Publication of Cella reopens the en-
tire drama of the life of Werfel the Jew
who almost failed in the minimum of
his duties. The foreward reveals that on
the first day of Hitler's rise to power in
1933, Werfel was among the authors
who pledged allegiance to the Nazi
Feuhrer. It was a matter of weeks —
days — and his works were included in
the Hitler burning of books written by
Jews and opponents of Nazism.
Werfel's fame grew with his Forty
Days of Musa Dagh in which he dealt
with the Armenian tragedies. His Song
of Bernadette became a lasting Catholic
drama.
His Cella was autobiographically
significant. It dealt with his ex-

Franz Werfel

Meyer Weisgal

periences in Austria when it fell under
Nazi control. Werfel wrote this un-
finished account upon his escape to
France, succeeding to escape Nazi
detention. The novel was about a
Jewish lawyer in Austria who was a
Nazi patriot married to a Christian
woman. Cella was an accomplished
pianist. The Nazi loyalties did not
rescue her family.
A very important foreward to this
novel by a well-known journalist and
historian, Otto Friedrich, lends impor-
tance to the Werfel record.
Werfel attained Jewish glory as

author of The Eternal Road which was
produced in 1937 in the Manhattan
Opera House in New York. The world
famous theatrical producer, Max
Rheinhardt, supervised its production.
It had a brief showing in the Olympia
in Detroit.
The Eternal Road was the brain-
child of Meyer Weisgal, the noted
Zionist leader who was the closest
associate of Israel's first president,
Chaim Weizmann, and could be con-
sidered the man who more than any
other secured world help in the growth
of the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot.

Franz Werfel was then in his
early forties. He was fat, clumsy,
jelly-like, a gluttonous eater con-
temptuous of table manners. It
was difficult to identify his per-
son with the sensitive lyric poet
he was known to be. He had just
established himself with the
publication of The Forty Days of
Musa Dagh.
In this book Werfel express-
ed through the Armenians his
awareness of the Jewish
tragedy (He told me the Arme-
nians 'waren mein Ersatz-
juden'), but he never conscious-
ly came to terms with his
Jewishness. The mystic strain in
him which might have identified
with Chassidism he transferred
to the Catholic Church, but the
advent of Hitler kept him from
formalizing his conversion.
I spent a whole night walk-
Continued on Page 52

Archival Progress Plus Burton Honors

acob Rader Marcus comes here
on Dec. 14 to be awarded an
honorary doctorate by Wayne
State University.
The revolutionary aspect in such an
academic recognition by a leading
American university, for a distinguish-
ed scholar who has been receiving such
honors for 65 years, is that it is award-
ed simultaneously with the ap-
proaching appearance of the first
volume of his four-volume History of the
Jews in the United States — 1776 to
1985.
The historic-literary world is
thereby to be enriched with the most
complete history of American Jewry
and the renewed emphasis now given it

j

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
(US PS 275-520) is published every Friday
with additional supplements the fourth
week of March, the fourth week of August
and the second week of November at
27676 Franklin Road, Southfield,
Michigan.

Second class postage paid at Southfield,
Michigan and additional mailing offices.

Postmaster: Send changes to:
DETROIT JEWISH NEWS,
27676 Franklin Road,
Southfield, Michigan 48034

$26 per year
$33 per year out of state
60' single copy

Vol. XCVI No. 14

2

December 1, 1989

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 1, 1989

merits use of Marcus' latest photograph
taken on his 93rd birthday last March,
thereby adding to the admiration for a
historian whose research and publish-
ed works have continued for seven
decades.
The next important creative factor
in Dr. Marcus' life is the leading role he
plays in archival tasks in Jewry. As the
man who promulgated the American
Jewish Archives, which retain the basic
records of Jewish life everywhere, he
has rescued many of us from historic er-
rors and has helped provide the ar-
chives needed in researching history.
This becomes necessary at this time
with the securing of important facts
about The Eternal Road, the topic of the
leading article on this page. The great
drama produced in 1937 at the
theatrical brainchild of Meyer Weisgal
finds background material in the
AJArchives' treasured files.
That's how some of the data is ac-
quired about the author of the play,
Franz Werfel; about the great theatrical
director Max Reinhardt, who took pride
in directing The Eternal Road, and call-
ed it, in 1937 so early in Hitler's
domination, his answer to Hitlerism
and the the facts about the Zionist ac-
tivist Meyer Weisgal who was the im-
pressario of the immense dramatic
performance.
Such are the facts available from
AJArchives, whose important role is
now emulated by the American Jewish

Historical Society and its accumulating
documentaries, as well as other groups
on supplementary bases.
On a local scale, the Michigan
Jewish Historical Society adds to the
needs with a recognition of it by the
Detroit Public Library Burton
Historical Collection, without which
much of statewide historical reserach
would be unavailable.
There was a reminder of it and an
emphasis upon it in an important of
Michigan Jewish History, the official
organ of the Michigan Jewish
Historical Society. It is the 30th an-
niversary number of the society and it
was ably edited by Leonard N. Simons.
Its historical records, such as the fami-
ly memoir of the Blitz-Heavenrich fami-
ly, that traces the background of many
prominent Detroiters, adds valuably to
knowledge about this community and
the pioneers who settled in it. It is
valuably supplemented with statistical
records compiled by Norma Goldman
and Gilbert Borman.
There are greetings to the historical
society on its 30th anniversary by agen-
cy leaders and the commendations in-
clude this message from the Burton
Historical Library:

Heartfelt congratulations to
JHSofM . . . we all greatly ap-
preciate having Michigan
Jewish History as a resource for
area history, and we are proud

Jacob R. Marcus

to be the depository for the
papers of the organization. Best
wishes for many more decades
of success collecting, preserving
and publishing Michigan's
Jewish History.
—(Mrs.) Noel VanGorden, Chief
Burton Historical Collection
This is an immensely significant
message about documentary material
assembled for feature articles, public
addresses and valuably researched
manuscripts. It is high time that the
Continued on Page 52

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