Stefan Zweig: Suicide note (1942)

Letter: Stefan Zweig
Suicide note of Stefan Zweig from 22 February 1942
Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach

Stefan Zweig: Suicide note (1942)

Ich grüße alle meine Freunde! Mögen sie die Morgenröte noch sehen nach der langen Nacht! Ich, allzu Ungeduldiger, gehe ihnen voraus.

[I send greetings to all of my friends: May they live to see the dawn after this long night. I, who am most impatient, go before them.]

Stefan Zweig, suicide note, 22 February 1942

After five years of restless existence in exile in Great Britain, the United States and Latin America the writer Stefan Zweig took his life on 23 February 1942 in his house in Petrópolis near Rio de Janeiro, together with his wife Lotte, whom he had married in 1939.

In the days before, Zweig had settled his affairs, sent off some final manuscripts and written up instructions in respect of his estate. On the night of 21 February, playing chess with his Brazilian publisher Abrahão Koogan on his home veranda, some of his farewell letters were already on their way to relatives and friends. In these letters, Zweig explained his decision to commit suicide: all of his hopes for a quick end to the War had vanished, he was starting to feel old and he had lost his intellectual home of Europe.“I was simply too weak to sustain all this suffering”, is what he wrote to his first wife Friderike with whom he stayed in regular contact until the end.

The official letter of farewell which Zweig left on his desk was addressed to the Mayor of Petròpolis. In it he expressed his thanks for the hospitality of the country which had issued a permanent visa to the author who had fled from Salzburg.

Stefan Zweig was a man without anger”, said his friend and colleague Franz Werfel in his eulogy. “That is what made him one of the very few pacifists still around. For him war meant hell on Earth...” (Franz Werfel, speech at the funeral of Stefan Zweig in Los Angeles, 1942) (ed. trans.)