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Franz Werfel (September 10, 1890 – August 26, 1945) was an Austrian-Bohemian novelist, playwright, and poet.


Born in Praguemarker (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), Werfel was the first of three children of a wealthy manufacturer of gloves and leather goods. His mother, Albine Kussi, was the daughter of a mill owner. His two sisters were Hanna (born 1896) and Marianne Amalie (born 1899). He was a contemporary and colleague of Franz Kafka, Max Brod, Martin Buber, and other Jewish intellectuals who flourished in the first decades of the 20th century. He served in the Austro-Hungarian army on the Russian front and in the press office in Vienna, where he met and fell in love with Alma Mahler.

In 1920 Alma, widow of Gustav Mahler, divorced architect Walter Gropius in order to be with Werfel by whom she had had a son, Martin, who was born prematurely, and who soon died; they finally married in 1929. Werfel was already an established author, having assumed a leading place in German letters as an expressionist playwright; but his true claim to international fame came in 1933, when he published The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, a chilling novel that drew world attention to the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Turksmarker.

An identified Jew, Werfel left Austriamarker after the Anschluss in 1938 and went to Francemarker. After the German invasion and occupation of France during World War II, and the deportation of French Jews to the Nazi concentration camps, Werfel had to flee again. With the assistance of Varian Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee in Marseillemarker, he and his wife narrowly escaped the Nazi regime and traveled to the United Statesmarker.

While in France, Werfel made a visit to the shrine of the Virgin Mary at Lourdesmarker, where he found spiritual solace. He also received much help and kindness from the Catholic orders that staffed the shrine. He vowed to write about the experience and, safe in America, he published The Song of Bernadette in 1941.

In southern Californiamarker, Werfel wrote his final play, Jacobowsky and the Colonel (Jacobowsky und der Oberst) which was made into the 1958 film Me and the Colonel starring Danny Kaye. Before his death, he completed the first draft of his last novel Star of the Unborn (Stern der Ungeborenen), which was published posthumously, in 1946.

Franz Werfel died in Los Angelesmarker in 1945 and was interred there in the Rosendale Cemetery. However, his body was later exhumed and returned to Viennamarker for reburial in the Zentralfriedhofmarker.


In English (some of these titles are out of print):
  • The Forty Days of Musa Dagh
  • The Song of Bernadette
  • The Song of Bernadette – The Immortal Story of Bernadette of Lourdes by Franz Werfel (abridged by John Martin)
  • The Man Who Conquered Death
  • Listen to the voice (Höret di Stimme) publ. 1937
  • Embezzled Heaven
  • Verdi
  • Class Reunion
  • Juarez and Maximilian – play
  • Star of the Unborn – science-fiction novel
  • A pale-blue woman's handwriting (Eine blass-blaue Frauenschrift) -> Key sentence


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