"If one can say that in the inter-war period three-quarters of the most prominent writers in German literature were Austrians, it is also true that of those Austrian writers a similar proportion were Jewish".
Friedrich Torberg, a literary critic
The literary group Jung Wien (Young Vienna) whose central figures were Arthur Schnitzler, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Richard Beer-Hofmann, Felix Salten, Felix Dörrmann and Hermann Bahr and which used to meet in the legendary Café Griensteidl, was predominantly Jewish. It came to symbolise the fin-de-siècle culture of Vienna, "not a school, not a party, not a group […], but filled with a burning longing for the new" in Hermann Bahr's words. Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931) was the leading writer of this circle, with his "Liebelei", performed in 1885, he had his first major success. He managed to show in his work the deplorable state of social affairs. Hugo von Hofmannsthal (1874-1929) earned early success as a teenager with his poems. He became one of the major writers of literary impressionism and symbolism. He was involved in the founding of the Salzburger Festspiele and his "Jedermann" became a classic performed to this very day. Richard Beer-Hofmann (1866-1945) was the only conscious Jew of this group. The Bible was a main inspiration for his work. Jakob Wassermann (1873-1943) was a close friend of Schnitzler and one of the most widely read authors of his time. Peter Altenberg (1859-1919), a bohemian who spent most of his time in the Café Central, wrote masterful dense prose sketches. He was one of the few authors appreciated by Karl Kraus, one of the wittiest critics Austria ever had. In his magazine "Die Fackel" (The Torch), published from 1899-1936, Kraus attacked corruption and abuse and neither spared Theodor Herzl's Zionism nor the shady business methods of media baron Imre Berkessy.
Stefan Zweig (1882-1942) was one of the most successful authors of his time. His first poems and dramas were influenced by Expressionism and Symbolism, but he became famous for his psychological novels.Arthur Schnitzler made it clear in a letter that "[n]either Jewish-Zionist resentment [n]or the stupidity and impudence of German nationalists will make me doubt in the least that I am a German writer", because he wrote in German.
However, Vienna was also a center for Hebrew literature with such writers as Abraham Broides, Reuben Brainin, Haim Nachman Bialik and David Vogel spending time there. Perez Smolenskin (1840-1885) edited between 1869/70 and 1884/85 the proto-Zionist Hebrew journal "HaShahar". The Galician-born Hebrew writer Gershon Shoffman lived during the 1930s in a small village in Styria, before he managed to escape to Palestine in the late 1930s.
One of the most popular writers of her time, Vicky Baum (1888-1960) was born in Vienna. She won the first prize in a literary competition at the age of 13, and turned to writing after giving up a promising career in music. She has been praised for her authentic depictions of different milieus and some of her books were made into movies.
One of the few Austrian-Jewish writers to survive the Holocaust and continue his outstanding literary work in Austria was Albert Drach who worked as a lawyer in Mödling where he died in 1995, aged 93. Contemporary Jewish writers are the poet Robert Schindel, the historian and publicist Doron Rabinovici and Robert Menasse.
Jews did not only write books, but also published them. Dr. Fritz Ungar, Ludwig Goldscheider and Bela Horovitz founded the "Phaidon” publishing house in 1922 and Dr. Max Meier Präger the important Jewish publishing house "R. Löwit Verlag".
Writers of Jewish origin:
Karl Isidor Beck (1817-1879)
Jakob Julius David (1859-1906)
Ludwig August Frankl (1810-1894)
Karl Emil Franzos (1848-1904)
Moritz Hartmann (1821-1872)
Theodor Herzl (1860-1904)
Hugo von Hofmannsthal
Eduard M. Kafka
Leopold Kompert (1822-1886)
Alfred Polgar (1873-1955)
Jakob Wassermann (1873-1943)