Lost Literati: Pearl S. Buck and Victor & Annie Polzer’s 1938 Escape from Vienna
September 5 @ 6:30 PM - 7:30 PM
In March of 1938, Austrian Nazi Party members welcomed Adolph Hitler into Vienna as they welcomed the annexation of Austria by the German Reich. Crowds waved and screamed as “the Führer” rode triumphantly through the city. The Jews, Catholics, and the anti-Nazi faction that had demonstrated earlier in the year were in a state of panic with fear for their future existence.
They were not wrong.
Viktor Polzer began his professional activity in the Vienna book trade, continuing his spare time as a writer. In 1928 he published one of his own works: The World in Novellas, for Herz Publishing, a three-volume selection for youth. He then began working as an editor for Paul Zsolnay Verlag, one of the leading and successful Viennese German-language publishers during the interwar period printing the works of authors John Galsworthy, H. G. Wells, Pearl S. Buck, A. J. Cronin, Franz Werfel, Felix Salten (creator of Bambi), Robert Neumann, Alexander Roda Roda, Hilde Spiel, Ernst Lothar, Hans Kaltneker, Friedrich Torberg, Leo Perutz, Heinrich Mann, Kasimir Edschmid, Carl Sternheim, Emil Ludwig, Walter von Molo, and Frank Thiess. Victor Polzer supervised the work of first-time authors, including close collaborations with Franz Werfel while editing and translating many bestsellers.
When war clouds loomed over Austria in 1938, Victor and his wife, Annie Polzer (Buck’s translator), prepared to leave their city. Victor Polzer aged 40, and his wife, 30-year-old Annie, were fortunate to get sponsorship from the Rosenwald Fellows of the Emergency Committee in the Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars, who financed their trip to the United States. This committee was managed by Edward R. Murrow, then a recent graduate of Columbia University who became a famous newscaster. However, they had to leave everything they owned behind. This committee supported by author Pearl S. Buck and other authors and philanthropists was able to finance Polzer’s exit from Vienna. Their sponsors to come to New York were Pearl Buck and Bennet Cerf.
Dr. Peter Lubrecht was a young cataloguer at Stechert Hafner Inc. in New York where he worked next to Victor Polzer. This is his story including his continued connection with Pearl S. Buck.
This program is being presented in-person and on ZOOM.
Meeting ID: 884 7911 3306