Werfel_FranzFranz Werfel was a novelist, playwright, and poet who was a contemporary of Franz Kafka and Max Brod. Born in Prague to a wealthy family, Werfel joined the Austro-Hungarian army in WWI after completing his education.

By 1929 Werfel had established himself as prominent playwright in the German expressionist movement. But it was the publishing of The Forty Days of Musa Dagh (1933) that earned him his international acclaim. Very much ahead of its time, the story drew attention to the Armenian genocide of 1915.

As a Jew, Werfel was forced to flee Austria in 1938, and went to France. Like Leon Feuchtwanger, who is described on prompt 143, Werfel was interned in a French concentration camp, and was rescued with the assistance of Varian Fry and U.S. Vice Consul Hiram Bingham. You can learn more about Varian Fry in Room 6, World Response, and on prompt 602.

Werfel started a new life in Los Angeles, where his final play Jacobowsky and The Colonel was made into a film. The actor Danny Kaye won a Best Actor Golden Globe for appearing in the 1958 film version of Werfel’s play. The movie, Me and the Colonel, also won a Writers Guild of America Award. He died in Los Angeles in 1945, but his remains were later exhumed and returned to Vienna.  His archives are kept at the University of California, Los Angeles.