Fritz Hochwälder was born May 28, 1911, in Vienna, Austria. He was the only child of a poor Jewish family that lived in a modest apartment at Westbahnstrasse 3. His father worked as an interior wall decorator and his mother managed a small antique shop. The first influence on his literary life, however, did not come from his family, but rather from a third-grade teacher who told stories and took the class to afternoon productions at the Raimundtheater. Ferdinand Raimund’s plays Das Mädchen aus der Feenwelt: Oder, Der Bauer als Millionär (1826; The Maid from Fairyland: Or, The Peasant as Millionaire, 1962) and Der Verschwender (1834; The Spendthrift, 1949) made a lasting impression on the young Hochwälder, and he later considered Raimund’s Der Alpenkönig und der Menschenfeind (1828; Mountain King and Misanthrope, 1962) to be one of the twelve best dramas of world theater.
During his Viennese years, Hochwälder was also influenced by a youth group in which he met others with a similar interest in literature, among them Richard Thieberger, who later translated Hochwälder’s plays into French. At this time, literature was only a hobby for Hochwälder. He had begun his apprenticeship as an upholsterer and decorator in 1929, and he passed the master’s test in 1936. He opened his own one-man shop, but soon, like most of his contemporaries, he was out of work. During this period of worldwide depression, he had to survive on meager financial aid from the state and goulash handed out across the street from the state opera house.
Despite the poverty, the fall of the monarchy, and the revolutionary upheaval, Hochwälder always felt at home in Vienna. Had someone suggested that he would spend most of his life in another country, Hochwälder would have ridiculed the idea. What made him decide to leave his beloved Vienna was the annexation of Austria in 1938 and persecution by the Nazis. The twenty-seven-year-old tried to persuade his parents to...
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