Austrian-British author Stefan Zweig and his wife Lotte Altmann.Three Lions / Getty Images
A radiant sun had dawned that June 28, 1914 in Baden-Baden.
It was the eve of Saint Peter and Saint Paul and many Austrian bourgeois had decided to spend the holiday in that spa.
Stefan Zweig was one of them.
In his book
The World of Yesterday
he tells that at tea time under the park's perfumed lime trees, an orchestra of violins and pistons played a waltz; Some vacationers at that time also bet on the roulette wheel in the casino and others dressed in white hats and pamelas, followed by girls dressed in light colors, crossed the cast iron bridges that link the gardens on either side of the Oos River. In the midst of this perfect harmony, suddenly, the orchestra stopped playing. Some listeners surrounded a guard who at that moment was posting a poster on a visible board with the news that Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife had been assassinated in Sarajevo at the hands of Gavrilo Princip. , a Serbian nationalist who fought for the independence of his country from Austria.Nobody gave too much importance to that fact, so the waltz began to play again from the same measure in which it had been interrupted.
A bright day had also dawned on September 1, 1939 in the spa town of Bath, 150 kilometers west of London.
It was Friday and Stefan Zweig had gone to see a lawyer to discuss the requirements for marrying his secretary Lotte Altmann.
He was attended by a very friendly official with whom he scheduled the ceremony for the following Monday.
But, suddenly, an employee came up very upset and announced that Germany had just declared war on Poland.
The official, as if nothing had happened, continued explaining to the couple the details of the wedding ceremony.
In the afternoon the news of the first bombings arrived and the radio broadcast Hitler's bellows while in the city of Bath, according to Stefan Zweig in his
everyone was calm and unflappable; people continued their lives with all normality, oblivious to the great tragedy that was coming. The writer was just busy with the wedding procedures, for the interest of buying a house to settle down and be able to write.
Also in Baden-Baden the bourgeois did not imagine the terrible slaughter that was coming. They believed that the war would be a matter of four days and since they had no recollection of any fighting, as if it were a romantic adventure, young Austrians in 1914, drunk with enthusiasm and beer, shouted down the street and ran to enlist in a hurry fearing that the war would end without being able to do so and they left to the front loaded with flowers. It was trench warfare, hand-to-hand, with drawn bayonet that began with a waltz. But life hadn't changed, except for those at the front. In the city people went to theaters, celebrated parties and filled the bars.
On September 3, 1939, the British ambassador issued the ultimatum to Germany and hours later England declared war on Germany. Stefan Zweig was tormented not being able to write in his language, he was not fluent in English and also as an Austrian he had been declared a foreign enemy, but as the bombs began to fall on London his obsession was to get married and buy a house. Those days in the spa town of Bath shone with splendid sunshine. There was no sign that the country was at war. In their
Stefan Zweig describes an excursion through the surrounding green hills in which he discovers the splendor of nature that makes us forget human stupidity. He writes: ”The afternoons have become terribly sad. The streets are dark and deserted, it is necessary to avoid that the slightest ray of light comes out from the windows. I don't want to think when it gets dark at four in the afternoon. Also there are no cinemas or theaters or anything at all. I remember Vienna in 1914, even in 1918, with opera, dances and shows, when you could think about living and sleeping… ”.
On September 6, while Stefan Zweig reads the news of the bombings in the newspaper, he receives the call that he can marry at four in the afternoon and at the same time a letter arrives in which Mr. Hundley tells him that he is willing to sell him. home.
With his girlfriend Lotte he goes to see her, she seems very beautiful and decides to buy her.
After lunch he shaves in a hurry and finally marries without much ceremony and takes Lotte Altmann as his wife, while Krakow had been taken over by the Nazis and Warsaw was about to fall.
Bath has never been so beautiful.
The writer remembered the waltz interrupted under the linden trees of Baden-Baden on that June 29, 1914. End of the party.
Stefan and Lotte committed suicide in Petropolis, Brazil, in 1942.