By F. Guzzardi
Emil Ludwig (originally named Emil Cohn) was born in Breslau, now part of Poland. Born into a Jewish family, he was raised as a non-Jew but was not baptized. “Many persons have become Jews since Hitler," he said. "I have been a Jew since the murder of Walther Rathenau [in 1922], from which date I have emphasized that I am a Jew.” Ludwig studied law but chose writing as a career. At first he wrote plays and novellas, also working as a journalist. In 1906, he moved to Switzerland, but, during World War I, he worked as a foreign correspondent for the Berliner Tageblatt in Vienna and Istanbul. He became a Swiss citizen in 1932, later emigrating to the United States in 1940.
At the end of the Second World War, he went to Germany as a journalist, and it is to him that we owe the retrieving of Goethe's and Schiller's coffins, which had disappeared from Weimar in 1943/44. He returned to Switzerland after the war and died in 1948, in Moscia, near Ascona. In 1944, Ludwig wrote a letter to the New York Times where he urged that "Hitler’s fanaticism against the Jews could be exploited by the Allies. The Three Powers should send a proclamation to the German people through leaflets and to the German Government through neutral countries; threatening that further murdering of Jews would involve terrible retaliation after victory. This would drive a wedge into the already existing dissension of the generals and the Nazis, and also between ultra-Nazis and other Germans.”
Ludwig interviewed Benito Mussolini and on 1 December 1929
Our conversations took place evening after evening across this table. The reader must understand that their fundamental theme is, not so much the burning questions we discussed, as the character of Mussolini which, in its
manifold face tings, I was end endeavoring to grasp. The following pages, therefore, are not Platonic dialogues in which this subject or that is
exhaustively dealt with. Nevertheless, the nature of our talks is based upon the polarity of the
interlocutors. I had devoted much time and thought to the question how I could best confront my own views with his, how I could most effectively induce him to speak frankly and freely while avoiding the danger of entering into one of those ponderous “disputations” which are fatal to conversation in any true sense of the term.
Like all true dictators, Mussolini shows the utmost courtesy. It would seem as if such men, between races, like to make their steed prance gracefully upon the saddling ground. He never appeared nervous or out of humor, but fingered a pencil while he was talking or sometimes sketched with it idly (I have seen the same trick in another dictator). He fidgeted a good deal in his chair, like a man whom long continued sitting makes uneasy. It has been said that at times he breaks off in the middle of his work, mounts a motor cycle, and races off to Ostia with one of his children sitting pillion -the police detailed to protect him dashing after him in a desperate attempt to keep in touch.