Meir Wiener was born in 1893 in Cracow, the capital of Poland, which was incorporated into the Austrian Empire in 1795 and again in 1918. Austria granted full civil rights to the Jews of Cracow in 1867–1868. Wiener left Cracow in 1914, but the city and its Jewish population exerted a powerful influence on his memory and imagination long after that. He acquired a broad and solid Jewish education, and studied Hebrew grammar, Bible, and Talmud, as well as medieval Hebrew literature, under the tutelage of Professor Benzion Rappaport. This chapter focuses on Wiener's youth and education in Switzerland, Cracow, and Vienna, and also examines his changing attitude to expressionism and Jewish literature in German. It first looks at the views of German thinker Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803) about the “Jewish Question” and cultural nationalism in comparison with Martin Buber. The chapter then discusses Wiener's interest in Hebrew and German literature during his last two years in Switzerland, his only published collection of poetry entitled Messias, and his dissatisfaction with the German–Jewish cultural synthesis.
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