Entlarvung eines Mythos: Zu Arnold Zweigs Novelle „Der Spiegel des großen Kaisers“ (1926)


Arnold Zweig’s relatively unknown short story, “Der Spiegel des großen Kaisers” (1926), gives the reader unique insights into the political and economic activities of the last emperor of the Staufer family, Friedrich II (1194–1250), including aspects of his private life. Friedrich II came to some prominence in the 19th century when historians and authors wrote numerous works about him, thereby creating the image of a mythological figure of a supposedly great, yet forgotten German leader. Arnold Zweig’s goal with this short story, however, appears to be to debunk this myth by pointing out the history of Friedrich II which in many respects was not much different from that of other medieval emperors and thus does not deserve any uncritical glorification. In addition, Arnold Zweig sharply distances himself from Stefan George who in many of his works expresses a naïve admiration of the emperor, overlooking, for example, Friedrich II’s abuse of power and his anti-Semitism. (PM-K)