Writer Ben-Gavriel Is Born
Photo: National Library of Israel

September 15, 1891

Austrian-Israeli writer Moshe Yaacov Ben-Gavriel is born Eugen Hoeflich in Vienna, Austria.

He begins writing at a young age in German, particularly in the expressionist style. He serves as an officer in the Austro-Hungarian army in World War I and is sent to Jerusalem in 1917 to command a regiment. He learns Hebrew and some Arabic and embraces the region and Zionism. He becomes such a strong supporter of Zionism that the army transfers him back to Austria, where he participates in Zionist organizations and publishes the periodical Das Zest (The Tent), in which he highlights work by Jewish writers and artists and prints articles that support a unified Asia.

He moves to Mandatory Palestine in 1927 with his wife, Marta Schnabel, and settles in Jerusalem, where he soon changes his name to Moshe Yaacov Ben-Gavriel. He becomes a journalist writing for publications in Germany, Austria, France, England and the United States. The Nazis shut down many of the periodicals that publish him or force them to amend their policies to no longer discuss the Middle East.

After serving in the Haganah and the British army’s World War II Jewish Brigade, Ben-Gavriel begins writing novels and short stories, some describing the grim fate of the Jewish people as a result of the Nazi conquest and others providing humorous depictions of Israeli society. His work receives the most acclaim in West Germany, where he is featured in interviews and on speaking tours. His novel “Das Haus in der Karpfengasse” inspires a film that wins a German academy award in 1965. He dies that year.