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As Nazi troops marched across Europe during World War II, two Jewish writers from Austria quietly found their way to Brazil. Six decades later, Robert Georg Murray ’02 is examining why Stefan Zweig and Paul Frischauer fled to a nation with a “semi-Fascist” government, and how they spent their time of exile.

Murray, a double major in International Affairs and German, says his honors thesis research gives him the chance to put his own unique background to work — he grew up in Sao Paulo, Brazil, speaks both Portuguese and German, and has studied in Vienna, Austria.

“I always wanted to do a project that incorporated Brazil in some way,” Murray says, explaining that his thesis advisor, Margarete Lamb-Faffelberger, associate professor of foreign languages and literature, suggested that he examine the life and work of Frischauer, a journalist who gathered information about the Nazi influence in southern Brazil for the British Joint Broadcasting Committee (later the BBC) and wrote a biography of Brazil’s then-leader, Presidente Getulio Vargas.

“She helped me incorporate the two worlds that I knew,” he says, adding that he went a step further and decided to compare Frischauer’s work with that of Zweig, a novelist who wrote the book Brazil: The Land of the Future.

Murray is reading biographies of both writers, as well as their books and commentary on their works. “I’m excited about it,” he says. “I’m getting more of an idea of my own country from this. I also like to show people what Brazil is all about.”

Lamb-Faffelberger notes that Murray is able to read commentary about the writers’ work in English, Portuguese and German –and his translation and commentary have deepened her own understanding. “It’s a rather unusual topic,” she says, explaining that not many students would be able to take on a project with such a complex combination of history, politics, and language.

Murray is glad to be working with Lamb-Faffelberger, a native of Austria. “She is very experienced with the Austrian writers and literature,” he says. “I think that together, we will be able to combine experiences from our countries to result in a good final project.”

Murray adds that he is especially grateful to the staff at Skillman Library. “I have been able to get every single book that I need, even if we do not have it in our own library,” he says.

Murray hopes to work in international investment banking or a related field after graduation and eventually earn an MBA degree. On campus, he is president of the German Club and treasurer of the International Affairs Club. He is a founding member of the German Floor and a member of the International Student Association, the Concert Choir, and the Investment Club. He has also served as a resident adviser and vice president and music coordinator of the Newman Association and sang with the Chorduroys, Lafayette’s male a cappella group.

Categorized in: Academic News