Emil Ludwig (originally named Emil Cohn) was born in Breslau, now part of Poland. Ludwig studied law but chose writing as a career. At first he wrote plays and novella, but also worked 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. He returned to Switzerland after the war and died in 1948, in Moscia, near Ascona.
During the 1920s he achieved international fame for his popular biographies which combined historical fact and fiction with psychological analysis. After his biography of Goethe was published in 1920, he wrote several similar biographies, including one about Bismarck (1922-24), Napoleon (1825), Michelangelo (1930), and Cleopatra (1937).
As Ludwig's biographies were popular outside of Germany and were widely translated, he was one of the fortunate émigrés who had an income while living in the United States.
When he was 21, Ludwig converted to Catholicism but in 1922 renounced his conversion following the murder of foreign minister Walter Rathenau. His abhorence of the National Socialist regime led him to work for the U.S. government in 1940 writing anti-fascist pamphlets.
While in Southern California Ludwig lived at several addresses. In the early 1940s he lived at 333 Bel Air Road, moving next to 701 Amalfi Drive shown here (where Aldous Huxley had lived in 1941). In 1944-45 Ludwig lived at 303 Grenola Street in Pacific Palisades.
Autorenlexikon deutschsprachiger Literatur des 20. Jahrhunderts. Edited by Manfred Brauneck. Reinbeck bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1991.
Biographisches Lexikon zur Weimarer Republik. Edited by Wolfgang Benz and Hermann Graml. Munich: C.H. Beck, 1988.