Hilde Spiel's parents were Jewish but she was a Roman Catholic by faith. She began publishing stories as a teenager in Vienna. In 1933 at age 22, she joined the Social Democratic Workers’ Party and won the Julius Reich literary prize for her coming of age novel, Kati auf der Brücke (Katie on the Bridge). After publishing another novel, Spiel earned a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Vienna and worked for two years at a center for industrial psychology. In 1936, horrified by rising fascism and anti-Semitism in Austria, Hilde Spiel moved to London. There she quickly learned to write in English and became a successful journalist. In 1936, she followed through on plans to marry Peter de Mendelssohn, a German writer and fellow émigré, with whom she had two children. They survived the Blitz, and after the war Hilda Spiel worked as a cultural correspondent for German and Austrian publications and as a broadcaster. She became one of the most important postwar literary critics in the German-speaking world. She published volumes of essays, cultural history, biography, and her memoirs. She translated the works of numerous modern British writers including Auden, Woolf, Greene, and Stoppard into German. From 1955, she maintained a second home in Austria, where she returned to live in 1963. After a divorce from de Mendelssohn, she married Hans Flesch-Brunningen, a writer. In the 1980s she spent another year in London as FAZ correspondent.