Egon Schwarz was born to Jewish parents in Vienna, Austria. Following the Nazi Anschluss (annexation) of Austria when he was 15, the family fled the country and spent a harrowing time moving from Czechoslovakia to Hungary to South America. From 1939 to 1949, he survived by working as a laborer in various industries in Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador. He attended secondary school in Cuenca, Ecuador, and studied law at the Facultad de Jurisprudencia y Ciencias Sociales. With a scholarship, he moved to the USA, where he earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree at The Ohio State University in Columbus. He earned a doctoral degree from the University of Washington in 1954. He taught at Harvard for seven years before joining the faculty of Washington University in St. Louis, where he later became the Rosa May Distinguished University Professor in the Humanities. He chaired the Department of German Languages and Literature for 32 years. He was one of the world's leading authorities on 19th and 20th century German literature, particularly renowned for his works on Rainer Maria Rilke, Arthur Schnitzler, Herman Hesse, and Thomas Mann. He was the author or editor of more than 20 or more books, including his autobiography Unfreiwillige Wanderjahre. Auf der Flucht vor Hitler durch drei Kontinente (2005), published in English as Refuge: Chronicle of a Flight from Hitler. He also published hundreds of scholarly articles, book chapters, and book reviews, and was a regular contributor to major German and European newspapers, including the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and Die Zeit.