Else Lasker-Schuler: Jerusalem years

Playing the fluteStrutting through the streets of Berlin in the 1920s decked out in outlandish clothes and garish Jewelry was one thing. This was after all the flapper era that brought Kurt Weill, Bertold Brecht, Lotte Lenya, and Marlene Dietrich to the fore. Whether by chance or by design, the poet in this café-society was in tune with her times. Yet to wear the same kind of regalia in her seventies, in a Jerusalem full of economically struggling immigrants, was quite another matter.

Like the ant of the fable, the hard-working populace of the Holy City must have regarded the poet as something of a parasite. Just being a Yekkeh, a Jew of German origin, was a stigma in those days. And the fact that she continued to write in German in a fiercely patriotic country where all the other immigrant-poets readily adopted Hebrew as their poetic tongue only alienated her further. In a prose piece titled "Antisemitismus" Lasker-Schüler writes, "After escaping the death throes of anti-Semitism, it is the faithless claw of my own people which now tears me apart."


From: Bernhard Frank "Eve's Song: Observations on the Poetry of Else Lasker-Schüler." Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thoughts 47: p. 299. Reprinted with permission from Judaism, vol. 47 no. 3 (Summer 1998). Copyright © 1988 American Jewish Congress.

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