Else Lasker-Schüler

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Else Lasker-Schüler
Else Lasker-Schuler 1875.jpg
Else Lasker-Schüler shortly after her first marriage
Born(1869-02-11)February 11, 1869
Elberfeld, North German Confederation (today Wuppertal, Germany)
DiedJanuary 22, 1945(1945-01-22) (aged 75)
Jerusalem, Mandatory Palestine

Else Lasker-Schüler (February 11, 1869 January 22, 1945) was a German poet and playwright famous for her bohemian lifestyle in Berlin. She was one of the few women affiliated with the Expressionist movement. Lasker-Schüler fled Nazi Germany and lived out the rest of her life in Jerusalem. [1]

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps, Lake Constance and the High Rhine to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

Poet person who writes and publishes poetry

A poet is a person who creates poetry. Poets may describe themselves as such or be described as such by others. A poet may simply be a writer of poetry, or may perform their art to an audience.

Bohemianism lifestyle

Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people and with few permanent ties. It involves musical, artistic, literary or spiritual pursuits. In this context, Bohemians may or may not be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds.



Schüler was born in Elberfeld, now a district of Wuppertal. Her mother, Jeannette Schüler (née Kissing) was a central figure in her poetry, and the main character of her play Die Wupper was inspired by her father, Aaron Schüler, a Jewish banker.

Elberfeld former city in Germany, now part of Wuppertal

Elberfeld is a municipal subdivision of the German city of Wuppertal; it was an independent town until 1929.

Wuppertal Place in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Wuppertal is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, in and around the Wupper valley, east of Düsseldorf and south of the Ruhr. With a population of approximately 350,000, it is the largest city in the Bergisches Land. Wuppertal is known for its steep slopes, its woods and parks, and its suspension railway, the Wuppertal Schwebebahn. It is the greenest city of Germany, with two-thirds green space of the total municipal area. From any part of the city, it is only a ten-minute walk to one of the public parks or woodland paths.

In 1894, Else married the physician and occasional chess player Jonathan Berthold Lasker (the older brother of Emanuel Lasker, a World Chess Champion) and moved with him to Berlin, where she trained as an artist. On August 24, 1899 her son Paul was born and her first poems were published. She published her first full volume of poetry, Styx, three years later, in 1902. On April 11, 1903, she and Berthold Lasker divorced and on November 30, she married Georg Lewin. His pseudonym, Herwarth Walden, was her invention.

Physician professional who practices medicine

A physician, medical practitioner, medical doctor, or simply doctor, is a professional who practises medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining, or restoring health through the study, diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of disease, injury, and other physical and mental impairments. Physicians may focus their practice on certain disease categories, types of patients, and methods of treatment—known as specialities—or they may assume responsibility for the provision of continuing and comprehensive medical care to individuals, families, and communities—known as general practice. Medical practice properly requires both a detailed knowledge of the academic disciplines, such as anatomy and physiology, underlying diseases and their treatment—the science of medicine—and also a decent competence in its applied practice—the art or craft of medicine.

Berthold Lasker German chess player

Berthold Lasker (also Berthold, per birth registry Jonathan Berthold Barnett) was a German physician, writer and chess master.

Emanuel Lasker German chess player, contract bridge player, mathematician, and philosopher

Emanuel Lasker was a German chess player, mathematician, and philosopher who was World Chess Champion for 27 years, from 1894 to 1921, the longest reign of any officially recognised World Chess Champion in history. In his prime, Lasker was one of the most dominant champions, and he is still generally regarded as one of the strongest players ever.

Berthold Lasker, Else Lasker-Schuler, Anna Lindwurm-Lindner, Franz Lindwurm-Lindner around 1900 Else Lasker-Schuler00.jpg
Berthold Lasker, Else Lasker-Schüler, Anna Lindwurm-Lindner, Franz Lindwurm-Lindner around 1900

Lasker-Schüler's first prose work, Das Peter-Hille-Buch, was published in 1906, after the death of Hille, one of her closest friends. In 1907, she published the prose collection Die Nächte der Tino von Bagdad, followed by the play "Die Wupper" in 1909, which was not performed until later. A volume of poetry called Meine Wunder, published in 1911, established Lasker-Schüler as the leading female representative of German expressionism.

Prose form of language which applies ordinary grammatical structure and natural flow of speech

Prose is a form of language that exhibits a natural flow of speech and grammatical structure rather than a regular rhythmic structure as in traditional poetry, where the common unit of verse is based on metre or rhyme. Though, as T. S. Eliot noted, while "the distinction between verse and prose is clear, the distinction between poetry and prose is obscure". Developments in modern literature, including free verse and prose poetry have tended to blur any differences.

Expressionism modernist art movement

Expressionism is a modernist movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. Its typical trait is to present the world solely from a subjective perspective, distorting it radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas. Expressionist artists have sought to express the meaning of emotional experience rather than physical reality.

After separating from Herwarth Walden in 1910 and divorcing him in 1912, she found herself penniless and dependent on the financial support of her friends, in particular Karl Kraus. That year, she met Gottfried Benn. An intense friendship developed between them which found its literary outlet in a large number of love poems dedicated to him.

Karl Kraus (writer) Austrian playwright and publicist

Karl Kraus was an Austrian writer and journalist, known as a satirist, essayist, aphorist, playwright and poet. He directed his satire at the press, German culture, and German and Austrian politics. The Austrian author Stefan Zweig once called Kraus "the master of venomous ridicule". He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature three times.

Gottfried Benn German novelist, poet

Gottfried Benn was a German poet, essayist, and physician. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature five times.

In May 1922 he attended the International Congress of Progressive Artists and signed the "Founding Proclamation of the Union of Progressive International Artists". [2]

International Congress of Progressive Artists

International Congress of Progressive Artists was organised by Young Rhineland, with help from the November Group, the Darmstadt Secession and the Dresden Secession in Düsseldorf, 29-31 May 1922. The aim of creating an international organisation of radical artists led to differing conceptions of how this should be done. Theo van Doesburg wrote "A short review of the proceedings" which included a proclamation calling for a permanent, universal, international exhibition of art from everywhere in the world and an annual universal, international music festival. With the slogan Artists of all nationalities unite’ they declared that "Art must become international or it will perish". According to van Doesburg, when those who refused to sign this proclamation were threatened with exclusion, this led to uproar.

In 1927 the death of her son sent her into a deep depression.

Despite winning the Kleist Prize in 1932, as a Jew she was physically harassed and threatened by the Nazis. She emigrated to Zürich but there, too, she could not work. She traveled to Palestine in 1934 and finally settled in Jerusalem in 1937. In 1938 she was stripped of her German citizenship and the outbreak of World War II prevented any return to Europe. Her Bohemian lifestyle and eccentric fashion made life in Jerusalem difficult. She tended to spend whatever money she had all at once which made her go for days without food or shelter. Heinz Gerling and the poet Manfred Schturmann came to her aid. Gerling opened a bank account for her and arranged for regular payments to cover her expenses whereas Schturmann edited her work and helped with her dealings with publishers. After her death Schturmann became the trustee of her legacy and during the 1950s and '60s dealt extensively with publishers in East and West Germany, Switzerland and Austria who wished to publish her works.

In 1944 Lasker-Schüler's health deteriorated. She suffered a heart attack on January 16, and died in Jerusalem on January 22, 1945. She was buried on the Mount of Olives. [3]

The grave of Else Lasker-Schuler on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem The grave of Else Lasker-Schuler - 3.jpg
The grave of Else Lasker-Schüler on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem
The grave of Else Lasker-Schuler on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem - Hebrew inscription on grave The Grave of Else Lasker -Schuler - 2.jpg
The grave of Else Lasker-Schüler on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem - Hebrew inscription on grave

Literary career

Lasker-Schuler memorial by Stephan Huber in Elberfeld, Wuppertal ELSchuelerMemorial.jpg
Lasker-Schüler memorial by Stephan Huber in Elberfeld, Wuppertal

Lasker-Schüler left behind several volumes of poetry and three plays, as well as many short stories, essays and letters. During her lifetime, her poems were published in various magazines, among them the journal Der Sturm edited by her second husband, and Karl Kraus' literary journal Die Fackel. She also published many anthologies of poetry, some of which she illustrated herself. Examples are:

Lasker-Schüler wrote her first and most important play, Die Wupper, in 1908. It was published in 1909 and the first performance took place on April 27, 1919 at the Deutsche Theater in Berlin.

A large part of her work is composed of love poetry, but there are also deeply religious poems and prayers. Transitions between the two are often quite fluid. Her later work is particularly rich in biblical and oriental motifs. Lasker-Schüler was very free with regard to the external rules of poetic form, however her works thereby achieve a greater inner concentration. She was also not averse to linguistic neologisms.

A good example of her poetic art is her 1910 poem "Ein alter Tibetteppich"  [ de ] (lit. "An old Tibetan rug"), which was reprinted many times after its first publication in Sturm , the first of these being in Fackel.

"Ein alter Tibetteppich"

Deine Seele, die die meine liebet,
Ist verwirkt mit ihr im Teppichtibet.

Strahl in Strahl, verliebte Farben,
Sterne, die sich himmellang umwarben.

Unsere Füße ruhen auf der Kostbarkeit,

Süßer Lamasohn auf Moschuspflanzenthron,
Wie lange küßt dein Mund den meinen wohl
Und Wang die Wange buntgeknüpfte Zeiten schon?

"An old Tibetan rug"

Your soul, which loveth mine,
Is woven with it into a rug-Tibet.

Strand by strand, enamoured colours,
Stars that courted each other across the length of heavens.

Our feet rest on the treasure

Sweet lama-son on your musk-plant-throne
How long has your mouth been kissing mine,
And cheek to cheek colorfully woven times?


The 20th-century Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid included a translation of an extract from Lasker-Schüler's work in his long poem A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle , 1926. (Lines 401–410.)


"Angel for Jerusalem," Else Lasker-Schuler Memorial in Jerusalem Forest, April 2007 ElsacloudS.jpg
"Angel for Jerusalem," Else Lasker-Schüler Memorial in Jerusalem Forest, April 2007

There is a memorial plaque to Else Lasker-Schüler at Motzstraße 7, Berlin-Schöneberg, where she lived from 1924 to 1933. Part of this street was renamed Else-Lasker-Schüler-Straße in 1996. In Elberfeld in Wuppertal there is now a school named after her (The "School without Racism"), and a memorial stele was erected on Herzogstraße, Wuppertal.

The Else-Lasker-Schüler-Society was founded 1990 in Wuppertal by journalist Hajo Jahn. In more than 20 international symposias from Breslau to Tel Aviv, the works of the poet were introduced and discussed in relation to the relevance for the presence and future.

In Jerusalem, there is a small street named for Else Lasker-Schüler in the neighborhood of Nayot - Rehov Else. Perched on a ridge in the Jerusalem Forest, very close to the Kennedy Memorial (Yad Kennedy), was a sculpture in her honor resembling a slender tree trunk with wings. It was placed there in 1997, and was stolen, probably by metal thieves, in July 2007.

In 2007, her final days in Jerusalem were commemorated in the BBC radio play My Blue Piano by the Scottish playwright Marty Ross (Radio 4 2007) which combined the facts of her dying days with the fantasies of her inner life. [4]


Translations of Lasker-Schüler's works into English




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  1. Three Plays, Else Lasker-Schuler Archived August 7, 2007, at the Wayback Machine (Archived)
  2. van Doesburg, Theo. "De Stijl, "A Short Review of the Proceedings [of the Congress of International Progressive Artists], Followed by the Statements Made by the Artists' Groups" (1922)". modernistarchitecture.wordpress.com. Ross Lawrence Wolfe. Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  3. Ziffer, Benny (July 16, 2010). "Kiss of July". Haaretz .
  4. This can be heard at My Blue Piano Archived July 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  5. Ich räume auf Archived 2011-07-08 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading