Else Lasker-Schüler(Elisabeth Schüler (birth name), Prinz Jussuf von Theben, Malik, Prinzessin Tino von Bagdad)

Else Lasker-Schüler
Else Lasker-Schüler, 1944 in Jerusalem (last known photo), photographed by Sonia Gidal
Else Lasker-Schüler Archiv, Stadtbibliothek Wuppertal, © Sonia Gidal

Else Lasker-Schüler(Elisabeth Schüler (birth name), Prinz Jussuf von Theben, Malik, Prinzessin Tino von Bagdad)

Wissen Sie, wie man das jüdisch-arabische Problem lösen kann? Es gibt nur einen Weg: Freude schaffen. Wir gründen einen Rummelplatz für Juden und Araber, den beide Völker besuchen werden und wo sie gemeinsam Reibepfannkuchen essen, Karussell fahren und Glückshafen spielen.

[Do you know how we can solve the Jewish-Arab problem? There’s only one way: create joy. We’ll set up a fairground for Jews and Arabs which both groups will visit and where they will all eat fritters, ride on the carousel and play the tombola. (ed. trans.)]

Else Lasker-Schüler in conversation in 1937, recalled by Schalom Ben-Chorin, 1945

Bornon 11 February 1869 in Elberfeld (today a district of Wuppertal), Germany
Diedon 22 January 1945 in Jerusalem, Palestine (today: Israel)
ExileSwitzerland, Palestine

Else Lasker-Schüler was exotic – both as a writer and as a person. She constantly reinvented herself, assuming invented identities such as that of Prince Yussuf of Thebes. Exile hit her hard and abruptly. In 1933 she was attacked by an SA squad in the middle of the street after she had riled them with a provocative song. Afterwards friends managed to convince her that escape was the only option.

On 19 April 1933 the 64-year-old left Germany. Her destination was Switzerland, a country she knew well that was also home to several friends. For over six years she was granted sanctuary. However, she only had indefinite leave to remain and so her stay was marked by the constantly recurring struggle for a residency permit. Her leave to remain came with a work ban, and the writer experienced constant financial difficulties. She received aid from such bodies as the Jewish Cultural Federation as well as from private individuals. In 1939 she was on her third trip to Palestine, a trip from which there would be no return: the Swiss authorities had refused her re-entry. 

In Palestine Lasker-Schüler had numerous contacts among the community of German-speaking intellectuals and she was active in cultural life, establishing the “Kraal” lecture association in 1942. But Israel would always be foreign to her. Day-to-day life had proven that this wasn’t to be the promised land of her dreams. Until the end she maintained her longing for her old life, her old friends and the self-perception which came with her language.

Selected works:
Styx (Gedichte, 1902)
Die Wupper (Drama, 1909)
Gesammelte Gedichte (1917)
Der Malik. Eine Kaisergeschichte (Prosa, 1919)
Das Hebräerland (Prosa, 1937)
Mein blaues Klavier (Gedichte, 1943)

Further reading:
Skrodzki, Karl Jürgen (Hg.): Else Lasker-Schüler. Sämtliche Gedichte. Frankfurt am Main: Jüdischer Verlag 2004
Vennemann, Kevin (Hg.): Else Lasker-Schüler. IchundIch. Frankfurt am Main: Jüdischer Verlag 2009
Bauschinger, Sigrid: Else Lasker-Schüler. Biographie. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag 2006
Dick, Ricarda (Hg.): Else Lasker-Schüler. Die Bilder. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 2010 (Begleitband zur Ausstellung im Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin)
Dick Ricarda (Hg.): Else Lasker-Schüler – Franz Marc. Eine Freundschaft in Briefen und Bildern. Mit sämtlichen privaten und literarischen Briefen (mit Faksimile des Malik). München: Prestel 2012