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Writing Lives

A Female German Jewish Perspective on the Early Twentieth Century

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Corinne Painter

This book introduces the works of a German Jewish female author and provides a detailed analysis of the early twentieth century as she witnessed it. Although a prolific writer and leader in the women’s movement, Clementine Krämer (1873–1942) is relatively unknown today. Krämer’s life and works offer a fascinating insight into a challenging period for this community, as she experienced at first hand moments of enormous significance for Germany’s history: the First World War, the German Revolution of 1918, the polarisation of German political life and
the growth of the far right, and the rise to power of the National Socialists in the 1930s. Rather than focusing on one period, this book examines the full range of Krämer’s writings to uncover continuities and changes over her lifetime.

The book explores the following questions: how did Krämer understand herself and her role in light of her German Jewish identity? How did she challenge societal expectations for women and what limits did she perceive? How did she respond to the violence facing German Jews during this time? This important contribution to the scholarship reveals a fresh perspective on this tumultuous time in German history.

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Introduction

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‘Life has meaning everywhere. I cannot see it as crazy’ (Das Leben hat einen Sinn allüberall. Ich kann es nicht verrückt sehen), wrote Clementine Krämer in 1916, in the midst of the turmoil of the First World War and, indeed, throughout her life she witnessed German society undergoing unprecedented change.1 Krämer critically reflected upon the birth of the twentieth century, the First World War, the turbulent foundation of the Weimar Republic, and the Third Reich. Why then does she write so confidently of life making sense? Krämer (1873–1942), a German Jewish writer and leader in the women’s movement, was a prolific writer of fiction and reportage which she used to record the events she witnessed, reflect on her experiences, and fight for social change. She wrote over 100 short stories, articles, poems and letters, resulting a unique, rich and varied archive of material on which to draw. She wrote across the majority of her life and reflected on a wide variety of themes.2 This book explores the following three questions: how did Krämer make sense of herself and her role in light of her German Jewish identity? How did she challenge societal expectations for women and what limits did she perceive? How did she respond to the violence facing German Jews during the First World War, the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich? From the experiences and responses of Krämer, an active leader in the campaign for change, we can...

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