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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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Chapter 1 Who Was Clementine Krämer? Context and Concepts

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Chapter 1

Who Was Clementine Krämer? Context and Concepts

Clementine Krämer was a prolific writer and she used her work to understand events and negotiate her world. Closely linked to Krämer’s understanding of her world is her understanding of her Self. How did she perceive her identity, which was the lens through which she witnessed the early twentieth century? Trying to reconstruct an individual through the writings they left behind is most likely impossible. This book is therefore opening a dialogue about who Krämer was and how she saw herself rather than providing a comprehensive definition. Identity is a construction as it is pieced together from multiple sources. As we perform different functions and interact with different groups, our perception of ourselves shifts and yet there is often the idea that there is a core self which remains unchanged and these different identities are smaller ‘satellites’ which orbit the core identity. Who we are is therefore all of these identities and roles and possibly also that which holds them all together.1 In order to understand Krämer, we need to try and identify what these satellites were and how they interacted with one another. As social changes put pressures on different aspects of Krämer’s life it became more complicated for her to keep her sense of Self together and prevent fragmentation. Her struggles to preserve a unified identity also highlight what was important to her understanding of her identity and provide...

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