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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 2 Encounters with Eastern European Jewish Women

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Chapter 2

Encounters with Eastern European Jewish Women

When confronted with the ‘Other’ our idea of who we are is called into question. Trying to keep a sense of self together and prevent fragmentation can often result in the attempt to adopt a unitary identity, at the expense of other identities.1 Additionally, when one takes on a role in a group, the expectations, meanings and resources of this role, as well as interactions with others in counter-roles, affect one’s identity and self-expression as the individual attempts to perform their role.2 Clementine Krämer’s social work both resulted in these kinds of confrontations and gave her a role to perform as it involved working with and campaigning to improve the lives of eastern European Jewish women and she wrote articles about this work. As she negotiated the limitations of her hybrid identity, her depictions of encounters with Jews from eastern Europe highlight her hybridity. For many German Jews, such as Krämer, encountering eastern European Jews in German cities was a confrontation of the limits to their Germanness. How did she perceive these arrivals in Munich and how does this reflect her concerns about her German Jewish identity?

From the 1880s, large numbers of Russian Jews had been on the move west; pogroms, poverty and disease in eastern Europe were major factors in motivating this migration. Additionally anti-Semitism and increasing unemployment in the Austro-Hungarian Empire encouraged Jews from Galicia, Moravia and Bohemia to join this...

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