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Writing Lives

A Female German Jewish Perspective on the Early Twentieth Century


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 3 Contested Spaces


Chapter 3

Contested Spaces

Throughout history, it has always been difficult for women to find a space where their voices can be heard. For German Jewish women, their position was further complicated by the attitude of German Jewish men and anti-Semitism propagated by wider non-Jewish society. For women like Clementine Krämer, there were also the expectations of class and the pressures to conform to the notion of respectability. Despite these pressures, Krämer’s writings reflect her strong desire to communicate and challenge the limitations of her world. As a result, she was keenly aware of the resistance, and also dangers, she faced as a German Jewish woman. How did she perceive these challenges to her presence in the public sphere and what strategies did she employ to deal with this? How did these interactions with others contribute to shaping her identity? The challenges she faced and how she responded were affected by whether she was writing for a Jewish or non-Jewish audience. As the Nazis took control of public life and discourse, confronting threatening men became increasingly dangerous. In order to uncover Krämer’s approaches to the public sphere, this chapter will therefore take a chronological approach to her stories looking at women alone in public written in non-Jewish publications. It will then look at her writings for a Jewish audience to seek a more comprehensive understanding of Krämer’s approach.

At the end of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, many...

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