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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 7 Fragmentation: The Third Reich

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Chapter 7

Fragmentation: The Third Reich

Krämer’s publishing successes and her rise to prominence as a leader in the women’s movement coincided with a period of economic stability for Germany, the so-called ‘Golden Years’ of the Weimar Republic. However, this period was short-lived and Krämer soon found herself grappling with a situation that became increasingly perilous as the far right made political gains and anti-Semitic language became more dominant in public discourse. How did she understand and reflect on the rise of the National Socialists and the horrors of the Third Reich? What do her responses tell us about life for German Jews under the Nazi regime? This chapter will begin with Krämer’s opposition towards German Jewish emigration, as reflected in a story published in May 1932. Then it will look at some of the ways in which she attempted to support her community during the Third Reich. It ends with her experiences of trying to emigrate and prevent the fragmentation of her identity as understood through her private letters. Krämer shared many similarities with the Jews who were trapped within Nazi Germany awaiting their fate; more men than women emigrated and more younger people emigrated than middle-aged or elderly.1 Krämer is at the nexus of these intersecting characteristics and her experience of the Third Reich reflects the experiences of many from her community at this time. Adding her voice to the voices of those who were trapped in Germany gives...

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