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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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Clementine Krämer’s writings reflect a complicated individual who had a deep understanding of the complex times in which she lived. This study of the forgotten oeuvre of her work has uncovered how she saw the world and interacted with it, and how she attempted to reconcile her identities at a time of social upheaval. As a bourgeois German Jewish woman, her identities were pulled in different directions by social circumstances and events. She was a fascinating individual but also, as she was a community leader and shared many commonalities with her contemporaries, her experiences and reactions deepen our understanding of the German Jewish community at that time. Examining a broad range of her writing, from fiction to reportage and letters, has created a more holistic understanding of her life. Her articles explore the problems she identified and what solutions she posed, and her letters give a more intimate and less mediated look at how she expressed herself. Through her short stories we can see Krämer experimenting with different solutions and imagining alternative realities, and her novella explores this at length. By constructing narratives, Krämer is constructing her identity and attempting to, in Stuart Hall’s terms, knit her different identities together to form a cohesive whole.1 By analysing these stories, it is possible to learn about Krämer’s process and how she saw her identity.

Krämer, as her letters to her nephew suggest, was concerned about being forgotten, and the Third Reich almost...

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