Lasker-Schüler, Else

nee Elisabeth Schüler (1869-1945)
   writer; widely considered Germany's best female poet. The great-granddaughter of a rabbi, she was born in Elberfeld (now in Wuppertal) to a banker. During child-hood she had a nervous disease that required private education. Soon after mar-riage in 1894 to the physician Berthold Lasker, she renounced her middle-class roots. When her husband assumed a post in the late 1890s in Berlin,* the mar-riage collapsed, and Else surfaced in bohemian circles and began publishing poetry. Among her friends were Oskar Kokoschka,* Karl Kraus, and Gottfried Benn.* In 1902 she married the writer and composer Georg Levin, who, on Else's advice, took the name Herwarth Walden.* Walden soon became an au-thority on Expressionism,* founded Der Sturm in 1910, and published many of Else's poems. But Else led a reckless life, and in 1911 the marriage ended. Meanwhile, she published her first volumes of poetry, Der Styz (1902) and Der siebente Tag (The seventh day, 1905). Although some question the Expressionist connection, her poetry, deemed a reaction of the soul against material reality, clearly falls within the movement.
   After her divorce from Walden, three individuals were influential in Lasker-Schüler's life: Benn, Kraus, and the painter Franz Marc. Her vast correspon-dence with Marc, who died at the front in 1916, was published in 1919. Benn, her lover (she dubbed him Giselheer), was her steadfast champion for the rest of his life. Kraus, with whom she corresponded until 1923, rescued her finan-cially when she was in dire need. During this period three notable volumes of poetry—Die gesammelten Gedichte (The collected poetry, 1917), Die Kuppel (The dame, 1920), and Theben (1923)—were published. Despite the occasional performance of her dramas, she routinely suffered financial distress. In 1927 she lost her son, Paul, to tuberculosis; she assumed responsibility for his death for the remainder of her life.
   In 1932 Lasker-Schüler received the Kleist Prize for her poetry. Her book of essays, Konzert, appeared the same year. Although Arthur Aronymus, dramatized in 1932, was scheduled for performance in 1933, the NSDAP forced its can-cellation. In April 1933 she fled to Switzerland, where Arthur Aronymus was finally staged in 1936. She visited Palestine in 1940 and decided to settle in Jerusalem. She thereafter lived in poverty until her death.
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Hans Cohn, Else Lasker-Schuler; NDB, vol. 13; Schwertfeger, Else Lasker-Schuler.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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