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Alfred Kerr

(1867 – 1948)

Alfred Kerr (pen name of Alfred Kempner) was a German literary and theater critic and author. Kerr was born in Breslau and studied there and in Berlin. He became a drama critic for the Berlin newspaper Der Tag and later for the Berliner Tageblatt. Together with Paul Cassirer and Wilhelm Herzog, Kerr founded the theater magazine Pan, which was published from 1900 until World War I. Because of his public warning against national socialism, he immediately had to leave Germany in February 1933. Together with his second wife and his two children, he fled to Prague and subsequently to Switzerland, Paris, and London, where the family settled and lived in poverty. He worked for various newspapers and the BBC and became a correspondent of the Munich newspaper Neue Zeitung in 1945. During his first visit to Germany after World War II he became severely ill and put an end to his life soon afterwards. Perhaps the leading impressionistic critic in modern German literature, Kerr considered criticism an art and based his judgments on personal impressions. He believed that criticism should aim to "illuminate" a literary work, its author, and the author's attitude to life. He wished to be considered an interpreter rather than a literary "lawgiver." He was especially prominent as a champion of Hauptmann and Ibsen.

Kerr's Gesammelte Schriften fills seven volumes. The first five, Die Welt im Drama, appeared in 1917; the last two were published as Die Welt im Licht in 1920. A new edition in eight volumes was published from 1989 to 2001, Werke in Einzelbänden, as well as a collection of early letters, Wo liegt Berlin? Briefe aus der Reichshauptstadt 18951900 (1998). His travels included a journey to Palestine in 1903, which he recorded with poetic enthusiasm in "Jeruschalajim," one of the chapters in Die Welt im Licht. Kerr devoted one of his studies to the ill-fated German-Jewish statesman Walter Rathenau (1935). Some of Kerr's poems were set to music by Richard Strauss, and a posthumous volume of his verse appeared in 1955. Though inclining to mannerism in his later years, Kerr had an incomparable literary style. His choice of language shows the influence of Heine and Nietzsche.


J. Chapiro, Fuer Alfred Kerr … (1928); Luft, in: A. Kerr, Die Welt im Licht (1961), 435–42. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: H. Schneider: Alfred Kerr als Theaterkritiker (2 vol., 1984); D. Vietor-Engländer, in: B. Wolfgang Benz and M. Neiss (eds.), Deutsch-juedisches Exil; das Ende der Assimilation? Identitätsprobleme deutscher Juden in der Emigration, (1994), 67–77. L. Schoene, Neuigkeiten vom Mittelpunkt der Welt. Der Kampf ums Theater in der Weimarer Republik (1995).

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.