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Gertrud Kolmar

KOLMAR, GERTRUD (pseudonym of Gertrud Chodziesner; 1894–1943), German poet. The daughter of an assimilated lawyer and the cousin of Walter Benjamin, Kolmar was for some years a translator and interpreter attached to the German Foreign Office and later taught handicapped children. Her first book of verse, Gedichte (1917), attracted little attention. However, in 1930 some of her poems were published in the Insel-Almanach. A gentle, self-effacing writer, Gertrud Kolmar devoted many of her poems (e.g., "Die Juedin," "Wir Juden," and "Judith") to Jewish themes; in others, she delved into history, art, and animal lore. Her poetry is serious, conservative, and disciplined, yet visionary, rich in imagery, and linguistically beautiful. In 1930/31 she wrote the novel Eine jüdische Mutter, which was not published until 1965, then again in 1999; she also wrote some plays in the 1930s. After Hitler's rise to power, Kolmar chose to remain in Germany with her aged father. Her Preussische Wappen (1934, written in 1927/28), a poetic attempt to distill the history and genius of Germany from the Prussian coats of arms, had especial poignancy in its time. Her last volume to appear was Die Frau und die Tiere, which was produced in 1938 by the Jewish publishing house Erwin Loewe and destroyed soon afterward. After the outbreak of World War II, she was conscripted for forced labor in a cardboard factory, while she continued writing poetry (the poems Welten, written in 1937, published in 1947) and the novel Susanna (written in 1939/40 and published in 1959). In her last years she studied Hebrew and even wrote some Hebrew verse. After her father's death in Theresienstadt in February 1943, she was sent to an East European extermination camp (probably Auschwitz), where she is believed to have perished. Her work was discovered and published after the war first through the efforts of Elisabeth Langgaesser and Hermann Kasack. Her complete poetry was published in 2003 (Das lyrische Werk), her plays in 2005 (Dramen) by Regina Nörtemann.


H. Kasack, Mosaik-Steine: Beitraege zu Literatur und Kunst… (1956); J. Picard, in: Jewish Frontier (March 1960), 12–15; B. Eichmann-Leutenegger, Gertrud Kolmar, (1993); B.R. Erdle, AntlitzMordGesetz (1994); J. Woltmann, Gertrud Kolmar (1995); K. Lindemann, Widerstehen im Wort (1996); K. Zarnegin, Tierische Träume (1998).

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