Else Lasker-Schueler was a German poet. Lasker-Schueler grew up in an assimilated family in Elberfeld. In 1894 she married the doctor Berthold Lasker and, moving to Berlin, soon after became part of a group of avant gardist artists gathering around the bohemian writer Peter Hille, taking lessons in drawing and writing her first poems (published in the volumes Styx (1902), and Der siebente Tag (1905)).
Working together with her second husband, Herwarth *Walden (to whom she was married from 1901 to 1911), who was the editor of the main journal of German expressionism, Der Sturm, she soon turned out to be one of the most highly acclaimed expressionistic writers. Within this literary and artistic movement, from around 1910 to 1920, she was also part of a generation of young Jewish writers who rejected the bourgeois concept of assimilation of their parents and discovered Judaism as a counterculture. Lasker-Schueler's name for these non-bourgeois Jews was "wilde Juden." In this context, she created her own world of mythical Oriental and biblical figures, stories, and poems. She also mythologized her friends – and even more herself as "Princess Tino of Baghdad" and later as "Prince Yussuf of Thebes" (cf. the stories Die Naechte Tino von Bagdads, 1907; Der Prinz von Theben, 1914; HebraeischeBalladen, 1913).
She expanded this poetical myth in her novels Mein Herz (1913) and Der Malik (1919). They consist of an account of the literary and artistic avant garde in the form of letters to her friends (among them Franz Marc, Karl *Kraus, Alfred *Doeblin, Gottfried Benn, Max *Brod, and Franz *Werfel). In the story Der Wunderrabbiner von Barcelona (1921) and in the novel/play Arthur Aronymus (1932), the subject was her own family history (e.g., her grand-grandfather, the famous rabbi Hirsch Cohen, in the latter), but also the conflicted relationship between Judaism and Christianity. While the "Wanderrabbiner" portrays – following Heinrich *Heine's Der Rabbi von Bacherach – the persecution of the Jews in Christian Europe, Arthur Aronymus ends with a utopian reunion of Jews and Christians, represented even more emphatically when Arthur Aronymus was staged as a play in Zurich in 1936.
A successful writer (and artist) in the Weimar Republic – she had her collected works published in ten volumes in 1919–20, and won the Kleist Prize in 1932 – Lasker-Schueler had to flee from Nazi-Germany to Switzerland in 1933. She lived in Zurich and Ascona under most difficult circumstances, supported by the Jewish community and selling her drawings while publishing a few poems in journals such as Klaus Mann's exile journal Die Sammlung (1934/35). Already during this period she undertook two journeys to Palestine, the first in 1934 and the second in 1937, staying mostly in Jerusalem and becoming well acquainted with the German-Jewish intellectuals of the yishuv. Back in Switzerland, she wrote an account of the trip, Das Hebraeerland (1937). She portrayed Palestine not so much in a political and realistic way, but rather in a utopian way, showing Jews and Arabs living in harmony, yet she herself did not feel at home in Palestine. After a third journey to Palestine in 1939, during which World War II broke out, she had to stay in Jerusalem, where she spent her last years. In close contact with German-Jewish intellectuals like Ernst *Simon, Werner *Kraft, Shmuel Yosef *Agnon, Salman *Schocken, and Samuel *Bergman, she continued writing poems, some of which were published in Arnold *Zweig's German journal Der Orient (printed in Haifa), and collected in her last volume, Mein blaues Kla-vier (Jerusalem, 1943). In Jerusalem she also wrote her third play, IchundIch (1940; published in 1979), which criticizes national socialism in the mythic language of the Faust-theme. Her works were published in a critical edition from 1996 to 2002, and her letters began appearing in 2003.
M. Wiener, in: G. Krojanker (ed.), Juden in der deutschen Literatur (1922), 179–92; W. Kraft, Else Lasker-Schueler (1951); E. Ginsberg (ed.), Dichtungen und Dokumente: Else Lasker-Schueler (1951); M. Kupper, in: Literaturwissenschaftliches Jahrbuch (1968); E. Kluesener, Else Lasker-Schueler in Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten (1980); I. Shedletzky, in: M. Gelber (ed.), The Jewish Reception of Heinrich Heine (1992); J. Hessing, Die Heimkehr einer juedischen Emigrantin. Else Lasker-Schuelers mythisierende Rezeption 1945 bis 1971 (1993); G. Dane, in: Text und Kritik, 122 (1994); S.M. Hedgepeth, Ueberall blicke ich nach einem heimatlichen Boden aus. Exil im Werk Else Lasker-Schuelers (1994); A. Bodenheimer, Die auferlegte Heimat. Else Lasker-Schuelers Emigration in Palaestina (1995); I. Hermann, "Raum – Koerper – Schrift." Mythopoetische Verfahrensweisen in der Prosa Else Lasker-Schuelers (1997); S. Bauschinger, Else Lasker-Schueler. Biographie (2004).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.