Else Lasker-Schüler > Refugee in Switzerland

Refugee in Switzerland

At the beginning of 1933, Lasker-Schüler's artistic career was at its height. The previous year she had won the distinguished Kleist prize. The Jewish poet, author, playwright and artist occupied a central place in the artistic community in Berlin. She was widely admired by many artists. Her poems were published in journals and anthologies and painters painted her portrait. She gave poetry readings throughout the German-speaking world, from Prague to Vienna, from Zurich to Berlin and in many other German cities.

However, shortly after the Nazis rose to power, her homeland began to turn its back on her. Lasker-Schüler was attacked in the media and even suffered physical violence against her. In March of 1933, she left Berlin, the city she loved and the center of her creative activity. She escaped to Switzerland. As a German citizen in Switzerland, she was able to obtain a temporary resident visa. And so her long battle to extend her stay in Switzerland until the terror passed began. It very quickly became clear to her that the terror would not pass, but indeed, was only becoming worse. Her material situation became more untenable each day and her visa expired after only a few months. In her fight against the Swiss authorities, she was helped by a Jewish-Swiss lawyer, Emil Raas.
The loyal lawyer worked to the best of his ability, and the relationship between the poet and her representative bore a blossoming correspondence. As of today, the Emil Raas Collection at The National Library contains 160 letters from Else Lasker-Schüler to Emil Raas. He acted on her behalf for many years. Again and again, she asked him to arrange her visa. Very quickly it became clear that if she would be sent back to Germany, she would be sent to a concentration camp. Since she did not have wealth or a source of income, her status visa vis the authorities was not simple. Else Lasker-Schüler saw herself as a small person taking a stand against an omnipotent mechanism. Her letters range between missive wherein she explains to Raas, clearly and lucidly, the mess of her bureaucratic and economic problems, and wilder pieces of text, in the height of her vigorous style. Many of the letters contain illustrations by Lasker-Schüler and in one of them she even drew the panel of high court judges and the president. Facing him is a hand lifted to take an oath, evidently her own hand. Else Lasker-Schüler wrote segments from the play of her life, blurring the lines between reality and imagination. With her life balanced on the scales, she worked through her material reality in her letters to Raas and in illustrations accompanied by text always as she is, always herself.

The letters and the many drawings came to safety in the end. They were donated to The National Library in Jerusalem by the daughters of Emil Raas who live in Israel.  
 אירוע השקת היצירה "סְפָר" מאת עפרי כנעני בהשראת ארכיון אלזה לסקר שילר
אירוע השקת היצירה "סְפָר" מאת עפרי כנעני בהשראת ארכיון אלזה לסקר שילר
האירוע התקיים ביום שלישי, כ"ה בחשון תשע"ד, 29 באוקטובר 2013, בשעה 20:00 בספרייה הלאומית.
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