The change of the religious voices through the trauma of exile in the works of Else Lasker-Schüler, Nelly Sachs, and Barbara Honigmann / by Renate Kaiser Sturdevant
Includes bibliographical references (p. 190-198)
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This dissertation explores the religious voices of three German-Jewish women. The trauma of exile caused by the Holocaust for Else Lasker-Schüler and Nelly Sachs, as well as the trauma of migration for Barbara Honigmann during the Cold War, changed their religious voices to become stronger. Their works bear testimony to the struggle of reconciling their assimilated German-Christian and German-Jewish heritages. Each of the authors’ works have been researched in regards to their religious voices, however, in spite of many commonalities between the three female exiles, no attempt at contrasting the change of their religious voices with each other had been made so far.I approached each of my three chapters by first researching the authors’ familial, religious, and ethnic backgrounds. Since this dissertation covers 106 years of German-Jewish publications, there are some main differences in the historical, personal, and professional development of each writer. After having established an understanding of their lives and religious backgrounds, I investigated selected works, starting with the first published work of each author and ending with the last.My research reveals that living in exile changed the religious voices of all three German-Jewish authors. With the loss of their geographical Heimat, the losses of family members and friends, they indeed lost part of their German cultural identity. Nonetheless, the predicament goes deeper. The exiled authors rejected their German identities or they were rejected because of their assimilated German cultural heritage. They were not able to replace this part of their life, unless they concentrated on their Jewish identity and built their lives around it. All three authors set out on journeys to discover Judaism right before or soon after their moves into exile.This dissertation concludes that Lasker-Schüler's and Nelly Sachs's religious voices became quieter in their last works. Their religious voices changed back to the assimilated German-Christian content. However, there is a chain of development from Lasker-Schüler, to Sachs, and then Honigmann. The "Torah Connection" already existed during Lasker-Schüler's and Sachs' lifetimes. The writings of Martin Buber and all three authors' personal acquaintances with Gershom Sholem, for example, demonstrate continuity. It proves that Jewish roots grow strong in spite of centuries of assimilation. In addition, there is a possibility of reconciling Germanness and Jewishness today, which was not possible for Lasker-Schüler and Sachs during and soon after WWII. German-Jewishness lies in the hands of the individual as does Heimat. Honigmann's texts suggest that Jewishness today is increasingly becoming more global and diverse. All three authors found their Heimat in their work and their families. Lasker-Schüler and Nelly Sachs hoped to find it in heaven to be reunited with their families, while Honigmann found it with her family and Judaism in Strasbourg.
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