Monday, 27 January 2014

Berta Lask (1878 - 1967) - German

As today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, I thought I would share a Jewish Poet with you.

The following text has been researched translated and written by Penelope Monkhouse from Germany.  Thank you Penelope :

Berta Lask (1878 Wadowice (then in Habsburgian Galicia-Lodomeria) – 1967 Berlin) was the daughter of a Jewish paper manufacturer and sister of the philosopher Emil Lask. 

From 1885 the family lived in Brandenburg and Berta attended school at Bad Freienwalde, where she began writing. In 1894-1895 she attended secondary school in Berlin. 

Berta married the neurologist and histologist Louis Jacobsohn, fifteen years her senior, in 1901 and the couple had four children. Her first play Auf dem Hinterhof, vier Treppen links was written in 1912 and her poetry collections Stimmen and Rufe aus dem Dunkel were published in 1919 and 1921. 

Following the impressions of poverty in Berlin gained through her husband’s practice, Berta Lask became involved in the bourgeois women’s movement. After the October revolution in Russia and the November revolution of 1918 in Berlin, she became more radical and began publishing in the Rote Fahne and other communist papers. 

Berta joined the Communist Party in 1923. Propagandist literature then followed, including chorus Die Toten rufen - Sprechchor sum Gedenken an Karl Liebknecht ind Rosa Luxemburg, the plays Leuna 1921 orThomas M√ľntzer and several children’s books.   During the 1920s Berta was accused of treason several times; her printed plays were confiscated and performances banned. However in 1927, all accusations against her were dropped. 

In 1928 Berta helped to found the union of proletarian-revolutionary writers (BPRS) and became its second secretary.  After the accession of the national socialist regime, she was temporally arrested but was able to emigrate Moscow in June 1933, where she carried out publicity work. In 1936 her husband, daughter-in-law and granddaughter joined her. Berta then went to Sebastopol/Crimea with her husband, where he had found work as a doctor. 

From the summer of 1941 to the autumn of 1944 Berta lived with her son Hermann in Archangel.   In1953  she went to Moscow again, returning in August that year to Eastern Germany (GDR), where she died in Berlin in 1967. 


R. Wall: Lexikon deutschsprachiger Schriftstellerinnen im Exil 1933-1945, Haland & Wirth/ Psychosozial-Verlag 2004, ISBN 3-89806-229-5, S. 238-241 
W. Emmerich: Lask, Berta, in: Neue Deutsche Biographie 13 (1982), S. 647 f. [URL: , accessed 5.8.2013.]