Elisabeth “Else” Schüler (1869–1945) grew up in Elberfeld as the daughter of a private banker and his wife. Her marriage to Dr. Jonathan Berthold Lasker, a medical doctor, brought her to Berlin in 1894. Her first poems were published around the turn of the century. The couple separated in 1903. Else Lasker-Schüler later married the writer Georg Lewin (pseudonym Herwarth Walden: 1878–1941). From 1912, Lasker-Schüler was romantically involved with the author Gottfried Benn (1886–1956). She was also associated with the painter Franz Marc (1880–1916). From her last place of residence in Berlin (see Residence of Else Lasker-Schüler), Else Lasker-Schüler emigrated to Erez Israel, where she died. Personal experience, idealized images of Palestine and especially of Jerusalem, Biblical themes and the experiences of exile feature heavily in Lasker-Schüler’s expressionistic work.
Flight and Forced Migration: Else Lasker-Schüler fled Berlin (See Home of Else Lasker-Schüler) to Switzerland. On 21 June 1938 she wrote to the dentist Hermann Leisinger (1898–1986) in Zurich:
„Esteemed Doctor, I am the poet Else Lasker-Schüler and thus far I have not dared to come to you, to you as a doctor, of whom so many speak so favorably, as I am an emigrant and could only pay you in installments, and I cannot know if you will accept my word… May I come to your office? Tomorrow, Wednesday, in the morning?”
(Else Lasker-Schüler to Hermann Leisinger, 21 June 1938, in Else Lasker-Schüler, Letters 1941-1945. Addenda, ed. Karl Jürgen Skrodzki and Andreas B. Kilcher [Frankfurt a.M. 2010], p. 466.)
After two previous visits, Else Lasker-Schüler finally emigrated to Jerusalem, Palestine in 1939. In 1941, she turned to the educator and philosopher Ernst Akiba Simon (1899–1988), who had been there since 1928, for help: „My dear Adon. Do you know of any way out for me of the terrible situation in which I am living? I’m at my wit’s end. All winter long all I did was work – wrote a whole play, 7 acts, in verse, in an unheated, ice-cold room, and not once did I complain to the landlord, and again and again tried to swallow his insults. The past 4 months I’ve been paying 6 pounds for my very simple room with nothing, not even a glass of tea… I’ve just been drifting along, the way it must be in prison.”
(Else Lasker-Schüler to Ernst Simon, 13 June 1941, in Else Lasker-Schüler, Briefe 1941–1945, Nachträge, ed. Karl Jürgen Skrodzki and Andreas B. Kilcher [Frankfurt a.M. 2010], p. 34.)