Rosalie Beatrice Ruth Scherzer Biography


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Rose Ausländer was born Rosalie Beatrice Ruth Scherzer on May 11, 1901, to Jewish parents in Czernowitz, the capital of Bukovina. Her mother’s name was Etie Binder and her father’s, Sigmund Scherzer. Originally her father was supposed to become a rabbi, but later he decided to become a businessman. Until 1918, Bukovina was the easternmost part of the Habsburg Empire. The population of Czernowitz was about 110,000 and consisted of Germans, Romanians, Ukranians, Poles, and a large proportion of Jews. The Jewish population had assumed the role of preserving the German culture and of being an intermediary between it and the Slavic culture. As a child, Ausländer was educated in the German-Austrian school system, but she also learned Hebrew and Yiddish. Through her schooling she became acquainted with the German literary classics, especially those by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, and Heinrich Heine. She enjoyed a harmonious childhood, which was filled with love toward her parents and her native country. With the advent of World War I and the Russian occupation of Czernowitz, however, this peaceful existence was abruptly terminated. Ausländer’s family fled first to Bucharest and later to Vienna. There they led a life full of suffering and misery. As a result of the Treaty of Versailles, Bukovina became a part of Romania. The family returned to their hometown, where Ausländer finished her secondary education and subsequently attended the University of Czernowitz, majoring in literature and philosophy. At the university, she became especially interested in Plato, Baruch Spinoza, and Constantin Brunner, a follower of Spinoza who lived in Berlin at that time. Later the teachings of Brunner were to become an integral part of her poetry.

Ausländer’s studies and her active membership in literary circles exposed her to the poetry of Friedrich Hölderlin, Franz Kafka, Georg Trakl, Rainer Maria Rilke, Else Lasker-Schüler, and Gottfried Benn. Despite their distance from Vienna, the Jewish literary circles in Czernowitz had adopted the Viennese Karl Kraus as mentor. With the publication of the journal Die Fackel (the torch), Kraus had assumed the role of the “high priest of truth,” the herald of an ethical humanism and poetry against nationalist chauvinism and the corruption of bureaucracy and politics.

In 1921, as a result of the worsening of the family’s already dire financial situation following her father’s death, Ausländer decided to emigrate to the United States. She emigrated with her childhood friend Ignaz Ausländer. After failing to establish themselves in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, they settled in New York...

(The entire section is 1094 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Rose Ausländer (OWS-lehn-dehr), born Rosalie Beatrice Ruth Scherzer, enjoyed a protected childhood in Czernowitz, Bukovina, in the foothills of the eastern Carpathian Mountains. Her father, Sigmund Scherzer, studied to be a Hasidic scholar before becoming a businessman. Jewish feast days were observed in the home, but the family was freethinking. Her mother, Etie Scherzer, instilled in Scherzer a love of the German language and its literature. A gypsy woman who read Rose’s palm foresaw great danger but assured her she would live. She survived the Holocaust.

The first disruption in her life occurred during World War I. Chernovtsy was occupied by Russian troops, and the Scherzer family sought refuge in Vienna. When they returned, the city belonged to Romania. Rose finished high school and began to study at the University of Chernovtsy, where she developed a lasting interest in the pantheism of the contemporary German Jewish philosopher Constantin Brunner (the pen name for Leo Wertheimer).

Her time at university ended when her father died. Her mother felt she could not support Rose and her brother and so persuaded Rose to emigrate. A friend from her philosophy class, Ignaz Ausländer, accompanied her to the United States in 1921. They went to Minnesota and then to New York, where Rose worked in the Bowery Savings Bank. She married Ignaz in 1923 and left him in 1926 but kept his surname after their divorce. Ausländer means “foreigner” in German.

While visiting in Europe in 1927, Rose Ausländer met the graphologist Helios Hecht, who lived with her until 1935. She regretted not having a child: “My unborn child, that I once dreamed of,/ was green like young leaves in the breath of June.” From 1934 to 1939, Ausländer worked as an English correspondent for the Vacuum oil company in Bucharest. The publication of her first book attracted little notice. Europe was increasingly unsafe for Jews, so she...

(The entire section is 795 words.)