10 XII 1894, Berlin — III 1943, KL Auschwitz-Birkenau

BACK

PL  |  DE  |  ENG  | NO |  UKR

Biography

Gertrud Kolmar was a German-speaking modernist poet and writer whose writing reflects her sense of isolation and alienation. Her works are populated by figures of women and animals, and deal with themes of justice and salvation.

She was born in Berlin on 10 December 1894 to an assimilated German-Jewish family. Philosopher Walter Benjamin was her cousin. She was educated in private girls’ schools, including an agricultural school, and graduated from a women’s seminary for foreign language teachers. Her father, Ludwig Chodziesner, was a lawyer. He was the one who persuaded Gertrud to publish her poetry. She made her début in 1917 with the collection titled Im Herbst (“In Autumn”). Her artistic pseudonym “Kolmar” comes from the German name of the town of Chodzież in Greater Poland, which was once home to her father’s ancestors.

In 1938, another volume of her poetry, Die Frau und die Tiere (“The Woman and the Animals”), was published by Erwin Löwe, a Jewish publishing house, two months before it was forced to close in the wake of Kristallnacht. A sense of isolation and alienation permeates all her works, in particular the poems that focus on such themes as salvation, justice, and metamorphosis, incorporating figures of women and animals. Kolmar’s poetry is compared to the works of French symbolists, but she is also classified as a representative of modernism, as seen in her modern and individualistic language. She also tried her hand at prose, publishing a novel titled Eine jüdische Mutter (“A Jewish Mother”, 1931) and a short story Susanna (1940).

In mid-1941, Gertrud was forced work in an arms factory. On 27 February 1943, she was arrested by the SS, and on 2 March 1943, deported on the “eastern transport” to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. It is assumed that her letters and personal documents were destroyed at that time. The exact date of her death is unknown.

Gertrud Kolmar was a German-speaking modernist poet and writer whose writing reflects her sense of isolation and alienation. Her works are populated by figures of women and animals, and deal with themes of justice and salvation.

She was born in Berlin on 10 December 1894 to an assimilated German-Jewish family. Philosopher Walter Benjamin was her cousin. She was educated in private girls’ schools, including an agricultural school, and graduated from a women’s seminary for foreign language teachers. Her father, Ludwig Chodziesner, was a lawyer. He was the one who persuaded Gertrud to publish her poetry. She made her début in 1917 with the collection titled Im Herbst (“In Autumn”). Her artistic pseudonym “Kolmar” comes from the German name of the town of Chodzież in Greater Poland, which was once home to her father’s ancestors.

In 1938, another volume of her poetry, Die Frau und die Tiere (“The Woman and the Animals”), was published by Erwin Löwe, a Jewish publishing house, two months before it was forced to close in the wake of Kristallnacht. A sense of isolation and alienation permeates all her works, in particular the poems that focus on such themes as salvation, justice, and metamorphosis, incorporating figures of women and animals. Kolmar’s poetry is compared to the works of French symbolists, but she is also classified as a representative of modernism, as seen in her modern and individualistic language. She also tried her hand at prose, publishing a novel titled Eine jüdische Mutter (“A Jewish Mother”, 1931) and a short story Susanna (1940).

In mid-1941, Gertrud was forced work in an arms factory. On 27 February 1943, she was arrested by the SS, and on 2 March 1943, deported on the “eastern transport” to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. It is assumed that her letters and personal documents were destroyed at that time. The exact date of her death is unknown.

Here you will soon be able to read samples of Gertrud Kolmar’s poetry. If you read in Polish or German, please take a look at other language versions of this page!

The copyright owner of Gertrud Kolmar’s portrait is Yad Vashem.
Käthe Gertrud Chodziesner Kolmar, Yad Vashem, Hall of Names photos, Archival Signature: 15000/14121875