Rose Ausländer’s NKVD Archive Declassified

Came to this via signandsight, I think — the text comes from a Ukrainian newspaper & I have left it as is. Chernivtsi is Czernowitz, which, if you have followed this blog, you’ll have come across a number of times, most recently as the place of a major poetry festival this past summer in celebration of Paul Celan who was born there — & who in the years of WW2 and right after was close to Rose Ausländer. Though she started to write poetry in her native German, she switched to English (she lived in the US for a number of years on several occasions) and returned to writing in German only after 1956. She published some 25 books — much of which is fascinating lyric poetry, where you can see a development from a more classically German poetics towards a modernism she learned on the one hand in the US via marianne Moore and on the other back in Europe from Paul Celan whom she met again in Paris in 1956.

22-09-2010 12:46 SBU declassifies criminal case archive of poetess Rose Auslander

Declassified archival materials of the criminal case concerning well-known poetess Rose Auslander will now be available to all. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has handed over copies of these documents to the Chernivtsi Museum of History and Culture of the Bukovyna Jews and the German House in Chernivtsi (Ukraine’s west).

According to SBU head in the Chernivtsi region Yaroslav Havrysh, criminal case against Rose Auslander was brought by the NKVD when Bukovyna became a part of the Soviet Union, in 1940. The poetess, who in the late 1920’s had lived in the United States, where she published her first poem, was suspected of spying by the Soviet authorities. Rose Auslander spent more than three months in the Chernivtsi prison, following that she was released due to lack of evidence. She was rehabilitated only in 1995. During her life, Rose Auslander did not mention about her time behind the bars in her official biography, she kept it a secret even from close friends. As Petro Rykhlo, studying the poetess’ creative life noted, these discoveries have become a kind of literary sensation in the German-speaking world. A native of Chernivtsi, Rose Auslander came from an assimilated Jewish family that supported Jewish and German traditions, so the representatives of both Chernivtsi communities believe that disclosure of materials about the poetess is a historic event. Rose Auslander (Rosalie Beatrice Ruth Scherzer) was born in 1901, studied in Chernivtsi and Vienna. In 1921, she immigrated to the USA, where her first poems were published. In the 1930ies, due to illness of the mother she returned to Chernivtsi. Here, her first collection of poems Rainbow was published. After World War II, she returned to the USA and then she moved to Germany and the rest of her life, until 1988, she lived in Dusseldorf. The poetess has published over 20 books of poetry, translated into most European languages, including Ukrainian.

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3 opinions on “Rose Ausländer’s NKVD Archive Declassified”

  1. Thanks for this, Pierre. It’s timely. I’ve been reading Auslander off and on for the past year, as time permits, and only just acquired the volume of English work. It’s quite adept, and not what I expected, as her later poems in German reminded me a little of Ruth Stone. But I’m far from having a good sense of her total output, having bought individual volumes in the Fischer series more or less at random. Do you have a favorite?

    1. Ben — I don’t have a good sense of the total output either, so can’t really advance a favorite at this point. I am trying to get a student interested in doing work on her, even possibly for something for our magazine Barzakh. She is a strange case indeed & someone I would like, time permitting, to spend more time on.

  2. Very interesting post, Mr. Joris. Here in Spain we have the opportunity to read Vitaly Shentalinsky’s books about the writers prosecuted by the Soviet authorities (terrible stories) , and I think he took this information from the NKVD declassified files.

    I have also finished reading Marina Tsvetaeva’s book “Confessions” (this is the title the editor, Tzvetan Todorov, has chosen), one of the writers that suffered that ill fate.

    I think I had heard about Auslander, but I didn’t know anything about her life at all. Thank you for your post.

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