In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Two Unpublished TextsAnother Tale of the Baal Shem and A Human Fable
  • Bertha Pappenheim
    Introduced and translated from German by Elizabeth Loentz

Click for larger view
View full resolution

In his 1953 biography of Sigmund Freud, Ernest Jones revealed that Anna O., the first case study in Freud and Joseph Breuer's Studies on Hysteria, was none other than Bertha Pappenheim (1859–1936)—the feminist leader, pioneering social worker, activist, and author.1 Ever since Jones's revelation, Pappenheim's later accomplishments have been largely obscured by her role as the famous young hysteric whose invention of the cathartic method or "talking cure" became the cornerstone of the history of psychoanalysis. Pappenheim's achievements after her recovery, however, reveal her to be one of the most productive, influential, and controversial Jewish women of her time.

As a feminist leader, she founded and led the League of Jewish Women in Germany and co-founded the International League of Jewish Women. As a social activist she was at the [End Page 32] forefront of the campaign to combat the trafficking of women and forced prostitution. As a pioneer of modern Jewish social work, she founded a home for "at-risk" girls and unwed mothers and advocated on behalf of Jewish women, children, and Eastern European Jewish pogrom refugees and immigrants.

Click for larger view
View full resolution

And she was a prolific writer and translator. Her own writings include stories, fairy tales, parables, plays, poems, prayers, children's literature, travel reports, letters, essays, speeches, and hundreds of aphorisms.2 She translated into German the eighteenth century feminist Mary Wollstonecraft's seminal work The Vindication of the Rights of Women, the Western Yiddish memoirs of her German-Jewish ancestor Glückel of Hameln and other Old Yiddish texts written for women.3 Via her translations, Pappenheim rescued texts written and read by her Jewish and feminist foremothers for a new generation of Jewish women.3 Thus it is particularly fitting that her own writings should be thus recovered and introduced to new generations of readers.

Click for larger view
View full resolution

Pappenheim's own writings are virtually unknown to today's readers and all but absent from contemporary literary history and criticism. There are a variety of reasons for this. The vast majority of her writing was in service to her social activism and did not necessarily conform to the established "high" literary movements of her time. Programmatic or didactic literature such as Pappenheim's has traditionally been dismissed by literary critics and historians as Tendenzliteratur [tendentious literature] lacking universal or lasting value. Much of her work was in "minor" literary genres (such as travel reports, letters, prayers, aphorisms, or children's literature) that likewise fall through the cracks of literary history writing. Many of her works were also published in "disposable" media such as periodicals or were never [End Page 33] formally published but circulated privately among friends and colleagues.

Finally, Pappenheim wrote primarily for a subculture—the minority community of German Jews—that had ceased to exist less than a decade after her death. She left no literary estate for researchers. A single woman without children, Pappenheim had collected her unpublished writings and entrusted them to her close colleague Hannah Karminski, who planned to write a biography. But Karminski was deported in 1942 and is believed to have died in transit to Auschwitz. The documents, which she had left behind with Swiss friends in Berlin, were destroyed in Allied bombings. It is impossible to ascertain how many writings are irretrievably lost.

I have chosen the two unpublished short texts, "Noch eine Geschichte vom Baalschem" (Another Tale of the Baal Shem) and "Menschenfabel" (Human Fable) for this special issue on translation in part because they were preserved as part of Pappenheim's correspondence with Martin Buber,4 who was a fellow translator of Jewish texts, most notably Tales of the Hasidim, and the Hebrew Bible, which he translated collaboratively with Franz Rosenzweig.5 Pappenheim's two-decades-long correspondence, friendship, and collaboration with Martin Buber began on a sour note, when Pappenheim wrote a letter to him, criticizing an article in the first issue of Buber's journal Der Jude...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 32-41
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2012
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.