About Elsa Bernstein (Porges)
b. Vienna 28/10/1866 d. Munich 12/07/1949 (source : http://thomasmann.multimania.com/tmprigsheim.htm)
Pseudonym : Ernst Rosmer, German playwright Daughter of Heinrich Porges. An affliction of the eyes forced her to retire, she thenceforth devoted herself to dramatic literature. Shortly after her marriage in 1892 to Max Bernstein, she wrote her first play, "Wir Drei", which created considerable discussion. It was actually a dramatized version of the matrimonial and sexual views of Taine and Zola. Her next plays fell rather flat : "Dämmerung", 1893; "Themistokles", 1897; and "Daguy Peters". But unbounded admiration was elicited by "Die Königskinder", 1895 - a dramatic fairy-tale. Though its plot was simple, the beauty of the theme and its poetry were such that it was compared to Fulda's "Der Talisman". Source : The Jewish Encyclopaedia (1902)
She was very young when she arrived in Munich, where her father had been promoted Director of Music by Louis II. The intellectual orientation of the family home has been determining for her : Beethoven, Wagner, Goethe, Shakespeare and the ancient Greeks became her heroes. She was still in her childhood when she became a poet and published poems in newspapers. She initially dedicated herself to theater acting, but was forced to give up because of her eye disease. In 1890, she married the lawyer and writer Max Bernstein in Munich.
In addition to a series of novels ("Madonna" Berlin 1894, a pastiche of Gerhard Hauptmann), she published : "Wir drei" (The three of us) drama Munich 1893; "Dämmerung" (Twilight) , Berlin 1893; "Königskinder" (King's children), a dramatic-fairy tale for which Humperdincks wrote the music 1895, "Tedeum", comedy in 5 acts 1896; "Themislokles", tragedy 1897; "Move Maria" a poem of mourning in 5 scenes ; " Dagey ", theatre play in 1900; "Merete", drama 1901; " Johannes Herkner ", theatre play Berlin 1904; "Nausikaa" tragedy 1906; The tragedies "Maria Arndt" and "Achill", in 1910. Her best play, characterized by an original conception was : "Dämmerung". Her biggest success was the drama /fairy tale: "Königskinder".
Only "Dämmerung" and her two theater plays with Greek subjects can be taken in consideration to compare her to the best playwrights of her time. The unexpected boldness of the language made the play special; language that was never dared on stage, even by very audacious male poets. She had in fact a soul with very sensitive cords, but wanted to look profoundly masculine and fell into exaggeration and vulgarity. In her historic and Greek mythological dramas she developed a strength in the representation of persons that deserves big praises. The best of her two Greek dramas "Themistokles" displays an issued that was rarely successful for a feminine dramatist : a male character depicted with a real greatness. She avoided the boring style of verses and instead chose a compact prose, only occasionally stylized in ancient Greek.
"VIP" in the Ghetto
Elsa Bernstein's father [Heinrich Porges], born in Prague, was a conductor and an assistant of Richard Wagner. To achieve full assimilation with the German nation and culture, he and his family converted to the Christian faith. Elsa was a well-known playwright, who wrote under the pen-name of Ernst Rosmer. She was deported to the ghetto of Terezin in the summer of 1942, almost blind and aged 76, along with her beloved sister Gabriela whose eyesight served both - but who died shortly after their arrival in the ghetto.
In the beginning, Elsa lived in the same hard conditions as the other old people from Germany. But suddenly -on the order of the ghetto commander Siegfried Seidel- she was moved to one of the "houses for prominents", possibly because she was the wife of the admired German playwirght Gerhard Hauptmann, or maybe because of the relation to the Wagner family. So Elsa Bernstein survived in the ghetto. Immediately after the liberation, she wrote her experience in the ghetto for her family, on a typewriter for the blind. Only in 1999 was the booklet published at "edition ebersbach" in Dortmund by the "Zentrale fuer politische Bildung" in Hamburg, undr the title "Das Leben als Drama" (Life as a Drama). It is a gripping book, describing a reality unknown to many : the life of the VIPs in the ghetto with its hardships, the help they received and the life of the small Protestant community in the ghetto. Elsa Bernstein died in Hamburg 4 years after the liberation.
Source : Newsletter - Theriesienstadt martyrs Rememberance Association - N° 48, January 2000 http://www.cet.ac.il/terezin/news.htm
Elsa Bernstein: Das Leben als Drama (The life as a drama)
Elsa Bernstein (1866 - 1949) Writer, under the pen-name of Ernst Rosmer. She made her home in Munich a salon where the fine literary and artistic society gathered. Theodor Fontane, Ludwig Ganghofer, Richard Strauss, Hugo von Hoffmannsthal, Rainer Maria Rilke, Ricarda Huch, Tilla Durieux and Thomas Mann might were among her guests. She actually wanted to become an actress, but had to give up because of a progressive eye disease. In 1942, Elsa, daughter of Heinrich Porges, Jewish Munich conductor and writer, was deported to Theresienstadt. When she arrived there, she was accommodated in the so-called prominent house. It is probably Winifred Wagner who provided her an exit visa to the USA which was not made available , however, to her sister Gabriele. Elsa refused to escape without her sister. " Prominent house - what is this? ", she asked upon her arrival in the artificial city. Even today not much is known on this issue. It was a privileged accommodation for prisoners who were considered by the SS as "prominent", like nobles, professors, high German employees or officers, University professors. The publisher Rita Bake found by chance Elsa Bernstein's manuscript about her time in the ghetto, which she wrote in her last years after her liberation from Theresienstadt on a special typewriter for the blind. It is a shaking description of everyday life and feelings in this place where most ended in the gas chamber. "And I start asking myself whether it, really, makes sense without her - Gabriele- return". Such is the end the book.
A simple sentence which shows that there cannot be anymore unclouded joy after such experience.