Klüger, Ruth

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Nationality: American (originally Austrian: immigrated to the United States, 1947, granted U.S. citizenship, 1953). Born: Vienna, 30 October 1931. Education: Hunter College, New York, 1948-50, B.A. 1950; University of California, Berkeley, 1951-53, 1963-65, M.A. 1953, Ph.D. 1967. Family: Married W.T. Angress in 1953 (divorced 1963). Career: Professor, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, University of Kansas, Lawrence, and University of Virginia, Charlottesville, 1963-76, University of California, Irvine, 1976-80, and Princeton University, New Jersey, 1980-86. Since 1986 professor emerita, University of California, Irvine. Awards: Johann-Jakob-Christoph von Grimmelshausen prize, 1993, Heinrich Heine prize, 1997, and Thomas Mann prize of the city of Lübeck, 1999, all for weiter leben; Niedersachsen literature prize and Marie Luise Kaschnitz prize, both in 1994; Andreas Gryphious prize, 1996;



weiter leben: Eine Jugend. 1992; revised as Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered, 2001.


The Development of the German Epigram in the 17th Century (dissertation). 1967.

The Early German Epigram: A Study in Baroque Poetry. 1971.

Katastrophen: Über deutsche Literatur [Catastrophes: On German Literature] (essays). 1994.

Frauen lesen anders [Women Read Differently] (essays). 1996.

Knigges "Umgang mit Menschen" (lecture). 1996.

Von hoher und niederer Literatur [Of High and Low Literatures] (three lectures). 1996.

Dichter und Historiker: Fakten und Fiktionen [Poets and Historians: Facts and Fictions] (lecture). 2000.

Editor, Salomon Hermann von Mosenthal: Erzählungen aus dem jüdischen Familienleben [Salomon Hermann von Mosenthal: Tales from Jewish Family Life]. 1996.

Editor, Else Lasker-Schüler: In Theben geboren. Gedichte [Else Lasker-Schüler: Born in Thebes. Poetry]. 1998.


Critical Studies:

"Memory and Criticism: Ruth Kluger's weiter leben " by Dagmar C.G. Lorenz, in Women in German Yearbook: Feminist Studies in German Literature and Culture, 9, 1993, pp. 207-24; Writing as Revenge: Jewish German Identity in Post-Holocaust German Literary Works: Reading Survivor Authors Jurek Becker, Edgar Hilsenrath, and Ruth Klüger (dissertation), Cornell University, 1995, and "Ruth Kluger's weiter leben: Eine Jugend: A Jewish Woman's 'Letter to Her Mother,"' in Out from the Shadows: Essays on Contemporary Austrian Women Writers and Filmmakers, edited by Margarete Lamb-Faffelberger, 1997, both by Jennifer L. Taylor; "Between the Extreme and the Everyday: Ruth Kluger's Traumatic Realism" by Michael Rothberg, in A/B: Auto/Biography Studies, 14(1), Summer 1999, pp. 93-107; "'Der Richtige Riecher': The Reconfiguration of Jewish and Austrian Identities" by Lisa Silverman, in The German Quarterly, 72(3), 1999, pp. 252-64.

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Ruth Klüger, professor emerita of German literature at the University of California at Irvine, did not reflect upon the Holocaust in her scholarly work until the early 1990s. Born in Vienna in 1931, she immigrated to the United States after the war and received a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1967. She was known foremost as a literary scholar of the Early Modern Period (Baroque poetry, in particular) and of eighteenth-and nineteenth-century German literature, focusing on such prominent writers as Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Heinrich von Kleist, and Adalbert Stifter. She also explored feminist issues such as gender-specific interpretations of texts and representations of femininity in popular culture, which resulted in the book Frauen lesen anders ("Women Read Differently").

It was with her autobiography weiter leben that her personal experience with the Holocaust was revealed to the public. The work, translated into English and revised as Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered, was first published in Germany in 1992 and became a literary success. Germany's leading literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki, who has hosted the popular television show The Literary Quartet, called it one of the best books to appear in Germany in the 1990s. weiter leben earned Klüger numerous prizes, among them the distinguished Johann-Jakob-Christoph von Grimmelshausen prize in 1993, the Heinrich Heine prize in 1997, and the Thomas-Mann prize in 1999. She also partook in the 1996 television production Reisen ins Leben-Weiterleben nach einer Kindheit in Auschwitz ("Journeys into Life: Continuing to Live after a Childhood in Auschwitz").

In various ways weiter leben represents an exception in German and international Holocaust literature. As the German title and its English translation indicate, Klüger recounts not only her childhood in Vienna and her imprisonment in Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and Christianstadt but also her experiences in postwar Germany and as an immigrant in the United States. The continuation of her account into the present and the coupling of her recollections with frank and critical commentary on such issues as memory, language, literature, and religion make weiter leben an unusual, even unconventional, Holocaust autobiography.

In the 1990s Klüger's scholarly work also turned toward the Holocaust, anti-Semitism, and German-Jewish writers. In the 1991 article entitled "Dichten über die Shoah. Zum Problem des literarischen Umgangs mit dem Massenmord" ("Writing about the Shoah: The Problem of Representing Mass Murder in Literature"), she raised questions about how the Holocaust can be written. Katastrophen: Über deutsche Literatur (1994; "Catastrophes: On German Literature") examines anti-Semitism in German literature, and in Von hoher und niedriger Literatur (1996; "Of High and Low Literatures") Klüger investigated the relationship between kitsch, memory, and representations of the Holocaust. The intersection between literature and history is examined in her book Dichter und Historiker: Fakten und Fiktionen (2000; "Poets and Historians: Facts and Fictions"). In addition to these publications, she edited Salomon Hermann von Mosenthal: Erzählungen aus dem jüdischen Familienleben (1996; "Salomon Hermann von Mosenthal: Tales from Jewish Family Life") and a book on the German-Jewish poet Else Lasker-Schüler entitled Else Lasker-Schüler: In Theben geboren. Gedichte (1998; "Else Lasker-Schüler: Born in Thebes. Poetry").

—Sandra Alfers

See the essay on Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered.