A few days ago I wrote about the the lyric poet Gertrud Kolmar (pictured on the right above) who was virtually unknown in her short life, and even today does not receive the recognition she deserves for her powerful poems. But she did have some influential fans early in her writing career. One was the bestselling author Ina Seidel, who achieved celebrity status in Germany with the publication of her novel Das Wunschkind (The Wanted Child) in 1930. Ina Seidel became acquainted with Gertrud in Berlin and wanted to use her considerable influence to promote her poetry. Together with Elisabeth Langgässer she published an anthology of poetry by women - Herz zum Hafen. Frauengedichte der Gegenwart - which included four key poems by Gertrud Kolmar and brought her to the attention of the broad reading public. Unfortunately Herz zum Hafen was released in 1933, just after the Nazi seizure of power in Berlin. Ina Seidel threw her lot in with Hitler, and broke off all contact with Kolmar (as well as with the half-Jewish Langgässer). Gertrud Kolmar was devastated by the turn of events and the attitude of her erstwhile "friend". She complained bitterly to her friend Karl Josef Keller, who recalled in his recollections of Gertrud Kolmar:
"G.K.beklagte sich auch bei mir über den plötzlichen Gesinnungswechsel ihrer 'arischen' Bekannten, die zuvor für ihre Arbeiten eingetreten waren. In diesem Zusammenhang nannte sie u.a. eine der bekanntesten deutschen Schriftstellerinnen, die m.E.in Berlin wohnhaft war."
(Gertrud Kolmar complained to me about the sudden change of heart of her "Aryan" friends who had championed her work. In this connection she mentioned a very famous German woman author who was living in Berlin (Ina Seidel)).
Seidel became the most popular woman author in the Third Reich. In her works she depicted the Nazi ideal of the feminine: the stoic mother of the German front soldier. But she also wrote ecstatic poems and hymns to fuel the Nazi Führerkult . Here is a piece she wrote for Hitler's birthday in 1939:
In Gold und Scharlach, feierlich mit Schweigen,
ziehn die Standarten vor dem Führer auf.
Wer will das Haupt nicht überwältigt neigen?
Wer hebt den Blick nicht voll Vertrauen auf?
Ist dieser Dom, erbaut aus klarem Feuer,
nicht mehr als eine Burg aus Stahl und Stein,
und muß er nicht ein Heiligtum, uns teuer,
ewigen Deutschtums neues Sinnbild sein?
(In gold and scarlet, with a solemn silence,
they raise the flags before the Führer.
Who could not - overwhelmed - bow his head?
Who could refuse to lift his eyes, filled with trust?
Is this cathedral, built from pure fire,
Not more than a castle made of steel and stone,
And is this not a sanctuary we hold dear -
The new symbol of eternal German blood?)
A short time after this celebration, Ina Seidel's friend Gertrud Kolmar was sent to work as a slave laborer in a Nazi munitions plant. Two years later she and the other Jewish workers were rounded up at the plant and sent to Auschwitz where they were murdered. There is no record that Ina Seidel ever inquired about her friend or tried to intervene on her behalf.
After the war, Seidel's fame only grew. Streets, Gymnasiums, elementary schools were named after her in West Germany. Many bear her name still today. And, in recognition of the new postwar order, Ina Seidel reminisced often about her "Jewish friend, Gertrud Kolmar" up until her death in 1974.