Let Me Continue to Speak the Truth: Bertha Pappenheim as Author and Activist
In 1953 Freud biographer Ernest Jones revealed that the famous hysteric Anna O. was really Bertha Pappenheim—the prolific author, Austro-German Jewish feminist, social activist, and pioneering social worker. This study directs attention away from the young woman who arguably invented the "talking cure" and back to Pappenheim and her post-Anna O. achievements, especially her writings, which reveal one of the most versatile, productive, influential, and controversial Jewish thinkers and leaders of her time.
Pappenheim's oeuvre includes stories, plays, poems, prayers, travel literature, letters, essays, and aphorisms. She translated into German Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Women as well as the Memoirs of Glückel von Hameln and other Old-Yiddish texts. She was discussed, as writer and newsmaker, in German Jewish newspapers of every religious and political affiliation and in German feminist publications. Pappenheim also founded and led the Jewish Women's League of Germany and the International Jewish Women's League. She was at the forefront of the campaign to combat human trafficking and forced prostitution ("white slavery" or Mädchanhandel) and was considered an expert on the plight of Jews in pogrom-ridden and economically depressed areas of Eastern Europe. In addition, Pappenheim was a pioneer in social work with "endangered" girls, unwed mothers, refugees, and immigrants.
The first five chapters of Let Me Continue to Speak the Truth explore how Pappenheim's writings and her activism engaged with the key political, social, and cultural issues concerning German Jews in the four decades leading to the Holocaust: the status of the Yiddish language, Zionism, the "conversion epidemic," responses to the plight of Eastern European Jews, and Jewish spirituality. Two additional chapters discuss Pappenheim's biographers and the portrayal of Pappenheim and Anna O. in film, fiction, opera, and sculpture.
Elizabeth Loentz is assistant professor in the Department of Germanic Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago.