Alexandra Ramm-Pfemfert

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Alexandra Ramm-Pfemfert (born Gilelewna Ramm , born January 31 . Jul / 12. February  1883 greg. In Starodub , Russian Empire ; † 17th January 1963 in West Berlin ) was a German-Russian translator, journalist and gallery owner. After moving to Berlin, she became involved in left-wing circles there and, with her husband Franz Pfemfert , from 1911 brought out the most important early literary expressionist newspaper, Die Aktion , with the storm by Herwarth Walden . She was of great importance as a translator of the writings of Leon Trotsky .


Alexandra Ramm-Pfemfert was born as the fifth of nine children to an Orthodox Jewish family in the district town of Starodub, around 400 kilometers southwest of Moscow . Her father Gilel ran a trading business. Serafima, the mother, was a housewife. Starodub belonged to a pale of settlement for Jews who lived there almost completely apart from the rest of the population. Since her older siblings rebelled against the religious-conservative attitude of their father at an early age, Alexandra Ramm-Pfemfert was able to attend the local girls' high school, where she graduated from high school. She left home at the age of 18.

live in Germany

Beginnings in Berlin

Advertisement for action book and art shop

Alexandra Ramm-Pfemfert probably came to Berlin at the beginning of 1901. Presumably, she attended philological courses there as a guest student at the Humboldt University . She found contact with the anarchist group Neue Gemeinschaft and especially with Senna Hoy . Through him she met Franz Pfemfert in 1903 , whom she married in 1912. In 1911, Franz Pfemfert founded the magazine Die Aktion , on which she worked actively. The editorial seat of the magazine was the Pfemferts apartment at Nassauische Strasse 17 in Berlin-Wilmersdorf . A key employee from the early days of the campaign , the writer Carl Einstein , married in 1913 Alexandra's sister Maria.

For action was Alexandra Ramm-Pfemfert as a reviewer and as a translator in literary and political texts from Russian. She organized the readings of the action group and the action balls, both of which helped to finance the magazine. On November 1, 1917, she opened the special-offer book and art shop with an antiquarian bookshop at Kaiserallee 222 (today Bundesallee ), which existed until 1927. From 1917 to 1918 exhibitions with works by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff , Egon Schiele and others were also held here.

Alexandra Ramm-Pfemfert and her husband had already sharply attacked the nationalist policies of the SPD before the First World War and later vigorously condemned them for agreeing to the war credits. The only two SPD MPs who voted against the loans, Karl Liebknecht and Otto Rühle , became friends and political allies of the Pfemferts. During the war both participated in the illegal resistance. Franz Pfemfert founded the Anti-National Socialist Party as early as 1915 , but little is known about it, as it had to work in secret.

Contact with Trotsky

After the end of the war, the Pfemferts supported the Spartakusbund , which is why they had to endure several house searches and were arrested for a few days in early 1919. From 1920 onwards, Alexandra Ramm-Pfemfert worked for various publishers as a translator from Russian, translating non-fiction and political texts into German as well as novels.

In 1929, through S. Fischer Verlag, contact was made with Leon Trotsky , who wanted to write his autobiography while in exile in Turkey. From the negotiations over the book a close and intimate cooperation developed between Trotsky and Alexandra Ramm-Pfemfert, which became his literary agent. In the extensive correspondence between the two, there are discussions on many political and social issues. In addition, Alexandra Ramm-Pfemfert supplied Trotsky with literature, acted as a cover address for him and established contacts with supporters of Trotsky living in exile. Claims by the KPD and the Soviet press that the Pfemferts are Trotskyists are not correct - the Pfemferts were close to Trotsky and some of his ideas, but remained a lifelong undogmatic left.

Alexandra Ramm-Pfemfert eventually translated a number of Trotsky's writings, including his autobiography My Life , The History of the Russian Revolution, and The Permanent Revolution . In addition, the Pfemfert to Trotsky's son took care Lev L. Sedov , who studied from February 1931 until spring 1933 in Berlin, and his daughter Zinaida Volkova L. , which at the insistence of her father in the fall of 1931 without her son seriously ill from Prinkipo by Berlin had come and because of pulmonary tuberculosis and serious psychological problems, “immediately went to the treatment of two doctors who were friends with Alexandra”, namely that of her family doctor Ernst Mai and the psychiatrist and psychotherapist Professor Arthur Kronfeld , who had known her since the pre-war period , “one of the best doctors in Berlin ”; However, nobody could prevent Sina from desperately killing herself on January 5, 1933, shortly before Hitler came to power in Berlin.

Escape from Germany

After the National Socialists came to power , the Pfemferts fled Berlin hastily at the beginning of March and went via Dresden to Karlsbad , where Franz Pfemfert, who had also worked as a portrait photographer in Berlin, opened a photo studio. Alexandra Ramm-Pfemfert continued to work on translations from Russian during this time. However, their existence in Czechoslovakia was constantly in jeopardy, not only because they had to rely on financial support from friends, but also because they were politically and socially isolated: the mostly German-nationally-minded Sudeten Germans were just as suspicious of the radical left couple as the Czech and German Communists loyal to the line who lived there in exile. So in October 1936 they went to Paris.

In exile in Paris, the Pfemferts were less isolated, as not only a few relatives of Alexandra Ramm-Pfemfert lived there, but also acquaintances from the Berlin period, such as Thea Sternheim , Franz Jung , Carl Einstein and Lew L. Sedow. Franz Pfemfert also opened a photo studio here again. Politically, the two were only little active at that time - and then only in secret - because on the one hand the French government suppressed political statements by emigrants and on the other hand agents of the Soviet secret service GPU made such an engagement dangerous to life (her friend Kurt Landau was in murdered by Soviet agents at this time, and Trotsky's son Lev L. Sedov also died under mysterious circumstances).

After the outbreak of the Second World War , the Pfemferts were first interned in Paris as “enemy foreigners”, then separated from one another and deported to camps in the south of France - Alexandra Ramm-Pfemfert to the Camp de Gurs camp near Pau . However, together with Thea Sternheim and others, she managed to escape from the camp after about two weeks. After several weeks wandering through the south of France, she finally met Franz Pfemfert again in Perpignan , from where they went to Marseille . After a long struggle for the correct papers, the Pfemferts finally managed to travel via Lisbon to New York and from there to Mexico, where they arrived in the spring of 1941.

Last years

In Mexico City , the Pfemferts found themselves almost completely isolated. At the age of 57 and 62, respectively, they were in an unknown country, neither spoke Spanish, had no money and hardly any acquaintances. Only Natalia Ivanovna Sedova , Trotsky's widow, supported the two and was in constant contact with them. The attempt to travel further to the USA failed because of the restrictive entry policy of the USA - even though Albert Einstein vouched in writing for the good repute of the Pfemferts and an American industrialist was found who was willing to take responsibility for them financially.

Franz Pfemfert also reopened a photo studio in Mexico City, but he and his wife could not live on the income. Most of them were dependent on donations from third parties and the funds of the International Rescue Committee . In 1952 Franz Pfemfert was diagnosed with liver cancer, of which he died in 1954. After his death, Alexandra Ramm-Pfemfert suffered a nervous breakdown and was in need of care for some time.

In early 1955 she returned to Europe, where she settled in West Berlin in May. A sister, Maria, had survived war and persecution there as a Jew in the illegality. Her sister's apartment at Laubenheimer Strasse 23 in Berlin-Wilmersdorf became her last place of residence. In her final years she was in contact with Karl Otten , a former employee of the Aktion , who in 1957 published an expressionism anthology Anung und Aufbruch , in which the largely forgotten poets of the Aktion were remembered. She also supported Paul Raabe with the publication of a reprint of the first volumes of the Aktion , which appeared in 1961.

In 1961 Alexandra Ramm-Pfemfert was diagnosed with cancer. After several treatments, she died weakened on January 17, 1963 in the Westend Hospital in Berlin-Westend of pneumonia. She was buried on January 23, 1963 in an urn grave in the Jewish cemetery on Heerstrasse in Berlin-Charlottenburg. Her sister Maria also had the name of her husband Franz, who was buried in Mexico, entered on the tombstone.


  • Mohamed Aischin: The freedom movement in Turkey. Berlin 1909
  • Elena A. Nagrodskaja: Way of the Cross of Passion. Leipzig and Berlin 1912
  • this: the bronze door. Leipzig and Berlin 1912
  • Sawaty: The book in Saffian. The chronicle of the village of Ljagawoje. Berlin 1919
  • Alexander Bogdanow : Science and the working class. Berlin 1920
  • Tarassoff-Rodionoff: Chocolate. A story. Berlin 1924
  • Vasily Rosanow : Dostoyevsky and his legend of the Grand Inquisitor. Berlin 1924
  • Antoni W. Nemilow: The biological tragedy of women. Berlin 1925
  • dsb .: life and death. Leipzig 1927
  • Mikhail N. Pokrovsky : History of Russia. From its creation to the most recent times. Leipzig 1929
  • Anna A. Karawajewa: Factory in the forest. Berlin 1930
  • Leon Trotsky : My life. Attempt an autobiography. Berlin 1930
  • ds .: The permanent revolution. Berlin 1930
  • ds .: Who heads the Communist International today? Berlin 1930
  • ds .: Problems of the development of the USSR. Berlin 1931
  • ds .: The Spanish revolution and the threatening dangers . Berlin 1931
  • ds .: History of the Russian Revolution (2 volumes). Berlin 1931–1933
  • ds .: Stalin's crimes. Zurich 1937
  • Alexej S. Novikow-Priboj : Tsushima. Zurich & Prague 1935
  • Vladimir Arsenyev : Dersu Usala. Adventure in the steppes of Asia. Zurich 1946


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Letter from Ramm-Pfemfert of November 27, 1931 to Sinaida L. Wolkowa (Julijana Ranc Alexandra Ramm-Pfemfert. Ein Gegenleben. Nautilus, Hamburg 2003, pp. 100 and 362; see also Ramm-Pfemfert's letter of the same day to Leon Trotsky, p . 358-362). - Sina's psychotherapy with Arthur Kronfeld was chosen as the framework plot in the 1985 film ZINA by director Ken McMullen, made in England , s. the ZDF entry Zina - The tragic life of Leon Trotsky's daughter here ( memento from June 10, 2007 in the Internet Archive ).
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on July 6, 2007 .