JewishGen Danzig/Gdańsk SIG Presents:

Erich Ruschkewitz
by Prof. Marion Brandt

16 Jun 2006
Marion Brandt is a professor at the Instytut Filologii Germańskiej, Wydział Filologiczno-Historyczny, Uniwersytet Gdański. Her research interests include German, Polish, and Jewish literature in the Free City of Danzig; relations between Polish and German literature; and German literature in the twentieth century.

Erich Ruschkewitz was one of the most productive journalists in the Free City of Danzig. He wrote for some Danzig newspapers, for the Radio, and in the journals "Weltbühne," "Tagebuch," and "Stachelschwein." Most of his poems, being influenced by Kurt Tucholsky and near to the expressionism, were dedicated to his hometown. They were characterized by an atmosphere between melancholy and irony. Ruschkewitz liked also to perform literary texts on stage and in the Radio.

He was born on 16 July 1904 in Danzig, the son of Jenny and Karl Ruschkewitz. His father was the owner of a shoe store at the Kohlenmarkt; the family lived at An der Reitbahn 6. In 1923, already as a very young man, Ruschkewitz began to publish poems and stories in the "Danziger Rundschau." Since 1925, he published also in the "Danziger Volksstimme," above all in the local news pages. Weekly, he reviewed the program of the local radio, and he wrote regular reports from the trade court. In his satires and poems, he sharply commented on political and social events in Danzig, and criticized the politics of the ruling parties in the Senate of Danzig. He liked to write local reports about places along the day-to-day-life and about exceptional events like riding in a rotor boat. Ruschkewitz also wrote reviews and feuilletons.

In 1929, his book of poems Adlers Brauhaus bis Leichenschauhaus (Adler's Brewery to Morgue) was published. These poems occupy a special place among the poetry of Danzig. They do not describe the architectural beauty of the old town, but the life and social problems of its residents. The poem "The Danzig Night," which refers to the famous poem "In Danzig" by Joseph von Eichendorff, best shows Ruschkewitz's deconstruction of the Danzig-Myth. On account of this view of Danzig, the poems were probably met with disapproval by German-speaking connoisseurs of Danzig literature. However, a positive review was published in the "Rocznik Gdański" (Danzig Yearbook) which described the poems of Erich Ruschkewitz as "really beautiful, light, but 'speaking to the heart' Danzig poems." The reviewer, a teacher at a Polish school in Danzig, continues: "There is still rising up a brave voice in defence of the socially degraded peoples — against those who want to divert the mind of the people from the social problems by stiring up the hate of Polish elements." Ruschkewitz was one of a very few Danzig writers and publicists who kept up close relations with Polish colleagues. In the international literary journal "Pologne Littéraire" and in the Danzig Yearbook, he published memories of the Polish writer Stanisław Przybyszewski, an admired friend of his, whose influence is evident in some of his texts.

Erich Ruschkewitz was a member of the Social Democratic Party in Danzig and worked together with the newspaper of this party, "Danziger Volksstimme," until its prohibition by the Nazi-Senate in 1936. For his biting satiric articles, he was arrested and beaten up by the Nazis. In 1933, he began to write for the "Jüdisches Gemeindeblatt;" in summer 1939, he took over the editorship of this paper. Since 1934, he directed the Jüdischer Klub. In 1940, he became a member of the Transportleitung organizing the emigration of the Danzig Jewish Community. Erich Ruschkewitz worked in the office of the Community and assisted David Jonas. He did not emigrate — probably, because of his mother, who died on 17 august 1941. On 7 December 1941, Erich Ruschkewitz was deported to Riga-Jungfernhof. Afterwards, there have been no more signs of his life.

Bibliography

Adlers Brauhaus bis Leichenschauhaus, by Erich Ruschkewitz. Danzig, 1929.
Stunden mit Przybyszewski, by E. Ruschkewitz. In: Pologne Littéraire Nr. 20, 15.5.1928, p. 4f.
Pamięci Stanisława Przybyszewskiego, by E. Ruschkewitz. In: Rocznik Gdański 12, 1938, pp. 223-231.
Die Geschichte der Juden in Danzig, by Samuel Echt. Leer, 1972.
Die Juden der Freien Stadt Danzig unter der Herrschaft des Nationalsozialismus, by Erwin Lichtenstein. Tübingen, 1973.
Deutsches Literatur-Lexikon, founded by Wilhelm Kosch, vol.13. München, 1991, column 596.
On the Vistula Facing East, by Frank Meisler. London, 1996.

Relevant Publications by Marion Brandt

Schweigen ist ein Ort der Antwort. Eine Analyse des Gedichtzyklus "Das Wort der Stummen" von Gertrud Kolmar. Berlin, 1993.
Editor, Orte. Katalog zur Ausstellung im Heimatmuseum Falkensee vom 9. Dezember 1994 bis 26. Februar 1995, by Gertrud Kolmar. Berlin, 1994.
Für Eure und unsere Freiheit? Der Polnische Oktober und die Solidarnosc-Revolution in der Wahrnehmung von Schriftstellern aus der DDR. Berlin 2002.
Editor, Grenzüberschreitungen. Deutsche, Polen und Juden zwischen den Kulturen (1918-1939). München, 2006.