No one knows what the body can do. -Spinoza

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Iconic Photo: Photo 10

Annemarie Schwarzenbach
circa 1932

"She was neither a man nor a woman. She was an angel, an archangel."
--Marianne Breslauer of Annemarie Schwarzenbach

Born to a wealthy family in Switzerland, Annemarie Schwarzenbach lived in Bohemian Berlin until it was taken over by the Nazi regime. At the time she was close friends with an anti-fascist political family that posed a threat to Hitler's ideals. As a result, Schwarzenbach
's family demanded she renounce her connection to the family and help rebuild Nazi Germany. Her close friends were not only German anti-fascists, however. She was also strongly committed to friendships and associations with numerous Jewish and political refugees. Schwarzenbach refused and instead used her personal monies to help fund an anti-fascist magazine the family wanted to start.

At a young age Annemarie began wearing her hair short and dressing in boy clothes, something not done by women in the early 1900's. She continued the practice throughout her life and was often taken to be a young man as a result. In adulthood she took on a marriage of convenience with Claude Clarac, a French diplomat that was also homosexual. Soon after the marriage Schwarzenbach
took on a home in the Swiss Mountains that she then turned into a refuge for her and her friends during wartime. There she began writing books, and also spent time traveling around Europe using her political freedoms to document the realities of wartime fascism.

In Afghanistan when World War II erupted, Annemarie traveled throughout the area and documented her experiences. She eventually moved to the United States and helped start an organization to assist war refugees.

Though her mother destroyed all of Schwarzenbach
's journals and letters upon her death, Schwarzenbach's writing and photographs were preserved by a close friend and are now held in the Swiss Literature Archive in Bern.

To learn more about Annemarie Schwarzenbach
: you can watch a movie based on the writing of her close friend about their travels together during WWII--THE JOURNEY TO KAFIRSTAN. Another friend wrote the novel THE CRUEL WAY about Schwarzenbach. Most of Schwarzenbach's own writing is still not translated from German.

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