She was an author, journalist, and poet and she received the Kleist Prize for lyric in 1913, the Herder Prize in 1936, the Goethe Prize of the City of Frankfurt in 1940, the literature prize of the Bavarian Academy of Art (Literaturpreis der Bayerischen Akademie der Künste) in 1959 and the West Prussian Cultural Prize in 1962. She was a member of the German Academy of Poetry (Deutsche Akademie der Dichtung) and an honorary doctorate of the University of Königsberg.
In his book “A Terrible Revenge,” historian Alfred de Zayas writes about the literature of Germans from East Prussia, Silesia and Sudetenland, and includes Agnes Miegel, who suffered expulsion from East Prussia at the end of World War Two. Dr. de Zayas translated her beautiful poem ‘Es War Ein Land’ into English:
‘Once there was this land – we loved this land – yet horror fell upon it just as dunes of sand. As elks in marsh and meadow vanished, so the trace of man and beast is lost. They froze in snow, they scorched in flames, how miserably they wasted in the hands of strangers. Deep under the Baltic waves they lie, their bones awash in bays and straits, they sleep on Jutland’s sandy bosom, and we, the lone survivors, wander homelessly, like seaweed strewn about after the storms, like autumn leaves that drift and sob.
In der dunklen Nacht,
Wenn vor uns stehen,
Die immer neu unserem Herzen fehlen,
An die alten Kirchen, die Hügel im Feld,
Wo sie schlafen, Vätern und Nachbarn gesellt,
In verlorener Heimat über der See,
Und an alle, die hilflos und einsam starben,
An alle, die sinkend im Eis verdarben,
die keiner begrub, nur Wasser und Schnee,
Auf dem Weg unsrer Flucht, – dem Weg ohne Gnade!
Und wir ziehen im Traum verwehte Pfade
Von Norden, von Osten kamen wir,
Zuckend wie Nordlicht am Himmel stand
Und kamen noch einmal, trügrisches Hoffen,
Und hörten durch Sturm und Flockentreiben
Wir konnten nicht halten, wir konnten nicht knien.
Sie sagen all, du bist nicht schön,
Mein trautes Heimatland.
Du trägst nicht stolze Bergeshöh’n,
Nicht rebengrün Gewand.
In deinen Lüften rauscht kein Aar,
Es grüßt kein Palmenbaum,
Doch glänzt der Vorzeit Träne klar
An deiner Küsten Saum.
Und gibst dem König auch kein Erz,
Und wenn ich träumend dann durchgeh’
Die düstre Tannennacht
Und hoch die mächt’gen Eichen seh’
In königlicher Pracht,
Wenn rings erschallt am Memelstrand
Der Nachtigallen Lied
Und ob dem fernen Dünensand
Die weiße Möve zieht.
Dann überkommt mich solche Lust,
|‘Rape’ by Kathe Kollwitz|
Even more of her work, which was in place in the city, was lost. She died shortly before the end of Second World War on April 22, 1945.
Kollwitz lived in the old Berlin district called “Prenzlauer Berg,” formerly known as the “Feldmark” at the corner of Knaackstrasse and Weissenburger Strasse (later Kollwitzstrasse) until her house was destroyed by Allied bombs in 1943. On the same night, the entire Weissenburger/Belforter/ Strassburger/Metzer roads area went up in flames from the attack. After 1945, the Russian secret service kept one of its huge detention facility on the Prenzlauer Avenue, which from the start rounded up not simply ringleaders and “war criminals,” but anyone they regarded as uttering “anti-soviet expressions.” These detention centers developed quickly as part of the repressive Soviet system. The detention cellar in the Prenzlauer avenue was taken over by the Ministry for public security of the GDR in 1950 and remained in use until at least 1956.
Kollwitz was a native of East Prussia, a land that is no more. Few locations saw as much human suffering in wartime as the inhabitants of East Prussia, particularly the women and children. Greatly damaged in World War One after being severed by the victorious Allies from its cultural and ethnic roots in greater Germany, many citizens relocated in the post-war years. For those who stayed in their homeland, World War Two brought horrendous violence and cruelty from the invading Red Army, including the biggest mass rape in history.