Partner Ursel "Isa" Isenburg
23a High Point, London SE9 3NZ, UK
Rosa Eva Pool (May 7, 1905 - September 29, 1971) was a poet, resistance woman and expert African-American poetry. Daughter of Louis Pool (1876-1943), owner of a cigar shop, and Jacoba Jessurun (1880-1943). Rosa Pool married first in 1932 in Berlin Gerhard Friedrich Kramer (1904-1973), lawyer; and second after divorcein 1935 she lived from 1948 together with Ursel Isenburg, radiologist and owner travel agency.
Rosa (Roosje, later Rosey) Pool was born the oldest in a Jewish family – she had a brother ten years younger. The parents were secular and emancipated. Her father was a supporter of the SDAP and the Dutch Association for the Abolition of Alcoholic Beverages. She herself became a member of the Boy Scouts. Around the age of 12, Roosje saw a synagogue inside for the first time, because she wanted to. After graduating from HBS in 1923, she obtained her teacher's certificate and went on to study Dutch at the Municipal University of Amsterdam. In her student days she joined the Workers Youth Centre (AJC) and the Social Democratic Students Club (SDSC), where she gained some fame for her poetry contributions. Her later lectures on VARA radio contributed to her notoriety in the social democratic movement.
At an international conference for socialist youth in 1926, Pool met the Berlin non-Jewish lawyer Gerhard F. Kramer. A year later, they got engaged; Pool finished her studies and moved to Berlin. In preparation, she obtained her German education certificate. The 22-year-old Rosey Pool studied English at Berlin university, where she obtained her PhD on the thesis The Poetry of the American Negro. She also taught English at the communist Karl-Marx-Schule in Neukölln. She made money with translations for Henk Sneevliet, among others. As an exchange student she also spent short periods in Munich and Perugia (Italy). Marriage to Kramer did not last: they divorced in June 1935, three months before the Nazis banned mixed marriages. From Germany, Pool helped Jews to the Netherlands by providing them with shelter there.
Shortly after Kristallnacht (1938), Rosey Pool returned to the Netherlands. She obtained her English education certificate and taught English to German-Jewish emigrants who wanted to continue at the Lloyd Hotel and Tehuis Oosteinde, a shelter and meeting place for Jewish refugees. She was also a teacher at the Jewish Lyceum, where Anne Frank attended school. During the war, Pool became involved with the German-Jewish resistance group Van Dien via Tehuis Oosteinde, which recreated identity documents and offered safe house assistance. In a raid in May 1943 she was arrested and transferred to Westerbork. There she saw her parents and her brother being deported to the extermination camps. By letter, Pool asked a member of the group Van Dien to send the song Die Eisenbahn – she wanted to teach it to the children in the camp. This was a secret message with which she indicated that she wanted to escape (as American slaves from the South escaped by train to the free North). The resistance group recognized the code and managed to get it off the transport list by giving her a waiver to leave the camp, ostensibly to buy books.
Rosey Pool went into hiding with distant relatives in Baarn, where she wrote resistance poems and immersed herself in the Catholic faith. The hiding was her. She spent short periods with friends in the city centre of Utrecht, including at publisher G.M. van Wees. Poems by Emily Dickinson and William Shakespeare, translated by Pool, appeared with him. She also taught her cousin, Joost Jessurun, who was in hiding in the same house. In Utrecht she distributed her own resistance poetry among members of her resistance group.
Shortly after the liberation, Rosey Pool, forty years old, was baptized Catholic. During this time she plunged into the lively subculture of lesbians (the pot scene) around amsterdam's Leidseplein. She gave lectures on African-American resistance poetry, and at otto frank's request she translated Anne Frank's diary into English – a translation that was never published. She also taught at the Municipal Catch-up Course for Students In Hiding (GICOL). In 1945, Querido published her poetry collection Limited Vision, her debut in literature. In it she writes about the war that smeared her hometown of Amsterdam. Through her experiences during the occupation, Pool was strengthened in her drive for world improvement. Her interest in African-American poetry and literature developed into an active political engagement. In Amsterdam she gave lectures on African-American resistance poetry.
In 1948 Rosey Pool moved to London, where she moved in with her friend, the radiologist Ursel "Isa" Isenburg. Together they ran a travel agency and traveled the world. In London, Pool worked as a Dutch teacher and gave lectures, including for BBC radio. She translated Annie M.G. Schmidts Jip and Janneke ('Mick and Mandy'), which appeared on the British market in 1961. Her home in Highpoint, London, was a meeting place for African-American and African-British artists, writers and intellectuals. Rosey Pool's big break in Britain came with the release of the collection Black and Unknown Bards. A Collection of Negro Poetry (1958), which she compiled together with the literary scholar Eric Walrond. That same year, the collection I Saw How Black I Wasappeared - a bilingual anthology of work by African-American poets. Based on these publications, Pool received scholarships from Fulbright and the United Negro College Fund in 1959. At the age of 54, for example, she made her first trip to the United States: eight months of visiting dozens of black schools and universities in the Southern states. Pool was billed as 'Anne Frank's Teacher', and himself compared segregation in the South of the US to the anti-Jewish measures of the German occupiers. Black poets called her arrival an eye-opener for African-American poetry.
In the US, Rosey Pool also sought new talent for her collections of African-American poetry, such as Beyond the Blues (1962). In her autobiographical Laughing not to Cry (1968), she describes the similarities of resistance poetry from these different worlds. In 1965 she converted to the Bahá'í faith, which matched her ideas of equality of humanity. A year later she was asked as an 'expert of negro literature' for the jury of the First World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar (Senegal). Another year later, her effigy was included in a mural depicting heroes of the black civil rights movement at A&M University in Huntsville, Alabama.
Rosey Pool last visited the U.S. in 1967. With the rise of the black civil rights movement, there was a greater need for heroes of their own circle: American publishers rejected her manuscript I Am The New Negro because there was no interest in publications by white authors about the "black problem." Rosey Pool died of leukaemia in her hometown of London on 29 September 1971.
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