There's a lot to be learned about the Laskers in the typical search results on the web. But what about the things that are difficult to learn through such a basic approach? I've been looking at the web, through my notes and photo archives as well as in books for interesting, but hard to find, information. Here's what I found -
According to the New York Times, June 17, 1900:
"Dr. Emanuel Lasker was born at Berlinchen, Prussia, on Dec. 12, 1868.
After getting a Certificate of Maturity in the Real-Gymnasium at
Landsberg-on-the-Warthe, Prussia, he studied mathematics at Berlin
and Gottingen, at the latter of which universities he recently received
the degree of doctor of philosophiae. He learned chess from his
brother, Dr. Berthold Lasker, at the age of twelve years, and became
a professional chess player in 1890."
According to Else Lasker-Schuler: A Life By Betty Falkenberg:
"The young doctor, Berthold Lasker, came from a small town in the Neumark, in what is today part of Poland, close to the center of traditional East European Jewry. His father was a cantor in the synagogue, and his grandfather a well-known rabbi. Still they were not Orthodox, but Conservative Jews. Berthold got his M.D. at the University of Berlin, which held special drawing power for Jewish intellectuals from the East. His brother, Emanuel Lasker was to become the world chess champion. It was Emanuel Lasker who invented and legitimized the practice of utilizing one's opponent's psychological weakness and idiocyncrasies to defeat him."
Emanuel Lasker married Martha Kohn (Cohn) in 1911. Much confusion has been raised through conflicting stories of her past. The most reliable research seems to have been done by Jaques Hannak for his 1952 book, Emanuel Lasker: The Life of a Chess Master. He tells us that Martha, the daughter of Jacob Bamberger, head of the bank L.M. Bamberger on Königstraße in Berlin, was born on November 19, 1867. In 1886, she married Emil Kohn, proprietor of Trautweinsche Pianoforte-Fabrik (i.e. Trautwein's piano factory) with whom she had a daughter, Lotte in 1887. In 1910 her husband died. Lasker proposed to her in March of the following year and they married in July. She was Emanuel Lasker's first and only wife.
Dr. Tim Hagemann, in his 2001 German-language book, Emanuel Lasker - Schach, Philosophie, Wissenschaft, that concerns itself primarliy with the Laskers' literary efforts, claims [according to Johannes Fischer in his essay (and critique of an essay collection edited by Ulrich Sieg and Michael Dreyer), Lasker: New Approaches] that Martha Lasker "successfully published slightly frivolous, entertaining stories under the pseudonym, L. Marco."
Emanuel Lasker was extremely famous in his day, but possibly even more famous was another Lasker, Berthold's wife, Else Lasker-Schüler. Her father, Aaron was a well-to-do banker in Elberfield, in the Rhineland.
According to Else Lasker-Schüler: A Life By Betty Falkenberg :
"Why the young Dr. [Berthold] Lasker chose Elberfeld to open a
practice is unclear. Very possibly because Elberfeld boasted a
famous chess club. Like his ,more famous brother, Gerthold too
was a chess buff and an absolute whiz at the game. Whatever
it was that lured him to Elberfeld, during his first year there he
met Else Schuler.
On December 3, the couple became engaged. On that same day,
the prospective groom participated in a landmark chess tournament,
in which he matched wits against twelve players simultaneoulsly.
An original way of celebrating one's betrothal, if not exactly
flattering to the betrothed."
Else Lasker-Schüler was born in 1869 and married Berthold Lasker in 1894.
According to Jewish Heritage Online, she then . . .
"moved with him to Berlin. There they settled into a comfortable middle class existence. For Else, as well as for many other young and aspiring artists, Berlin was a Mecca of artistic exchange and inspiration. She immersed herself in the city's abundant cultural life, attending meetings of artists' groups and societies. She was soon a part of the vibrant and often incestuous Berlin art world.
But Lasker-Schüler soon became dissatisfied with her marriage and her bourgeois existence. Divorcing Berthold Lasker in 1899 [1903 in most places], she embraced the bohemian lifestyle that characterized the rest of her life.
After her divorce, she married the talented critic and editor Georg
Lewin (in 1903), who established the famous expressionist art journal,
Der Sturm. (She named both the journal and its editor, giving Lewin
the name Herworth Walden, which he used for the rest of his
Her first book of poetry, Styx, was published in 1902, and she
published prolifically in Der Sturm, as well as the many other avant
garde Berlin art journals.
She also wrote a play called "die Wupper" (completed in
1909), named after the river by that name that runs through her
home town. Divorcing again in 1911, Lasker-Schüler's life became
increasingly unstable and poverty stricken."
It then recaps the remaining parts of her life:
"She spent much of her time in the cafes, which were a second
home to many young Berlin artists and intellectuals, most of them
younger than her forty-plus years. It was in the cafes that she
wrote the expressionist poems that would be published as
My Wonder (Meine Wunder) and met many of the great expressionist
artists of the period, including Georg Trakl, Franz Marc, Karl Kraus,
Oscar Kokoschka, George Grosz, and Franz Werfel. In 1913, she
published Hebrew Ballads (Hebraische Balladen), a collection of
poems based on the figures of the Bible.
The later years of Lasker Schüler's life were to be characterized
by tragedy, loss, and ultimately, a feeling of betrayal and alienation
from her fellow Jews. Her beloved son Paul died of tuberculosis in
1927, which led her to intense introspection and reflection upon
the Jewish tradition, and especially Jewish mysticism and the
Kabbalah. In 1932 she received the prestigious Kleist Prize for
Several months later a group of Nazis beat her with an iron rod.
Without so much as returning to her room, she left Germany
forever. From her refuge in Switzerland, she visited Palestine
several times, and eventually moved to Jerusalem. The reality
of Palestine's social and political turmoil, however, disillusioned
the poet. While she had glorified and romanticized the land in
her earlier poetry (and in the utopian prose work called The Land
of the Hebrews which she wrote during one of her visits from
Switzerland), she was never to feel at home living there.
Lasker-Schüler lived the rest of her life a pauper, partially through
her own mismanagement of the support given to her by friends
and admirers. In Israel, she was viewed mainly as an eccentric,
dressed dramatically in long dresses, jewelry and hats, her rooms
decorated only with toys and dolls.
Else Lasker Schüer died on January 22, 1945 and was buried at
the foot of the Mount of Olives."
The rise of the Nazi Party in Germany in 1933 had a profound effect on all the Laskers except for Berthold who died on October 19, 1928. Else Lasker-Schüler, as we have seen, was beaten and went into self-imposed exile. Emanuel and Martha also went into self-imposed exile, reading the writing on the wall. After abandonning all their possessions in Germany, they sought refuge in the Netherlands, then England. While in England,
"Lasker and his wife, Martha, accepted the invitation of Krylenko,
the then Soviet sports minister, to stay in Moscow and to work at
the Institute for Mathematics (probably on a honorary post).
However, in 1937 when they witnessed the beginnings of the
stalinist purges of whom Krylenko was one victim the Laskers
moved again. After a trip to New York to visit relatives, Martha
and Emanuel Lasker decided to stay in America.
Now, at the end of their lives they faced the fate of penniless
immigrants and again Lasker tried to turn his abilities as a Chessplayer
into money. He gave lectures and simultaneous displays but his age
prevented success in major tournaments. Four years after his arrival
in America Lasker died on January 13 1941 in New York."
[Lasker: New Approaches by Johannes Fischer]
Emanuel and Berthold Lasker
Adolph was the son of the Wunder-Rabbi of Lessen and had attended Talmud-School himself. Not only was he a cantor, but his wife, Rosalie Israelsohn was the daughter of a cantor. Cantors were not well paid, particularly in the tiny village of Berlinchen in the hinterlands of Brandenberg. Adolph and Rosalie were also raising four children, Jonathan (called Berthold), Theophila, Amalia and Emanuel. They were almost the prototypical poor but happy family. Berhold, the olderst, went off to medical school in Berlin, but had to earn his own way. Fortunately for him, two elderly ladies opened a tea-room and were looking for someone to teach chess and cards. Berthold convinced them of his prowess in both and gained employment. His earnings were sufficient enough that eleven year old Emanuel went to live with him and attend school in Berlin.
According to Hannak, Emanuel Lasker, even as a five year old child, showed mathematical promise when he astonished his primary school Master, Herr Ludwig, by doing complicated multiplication (such as 7x53 and 18x96) in his head. Years later, Herr Ludwig's daughter, Fraülein Ludwig, would say that Emanuel Lasker was "far and away the best pupil they ever had in Berlinchen." When Emanuel arrived in Berlin, it happened that he was too late to apply for that school term. To fill the time, Berthold taught him chess.