by Paul B. Janeczko
I haven't posted on Poetry Friday for awhile, though I've been dipping into the offerings. Today I’m highlighting Paul Janeczko’s award winning book as part of Gathering Books Award-Winning Book Challenge. In a time when the very reality of the Holocaust is challenged by some, Requiem: Poems of the Terezín Ghetto is an important addition to Holocaust literature.
During the Holocaust, the walled city of Theresienstadt, Czechoslovakia became a ghetto for Jews transported from Prague and other cities. It was a way station to the gas chambers. This collection of poems gives voices to those who survived the death camp and those who did not. Appropriate for high school, the poems are sensitive, moving and also graphic.
For sixteen years of Fridays, Tomasz Kassewitz met his friend in the park to play chess. One Friday, Willi appeared with his usual peppermints.
“I can no longer play with you,”
said a false voice.
The sun is blue
would have made as much sense.
“It is forbidden, my friend,
to fraternize with a Jew.”
Hear Janeczko read the entire poem.
The Nazis transported intellectuals, artists and musicians to Terezin. Anna Teller says they knew the concerts they were allowed to play in the camp could be their last performance
but we played nonetheless
played as only the brokenhearted can play
a final performance
for it was always a final performance
for some in the orchestra.
Josefine Rabsky names the friends she lost on transport after transport. Then it was her turn. Transport 9177.
Wilfried Becker played violin waltzes for Eva and Otto during their last two hours alone. Eva had traded bread for time behind the curtain of someone else’s alcove.
Requiem is illustrated with sketches by Terezin’s inmates found after the war. It is a haunting book.
Visit Paul Janeczko’s website.
An account of the history of Terezín is here.
Head over to A Year of Reading where Mary Lee hosts Poetry Friday.
Notable Book for a Global Society, 2011
Winner of 2011 Cybils Award for Poetry
Association of Jewish Libraries, Notable Books for Teens, 2012
Award-Winning Book Challenge Status: 4/11