A Wall of Two: Poems of Resistance and Suffering from Kraków to Buchenwald and beyond

A Wall of Two: Poems of Resistance and Suffering from Kraków to Buchenwald and beyond

A Wall of Two: Poems of Resistance and Suffering from Kraków to Buchenwald and beyond

A Wall of Two: Poems of Resistance and Suffering from Kraków to Buchenwald and beyond

Synopsis

Buchenwald survivors Ilona and Henia Karmel were seventeen and twenty years old when they entered the Nazi labor camps from the Kraków ghetto. These remarkable poems were written during that time. The sisters wrote the poems on worksheets stolen from the factories where they worked by day and hid them in their clothing. During what she thought were the last days of her life, Henia entrusted the poems to a cousin who happened to pass her in the forced march at the end of the war. The cousin gave them to Henia's husband in Kraków, who would not locate and reunite with his wife for another six months.

This is the first English publication of these extraordinary poems. Fanny Howe's deft adaptations preserve their freshness and innocence while making them entirely compelling. They are presented with a biographical introduction that conveys the powerful story of the sisters' survival from capture to freedom in 1946.

Excerpt

It is difficult today from the perspective of two years to contemplate the genesis of these poems.

We look at them in astonishment, powerless before their strangeness. It’s as if we were meeting old friends after years of separation. They are known but foreign because of an impassible chasm—time and distance. Words spat out in a fever, screamed poems, now sound like weak whispers, almost inaudible. Experiences that we tried to reproduce in all their horrible reality have slipped into pallid outlines, already almost erased.

When we look at them right in front of us, the images come again: inscriptions upon the walls of prisons and camps, scrawled

From the collection Spiew Za Drutami (Song behind barbed wire), published in 1947 in tiny limited editions by the Association of Friends of Our Tribune, a Polish Jewish daily newspaper.

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