Sunday, April 24, 2011

Holocaust Poem of the Day: The Last Sign of God in the World

“Now that every day brings so many strange and sinister experiences and sensations I have completely ceased to dream.” – Janusz Korczak

Below the smokestack sky
the rose pressed up from under
the concrete Treblinka wall.
It was the only color seen
from the crowded cattle car.

Korczak followed his pupils’
dry eyes as they passed
the flower and entered the camp.

The petals haunted the doctor.
They were the same red
he had seen dripping from
the children’s chapped hands.

Janusz knew the rose was
the same red as the fire that
caused hundreds of mothers
to fall on the heads of sons
and daughters they never knew.

The train stopped, the doors
opened, and the doctor led
his students into the cold
smoldering courtyard. As
his young Jews huddled and
clamped around his waist,
the crimson rose
continued to haunt his eyes.

About Janusz Korczak

Janusz Korczak was an elderly doctor who cared for countless children at an orphanage in the Warsaw Ghetto. Born Henryk Goldzmit in 1878, Korczak first made a name for himself in Poland as a pediatrician, writer, and children’s rights advocate. Korczak would later change his name to shield himself from the growing anti-Semitism of the time. He wrote autobiographical novels at the turn of the century as well as founding the first children’s newspaper, The Little Review, and he had a radio program as “the Old Doctor.” Later, he gave up his medical practice to establish the first progressive orphanages in Warsaw. From that point until the beginning of the Nazi occupation of Warsaw, Korczak wrote about children and for children. Korczak was 64 when he began writing Ghetto Diary (Yale University Press: New Haven (CT), 2003). Refusing numerous attempts at freedom, Korczak died with his children at Treblinka.

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