Monday, April 25, 2011

Holocaust Poem of the Day: A Pure Breath

“What matters is that all this did happen.” – Janusz Korczak

The boy pushed away sleep and,
blinking his silent eyes in the candlelight,
he listened to Korczak’s voice.

Echoing above the soldier’s
ash-muffled steps, the only
sound in the camp was
the doctor’s paper cracking
like a stiff flag in a sharp
breeze as he chiseled lead
onto what once was white.

Despite his arthritic fingers,
he had written hundreds of
pages in the ghetto;
but these were the first
curled letters of his Kaddish.
This was his last leaf of script;
the last journal entry which
would never leave his hand.

This was his voice that would rain
down with his body and
rest in the lungs of Treblinka.

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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