Thursday, April 14, 2011

Holocaust Poem of the Day: Teaching His Children

“Everyone should know how to sketch in pencil what he wants to retain in memory. Not to be able to do that is to be illiterate.” – Janusz Korczak

In a sadly stern low voice
the doctor pried
splintered ineloquence
from his parched throat.
King Matthew’s words
failed to pass his tongue.

He was only able
to retain their attention
for an hour each day.
The children were getting older;
they were now the orators
telling one another stories.
Accounts they told
were without morals--
they were the recited
records of the ghetto.

Korczak knew he was slowly
losing his children.

Before occupation, the children
were disciplined for pencils
chewed in boredom.
Now, sounds of gnawing wood
were ignored. The doctor knew
that it could be the only thing
they would have to eat that day.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment