A Wall of Two: Poems of Resistance and Suffering from Krakow to Buchenwald and Beyond / Edition 1

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

Jewish Exponent - Robert Leiter
“A stirring collection of poems.”
Jewish Book World
“A remarkable unified body of survivors’ words.”
European Legacy
“Nothing can better describe the message of this moving collection than the authors’ ‘preface’: ‘These poems. . . form one cry only: ’Remember’.”
School Library Journal

"This is not poetry. It's an alarm bell./ It's a scream, a thunderburst/ syllables in a rush./ The same old sounds." That two sisters from Kraków were able to remain together in the concentration camps for two years is rare in itself. That they also wrote poems is less surprising. In her otherwise insightful introduction to life among Kraków's Jewish elite and then in the camps, poet Fanny Howe (Selected Poems) gingerly steps around the issue of precisely how the poems survived. Though the poems-written in Polish and published here for the first time in English-are said to have a formal structure, the translators have wisely abandoned that in favor of readable English imagery that remains true to the original. The poets were only 17 and 20, respectively, when they were incarcerated, but somewhere they developed a wide worldview: "German factories-one of these days-/ will be engulfed by sirens-that awful yell-and the workshops/ will empty, machines go still/ and hours will pass and no one will come." Although it has its limitations, this book is a crucial purchase for poetry, world literature, Holocaust studies, and Judaica collections.-Rochelle Ratner, formerly with Soho Weekly News, New York

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520251366
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 10/8/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 158
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Henia Karmel and Ilona Karmel were born to an affluent and distinguished family in Kraków. After the war, they both eventually emigrated to the United States, where they continued to write. Henia Karmel is author of Marek and Lisa. Ilona Karmel is author of An Estate of Memory. Fanny Howe is the author of, among other books, On the Ground, Gone (UC Press), and Selected Poems (UC Press), winner of the Commonwealth Club Gold Medal for poetry and The Lemore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets. Selected Poems was also one of the Village Voice’s Best Books of the Year.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface: To an Unknown Reader

Key to Translators

The Poems

Afterword by Leon Wolfe
Notes on the Translations
About the Translators

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