by Henia Karmel & Ilona Karmel - £20.00 University of California Press (2007)
paperback ISBN 13: 9780520251366 | ISBN 10: 0520251369
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.
"Ilona Karmel once wrote of the work of turning 'the cold, old-fashioned, iron key of memory.' These recovered poems of Ilona and her elder sister Henia open the space behind memory's door, and it is on fire with defiant passion -with longing, with terror, and the raw drive to bear witness in the one way possible to the life-in-death of the camps. Henia writes, 'These poems came about when I was still creating myself.' The two sisters here are speaking themselves and each other into existence; and this essential work of claiming our humanity has rarely been so costly, and so moving"
(Price & availability last checked: August 2018)