Title: Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto
Author: Paul B. Janeczko
Illustrator: Various (from the Terezin Ghetto)
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: August, 2011
Genre/Format: Historical Fiction/Poetry Collection
Paul B. Janeczko’s stirring new collection of poems goes inside the walls of the notorious camp to portray the indomitable spirit of those incarcerated there.
Hitler hailed Terezín (Theresienstadt) as a haven for artistic Jews, when in reality the Czech concentration camp was little more than a way station to the gas chambers. In his second book inspired by devastating history, acclaimed poet Paul B. Janeczko gives voice to this heartrending creative community: its dignity, resilience, and commitment to art and music in the face of great brutality. The many memorable characters he conjures include a child who performs in the camp’s now famed production of Brundibár, a man who lectures on bedbugs, and a boy known as "Professor," who keeps a notebook hidden in his shoe. Accented with dramatic illustrations by prisoners, found after WW II, Janeczko’s spare and powerful poems convey Terezín’s tragic legacy on an intimate, profoundly moving scale.
What I Think:
Paul Janeczko has written such a haunting book of poetry. It is as if he transported himself to Terezin and lived the life of these people who he has created to tell us the story of the ghetto. Combined with the all too real artwork from Jewish artists from Terezin, Requiem is a brilliant collection of poetry.
This is one of those books that is really hard to review. There is anything negative to say and it is hard to portray through the review what the book contains.
Read Together: Grades 8 to 12
Read Alone: Grades 9 to 12
Read With: Once by Morris Gleitzman, Terezin: Voices from the Holocaust by Ruth Thompson, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, Parallel Journeys by Eleanor H. Ayer, Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
Snatch of Text:
Snow was in the air
as we marched from the station
that November afternoon
as solemn as the sky,
three hundred volunteers
packed into Transport Ca-114 from Prague
to read the fortress
for those who would follow
to this play Hitler gave to the Jews.
The Nazis watched
as we measured, sawed planks for bunks
three high, sometimes four,
painted and plastered one barracks then another-
Madgeburg, Dresden, Hanover, Hamburg-
All with good German names.
We knew others would come to this place,
family, neighbors, strangers
to this place Hitler gave to the Jews
this "haven for the elderly."
The Nazis told us
that our work would help protect us
and others we knew would be arriving.
So we sawed, painted, hammered..." (p. 3-4)
This was a good town.Quiet.
My family farmed,
raised goats for generations
before war arrived,
a menacing visitor
that took away my town
because its wall,
would be easy to guard.
They liked the railroad
so close to Bohusovice.
I know this from Jakub
a ready listener at the tavern...
At Christmastime the first of the Jews arrived,
an endless funeral procession
of fumbling ancients,
women with babes in arms,
children stooped with fatigue and fear,
men with hats pulled down
all bearing a yellow star on their coats.
Through our streets a pitiful parade
to the barracks..." (p.. 33-34)
Mentor Text for: Poetry, Perspective, Historical Fiction, Attention Grabbers, Making Connections
Writing Prompts: Why did the Nazis allow the Jews at the Terrezin Concentration Camp to write, make art and play music?; How did the Nazis trick the Red Cross inspectors into thinking Terezin was a good place?; Why do we need to learn about the Holocaust and places like Terezin?
Topics Covered: Holocaust, World War II, Terezin, Music, Art, Family, Death, Religion, Nazis
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