The Violin That Makes the Paradise

FromTerezin Banner “Pavel’s Violin,” chapter 21: “A Violin in Paradise.”

In the so-called “coffee house” in Terezin Concentration Camp, which was all for show, and where prisoners could not buy coffee.

“Přátelé,” she said in Czech, “My friends. I am happy to play for you today. I know the Coffee House usually presents cabaret music, or jazz, but today I wish to be a bit different.” She paused, and the room was silent. “A bit different” could be a dangerous thing.

“Today I wish to begin with an old musical comedy number by Škroup and Tyl. It’s about a dear old grandfather, who longs for the lost days of his youth.” Satisfied the program would be nothing but pious sentimentality, and not wishing to be subjected to such mush, two plainclothes SS officers got up and left, their coffee still cooling on the table. But the handful of Czechs present smiled inwardly, knowing what to expect. As Mira began the first notes of the tune, they sang silently along with her, “Where is my home, where is my home? The Czech country, my home.” They would have cheered at the end, but offered the safer, polite applause instead. Mira looked over to her friends’ table, smiling, as if to say,

“Do you see what I mean? It is the Violin that, for a few moments, makes the Paradise.”

The Dark Place Under the Stairs

In the main hospital at Terezin concentration camp, the dead bodies were stacked in a dark closet under the stairs, awaiting transport to the Crematorium.  The young boys had a game they played . . .


The Dark Place Under the Stairs

They put the bodies there,
the dead ones,
in the dark place under the stairs,
To wait their turn
in the crematorium.
No sheet for the dead, nor urn
for the burned.
Naked, whether flesh or ash.
We played games with them,
the dead, we kids.
Creeping in the dark,
hands outstretched,
to keep the dead we had to touch away.
Touching cold and waxen lips and lids,
not a game for young boys to play,
but it was Terezin, after all,
with little else to pass the day.

© 10 August 2017, Walter William Melnyk

The Violinist of Auschwitz

Alma Rose, director of the Auschwitz Women’s Orchestra, plays her violin softly in the night, as, across the train tracks,  diesel trucks ferry the people of the Terezin Family Camp to the Auschwitz gas chambers, 8 March 1944.


The Violinist of Auschwitz

Across the strings a song of sorrow
plays in mourning
for a dark tomorrow,
for an empty morning
that will not come,
that will not ever come again
for the hundreds on their way
to the gas tonight.
No tune can ever after set aright
this wrong,
No tender bowing
ever craft a song of hope
for those whose hope is lost
to death.
Yet still she plays the tender tune
as oily smoke from ovens
clouds the moon;
despairing cries o’erwhelm
the softness of her strings.
She cannot hope, but still she plays,
that even in the darkest days
some beauty might remain
against a final victory of hate.
Against a final victory of hate.

© 10 August 2017, Walter William Melnyk

Words of Praise for “Pavel’s Violin”

terezin transportfrom a Reader:

The story is real, a vivid account of the people who lived through an unthinkable time in our history.

Melnyk writes: “I hope you will not just learn about what happened,, but that you will become part of the story, yourself”…….”I hope that you will not only hear the Violin, but you will experience the playing of it”. Well he (the author) takes you there. You are one with the characters, and experience their pain, suffering, hope, and joy. And you hear the music. The wonderful music. The universal language that heals. The Song of Hope…

The author has selflessly pledged to donate all proceeds from the sale of this book to the United States Holocaust Museum and other Holocaust Memorials.

The Tree of Life

Tree of LifeI was working on a visual way to express my philosophy of life . . .

Another beautiful piece of paper-cut Judaica from my good friend Kim Phillips at Hebrica Judaica & Miscillanica here in Monteagle. She did it on commission from a design I came up with – The Tree of Life, rooted in Chesed (steadfast love), grown in the spirit of Dayenu (it is enough for us), is crowned in Shalom (wholeness and peace.)

See more of Kim’s work at

Or order your own copy of this beautiful Tree of Life  Here 

Whitwell Children’s Holocaust Museum

Whitwell Middle School, located within the Sequatchie Valley of Southeast Tennessee, is home to one of the world’s most profound remembrances of the Holocaust victims of Nazi Germany: the Children’s Holocaust Memorial, which opened as a symbol of hope 13 years ago this month. The memorial is the result of the efforts of the school’s former principal, Linda Hooper, and teachers Sandra Roberts and David Smith, who began an eighth-grade Holocaust education class in 1998 to teach diversity in their small, mostly white, Christian community.

The Holocaust took place between the years of 1933 and 1945 and resulted in the murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazis in Europe. Other groups were persecuted during this period (the handicapped, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Poles and Gypsies); however, the Jews were targeted by the Nazis for complete annihilation.

The German railcar at Whitwell Middle School is filled with more than 30 million paper clips collected from people from all over the world. (Photo: Tennessee Tourism Photo Library)

When the class began, students were unable to grasp the sheer number of people murdered during the Holocaust. Teachers and students decided to gather paper clips-which many Norwegians wore on their lapels as a silent protest to Nazi occupation during World War II-to represent each person killed under the authority of the Nazi government of Adolf Hitler.

The school created a website, and students sent letters to friends, family and celebrities in hopes of collecting 6 million paper clips.

Whitwell MuseumInternational attention to the effort began when Peter and Dagmar Schroeder, journalists who were born in Germany during World War II and who covered the White House for German newspapers, wrote a book about the project, “Das Büroklammer-Projekt” (“The Paper Clip Project”), to promote it in Germany. Also, in 2001, Dita Smith wrote about the Whitwell Middle School project for The Washington Post.

The first paper clip came from Lena Glitter, a 94-year-old Holocaust survivor from Washington, D.C., and a friend of the Schroeders. Students corresponded with other Holocaust survivors and their families, and many donated a paper clip on behalf of family members, friends or other victims of the Holocaust.

American politicians and celebrities, including George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, also sent in paper clips.

Whitwell Middle School’s former principal, Linda Hooper (pictured), and teachers Sandra Roberts and David Smith began an eighth-grade Holocaust education class in 1998 to teach diversity in their rural community of Whitwell. (Photo: Jenni Frankenberg Veal)

The Children’s Holocaust Memorial at Whitwell Middle School was dedicated Nov. 9, 2001, complete with an official German railcar that was used to transport Jewish detainees to Nazi death camps. Today, the railcar stands as a testament to the tragedy-and it is filled with more than 30 million paper clips collected from people around the world.

Paper clips are encased at each end of the railcar, with letters and mementos displayed among the paper clips. The students, staff and community of Whitwell Middle School have transformed the German railcar into a symbol of renewed life honoring the lives of those murdered by the Nazis.

To date, the memorial has also received more than 30,000 letters, documents, books and artifacts, which have been catalogued by students and are on display in the Children’s Holocaust Memorial Research Room at Whitwell Middle School.

In 2004, an award-winning documentary film about the project, “Paper Clips,” was released by Miramax Films.

“The paper clips project has been an affirmation of my beliefs that education is absolutely essential to change,” Linda Hooper, former Whitwell Middle School principal, said. “Everyone must study the past so that we do not forget or repeat our mistakes.”

Individuals, visitors and groups are welcome to tour the Children’s Holocaust Memorial at Whitwell Middle School. To schedule a tour, email Hooper at or call 423-658-6542.

For more information, see the website at

Escape to Freedom

I am having the great  joy and privilege to be working with Tom Lenda on a sequel to his Holocaust memoir, “Children on Death Row: The Hate and the War.”  Tom’s descriptions of his family’s time in Terezin concentration camp, his father Pavel’s time at Auschwitz and his violin, were the inspiration for my novel, “Pavel’s Violin.”  It is an honor to know Tom and to be working with him.


Tom Lenda (Tommy Lustig) with Lucie Carlson

The new book, “Escape to Freedom,” will be the story of Tom and his wife and daughter, Rose and Hana, as they escape from Communist Czechoslovakia, and make their way around the world, to Germany, Australia, and the United States.

You can go to Amazon today and get Tom’s book, “Children on Death Row,” published under the name he had back then, Tommy Lustig, and also my book, “Pavel’s Violin.”  Then later this year watch for “Escape to Freedom.

Toms Book 2  Pavels_Violin_Cover_for_Kindle

A Thank You from the Holocaust Museum

All royalties from “Pavel’s Violin” go the the Survivors and Victims Resource Center of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  We are pleased to have received this letter of thank you:

“Dear Mr. Melnyk,

Congratulations on the recent publication of your historical novel Pavel’s Violin – A Song of Hope.  It is a very compelling story and so kind of you to donate your author’s royalties to the Holocaust Survivors and Victims Resource Center.  Much of our work and research in the resource center is made possible by donors, and I thank you for your generosity and support.

With Best Wishes,  Neal Guthrie, Director”

ushmm The Survivors and Victims Resource Center is located on the second floor of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.