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.”

“Pavel’s Violin” Outline

The Tale of “Pavel’s Violin” covers 308 years, from 1637 – 1945. It travels nearly 1,500 kilometers, from Absam near Innsbruck, Austria, to Olomouc, Prague, and the Terezin concentration camp in Czechoslovakia, to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland, and beyond. Here is an out line of the Tale. You can get it now from Amazon and many other online booksellers. (text copyright 2017, Walter William Melnyk. All Rights Reserved.)

Pavel’s Violin
A Song of Hope

cropped-absam_von_westen.jpgPart I – In Absam Prope Oenipontum (1637-1670)
Jakob Stainer and the Making of the Violin

Chapter 1: An Alpine Symphony (1637)
Chapter 2: The Luthier of Absam (1668)
Chapter 3: Heresy and Heartstrings (1668-1669)
Chapter 4: A Far Hope (1668-1669)
Chapter 5: The Voice of An Angel (1669)
Chapter 6: A Lion’s Cub (1670)

Kromeriz Exterior

Part II – Kroměříž Palace (1670 – 1752)
In the Palaces of Bishops and Emperors

Chapter 7: A Farewell in Salzburg (1670)
Chapter 8: The Church’s Greatest Ornament (1678)
Chapter 9: Where There Are Witches (1683)
Chapter 10: A Long Dark Night (1743)
Chapter 11: A New Dawn (1752)
Chapter 12: The Yiddish Fiddle (1758)

Lipník_01_rok 1965

Part III – The Wandering (1758 – 1850)
The Jewish Community of the Moravian Countryside

Chapter 13: Lekhaim (1758)
Chapter 14: Two Surprises (1758)
Chapter 15: Hodele’s Wedding (1784)
Chapter 16: Pints and Petticoats (1792)
Chapter 17: I Want to Be a Czech (1800)
Chapter 18: Where Is My Home? (1850)

olomouc synagogue

Part IV – This Sought-For Peace (1897 – 1942)
The Olomouc Synagogue

Chapter 19: By the Theresien Gate (1897)
Chapter 20: A Guardian in Domazlice (1904)
Chapter 21: In a Wagon from Galicia (1914)
Chapter 22: Sudetenland (1933)
Chapter 23: A Dark Fire Burning (1939)
Chapter 24: Transport (1942)

Terezin Attic Drawing

Part V – Terezin (1942 – 1944)
In Terezin Concentration Camp

Chapter 25: Fear in Every Heart (October 1942)
Chapter 26: In the Ruts of the Herd (January 1943)
Chapter 27: A Violin in Paradise (Spring 1943)
Chapter 28: Out of Ivory Palaces (23 August 1943)
Chapter 29: Touching the Dead (November 1933)
Chapter 30: Naked in the Night (8 March 1944)

Birkenau_gate

Part VI – Auschwitz (1944 – 1945)
In Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp

Chapter 31: With0ut the Will to Live (5 April 1944)
Chapter 32: Whatever It Takes (22 September 1944)
Chapter 33: The Wind In The Lyre (6 October 1944)
Chapter 34: When The Music Dies (26 October 1944)
Chapter 35: Your Neighbor In Need (3 October)
Chapter 36: Death March (19 January 1945)

Bruntal

 

Part VII – Pavel’s Violin (January – September 1945)
The Violin Comes to Pavel

Chapter 37: Welcome Home (22 January 1945)
Chapter 38: The Survivor (27 January 1945)
Chapter 39: Return of the Partisan (February 1945)
Chapter 40: A Nice Violin (March 1945)
Chapter 41: Sorrow’s End (March 1945)
Chapter 42: A Song of Hope (September 1945)

Dying at Auschwitz – an excerpt from Pavel’s Violin

An excerpt from “Pavel’s Violin,” chapter thirty, “Naked in the Night.”

(C) 2017 Walter William Melnyk, All Rights Reserved.  Do not duplicate.
Use the link to the right to purchase “Pavel’s Violin” on Amazon.

Auschwitz BarracksMira looked to her left, through the chain link fence and barbed wire, across the train tracks and the infamous arrival ramp, to the barracks of the Women’s Camp. Despite the hour, one building still had a light burning in one window. Mira had once been told the building was the Music Block, the barracks of the Auschwitz Women’s Orchestra. She had seen or heard them occasionally, from a distance, over the past six months. Often playing as work details left in the morning, or returned in the afternoon. Sometimes they gave concerts for the Nazi SS officers. Occasionally she had seen them playing on the arrival ramp, as Jews exited a new transport and were selected for life or death by the feared Doctor Mengele. She fixed her eyes upon the one lit window, the one that often remained lit when all else had gone dark. She had been told the room belonged to the conductor of the orchestra, the world famous violinist Alma Rosé. How Mira had wished she could talk with Alma! How she had wished she could play her own Violin beside her in the orchestra. But it could not be. The Women’s camp was in a different world.

“Still, I have been able to play for the families,” Mira thought. “Still, I have been able to teach Beáta, who is getting quite good.”

There was a momentary lull in the rumbling of the trucks, and Mira could hear the faint sounds of a violin coming from that lighted window in the Music Block. She strained to hear the tune. Chopin’s Etude in E, Tristesse. It was rumored to be Alma’s favorite piece, and she often played it late at night. Sometimes it could be heard drifting across the silent camp, a song of lost love, of hopeless resignation.

A song lives in me,
a lovely song,
it stirs up memories
within my heart.
My heart was still.
Now that tender song cries out again,
calls me, everywhere!

Life was far off,
dreams gone away,
My Heart! how calm
you were so long ago,
so long ago.

Now it all wells up again,
all my joy, my heart’s desire,
deepest yearning, sleepless anguish
lives!

I just want peace,
peace within my heart,
never to recall
that song.

Mira remembered the words, as the music drifted across the horrible selection ramp. She would never see Joseph again. Had she ever wished to forget the pain by forgetting him? She would not have thought so. Who was it Alma had loved so dearly, that she so longed to forget? Longed to forget, as the only way to find peace?

“Well,” Mira thought, “I will find peace soon enough tonight.” She hugged Beáta and Mirek closer. They had been so strangely quiet. “I hope it will come quickly, when it comes.”

The Stories Demand To Be Told

terezin transportFrom the Preface to “Pavel’s Violin” ~

Wherever we look, even if we avert our eyes, the world is continually expanding with the insistent stories of humankind. The stories demand to be told. They yearn to be heard. They are stories of immense courage, dark fears, ecstatic joys, and pains beyond what it is possible to imagine. The telling of our own stories lies at the core of what makes us human. Listening to the stories of others, telling their stories, being willing to be changed by them, lifts us to the heights of what it is possible for humans to become. The retelling of another’s story is an act of healing, a commitment of love, and an affirmation of life. There are stories, often, that are more than the tale of a single person, or even of a people. They have the power to define for us what it means to be human. Such stories must be told, for they have a claim upon the lives of us all. The tale of “Pavel’s Violin” is such a story.

(C)2017 Walter William Melnyk. All Rights Reserved.

Reading at IONA: Art Sanctuary

June 28th, Wednesday Evening, at 5:00 PM, I will be reading from “Pavel’s Violin” at the IONA Summer festival of the arts in Sewanee. Copies of the book will be available.
Iona art sanctuary 1From Word’s Worth (http://revmoore.blogspot.com/), a blog by Diane Moore, in October 2013:

Yesterday, I attended a reading by local authors of the Autumn Assembly of Authors at IONA Art Sanctuary. I had been invited by my friend, the Rev. Francis Walter, who read from his novel, Goldilocks and the Three Bears at Mobile Bay. Following this amusing reading, I was re-introduced to Edward Carlos, a sculptor and artist I met the first year I moved to Sewanee, Tennessee, shortly after he opened his Art Sanctuary. I had been deeply impressed by his religious and spiritual art, some of which reflected visionary events that he experienced during four visits to Iona, a small island off the western coast of Scotland.

The reading was one among a slate of Fall readings and art exhibits sponsored by Carlos, who was called to “offer a place for writers and artists to share their creative work with each other and the community, and the emphasis is to source creativity and spirituality,” Carlos says. I might add that many Sewanee writers and artists produce rich creative work that isn’t read at the annual Sewanee Writers Conference, which features mostly national luminaries, so Carlos provides an outstanding service for less-recognized literary and artistic figures.

The IONA Art Sanctuary sits atop a hill off Garnertown Road and overlooks a field of iona1adried sedge grass and seven acres of lake and woods. The building is situated on a N-S, E-W axis and offers art lovers a view of colorful sunsets as they exit the 70’x64’ building. The interior of the sanctuary follows the design of a nave with a Celtic cross shape. A 20′ high gate stands in the center of the field of sedge grass and symbolizes an entrance between the physical world and the spiritual world.
Above the entrance on the IONA veranda the sculpt of an angel hovers, part of a scene about the Nativity, which is further carried out inside with a life-sized “Creation Nativity.”

Carlos has also sponsored the exhibits of many talented art students and area artists at IONA Art Sanctuary. Although Carlos lives on campus with his wife, Sarah, and a flock of dogs, he spends his meditative moments at the IONA Art Sanctuary.
I look forward to seeing my blue-eyed host and to reading my poetry next Fall during the Autumn Assembly of Authors at IONA Art Sanctuary, another “thin” place of inspiration and beauty on The Mountain.

From “Pavel’s Violin” Chapter 29, “Touching the Dead”: (c) 2017 Walter William Melnyk, All Rights Reserved:

Terezin Attic DrawingRadoš lifted the latch slowly. There was no lock. There was no need to lock in a corpse. He backed into the closet and shut the door.

“You guys better not latch it on me!” he called out to them. That had been known to happen occasionally, but Tommy and Giri were ethical competitors, and assured him they’d do no such thing. Rad turned from the door and held his arms out in front of him near the floor, slowly waving them from side to side as he crept forward.
“Nothing here, nothing here,” he said under his breath when he had gone a couple steps. He started to announce that conclusion to his friends, when he touched it.

There was no point in dressing a corpse. Or even wrapping it in a sheet. Clothing and sheets were like gold. Many people had not seen a change of clothes since arriving in Terezin. Many people did not have a sheet to cover them at night on their hard wooden bed, or the cold stone floor. So it was a naked corpse that lay in the dark in front of Rad. And he had touched its rib cage. He drew his hand back quickly in fright.

“There’s one in here,” he called out. “I touched it.”
“Did you touch the face?” Giri asked. “You have to touch the face, it’s the rules.”
“I know, I know,” said Giri in a shaky voice. He started to sweat, even though it was cold in the closet.
“Is it a man or a woman?” Giri asked.
“I’m not gonna try to find out,” Rad answered. Tommy and Giri grinned. There were some things you just didn’t do.

“All right,” said Rad, “Here goes.” He felt his way in the dark, up over the torso, to the neck, and then over to the chin. The mouth was closed. The nose, and then the eyes. The eyes were open! They had lost their natural moisture, but had already begun to putrify. Rad screamed, pulled his hand back quickly, wiped it on his pants, and threw up.

What Readers are saying about “Pavel’s Violin”:

 “I am getting close to the end of your book, it’s hard for me to stop reading but I have to sometimes…I was reading till very late last night. Sometimes it’s very heavy reading…but It’s so well written…and it gets lighter when Pavel is speaking or thinking. Thank you so much for writing this!” – L.C. – Prague.

“This book has touched my deepest soul and surprisingly that of my 11 year old Goddaughter who is studying the Subject matter. We have read the book simultaneously with my guidance along the way. We have both laughed, cried and then actually mourned the book characters. A must read for everyone remotely interested in the plight of our Jewish brothers and sisters during the war. As my signed copy reads, “may we never forget.” — D.C., Tennessee

stars-5-0._CB192240867_Rated Five Stars on Amazon and Goodreads.

Join us at the IONA Summer festival of the Arts on Wednesday, June 28th, at 5:00 PM. Reception for the artists, and book signing, follows.

630 Garnertown Road (off Sherwood Road, Past Saint Mary’s Center), Sewanee, Tennessee.

iona static_map

An Excerpt from “Pavel’s Violin”

From Chapter 7 – A Farewell in Salzburg:

     Cervěnka played a G scale, slowly, savoring the tones. Across the room, the Kapellmeister looked up from his own work in speechless amazement, while his assistant played several measures of Biber’s new Sonata violin solo representativa. Eleven measures, perhaps, up to the 6/4 change. The two men were silent. It seemed as though the notes continued to dance around them, reluctant to fade into time or space. So moved was he by the music, Biber spoke softly the only words he could think of.
“I didn’t know you knew that piece,” he said.
“You left it lying about, and I had a look. That’s the only bit I’ve memorized.”
“You play well.”
“Thank you, Kapellmeister. It is a fine piece.” Again they fell into silence, still hearing the voice of the Violin in their thoughts. Finally, Biber spoke.
“May I . . . May I try it?”

(C) 2017 Walter William Melnyk
All Rights Reserved

Heinrich Ignatz Franz von Biber,  Kapellmeister to the Prince Bishop of Olomouc
Biber

From Chapter 33: The Wind in the Lyre

“Wiegala, wiegala, weier,” she began. As the children joined in, she stopped singing herself and began conducting with her hands, sweeping them in wide arcs to hold their attention.

“Wiegala, wiegala, weier,” they sang, with the German vee sound.
“The wind plays on the lyre,”

A trap door opened in the center of the ceiling. Three canisters of Zyklon B gas fell to the floor behind the children, and opened.
“Gas!” someone shouted. And the screaming began.
“Don’t worry about them! Sing louder, children,” Ilse cried out.

“It sings so sweetly in the green reeds,
the nightingale her sweet song sings,”

Ilse held her breath. She must live longer than the children. Eighty-five people behind them rushed for the door, clawing over one another, trying to get higher off the floor and away from the gas. The ones on the bottom of the pile were trampled to death before the gas could work. People clawed at the walls, trying to find the door in the dim light, leaving fingernail scratches in the concrete.

In the corner, the children sang. But their lungs were small, and filled quickly with the gas.

“Wiegala, wiegala, werne,
the moon is a bright lantern . . .”

(C)2017 Walter William Melnyk, permission to copy is not granted.
original German of Wiegala: Ilse Weber, c. 1943