Tommy Lustig’s wonderful memoir, “Children on Death Row: The Hate and the War,” about his imprisonment in Terezin at 6 years old, and his father’s experience in Auschwitz, was the primary inspiration for my historical novel, “Pavel’s Violin: A Song of Hope.” I am just finishing up the wonderful experience of helping Tom to edit his memoir, and it will soon be republished on Amazon in print and Kendle editions. This will be the tenth edition of his work. Watch for it coming soon, with this new cover:
On this date in 1942, eight hundred women were gassed at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Passing Out the Shit Bucket
at Zgorzelec Station
Pass out the shit bucket, he said,
on the siding, in the rain.
The stench had closed our lungs for hours,
for miles, as the wheels clacked
over crumbling rails.
Stumbling, stumbling over emptied pails
of shit the nazi cursed
and shot old Josef for the fun of it.
And Josef, tumbling out the door,
rolled in the stinking stuff, but he
was dead already, and cared no more.
©9/3/2017 Walter William Melnyk
from ch 32 of Pavel’s Violin
“Pass out the shit bucket,” shouted a guard. And be careful with it, I don’t want your filth all over me.” While the bucket was being emptied, someone saw a signpost by the siding.
“Zgorzelec,” he said. “It’s Poland. My God, we’re in Poland.” And the door slid shut.
“It’s not the things you’d think would be the problems,” Pavel said to Aaron. Aaron was standing on Pavel’s shoulders with his face at the window slot, trying to get some fresh air without cutting his nose on the barbed wire. Moments at the window were at a premium, and available only to men who were already close by.
“What are you saying?” asked Aaron, nearly chocking on his small breath of fresh air. “What do you think our problem is, if it’s not the stench in here!” They had been traveling for nearly two days. Most men had not yet had the chance to sit for a few moments. Most had not gotten anywhere near the bucket. And the stench was so bad they had no desire to get any closer. Many just relieved themselves where they stood. Some people cursed them for it. Others understood, and wept.
“It’s not the stench,” Pavel went on. “Or the hunger or thirst, or the constant standing. It’s not even the dying,” he said, glancing toward the growing pile of corpses in one corner. “The real problem is the sheer, crushing boredom. The real problem is suffering and death have become so commonplace for us that we are growing bored with it.” He turned to the others in the car as Aaron clambered down off his shoulders.
“Don’t let yourself get bored!” He shouted at them. “Don’t let this become normal. Rage! Rage at the horror!”
“Getting angry won’t help,” someone said.
“Couldn’t hurt,’ Pavel retorted. “Chicken soup, you know.” And everyone who was still able burst into thankful laughter. “That’s it,” Pavel thought. “That’s what we need. Laughter. Rage and laughter.”
From Chapter 32, “Whatever It Takes,” 2-3 October 1944
“Pavel’s Violin” (C) 2017 Walter William Melnyk
All Rights reserved
The great Austrian luthier, Jakob Stainer (c. 1619-1683) used this handwritten label in all his instruments:
Jacobus Stainer in Absam
prope Oeinipontum 16–
“Jakob Stainer, in (the town of) Absam, near Innsbruck, (date)
And this is the title of Part I of “Pavel’s Violin,” the story of Jakob Stainer and his crafting of the very special violin.
from the title page of Part I, a quotation from Paul Stoving, in “The Story of the Violin:”
The Tyrolean fastness will guard his memory,
and the eagle will tell it to its young,
and pine to pine,
and the winds in dark recesses
will mourn the memory of Jacobus Stainer.
And the tale goes on from there:
I. Jakob Stainer and the Making of the Violin
II. In the Palaces of Bishops and Emperors
III. The Jewish Community of the Moravian Countryside
IV. The Great Olomouc (AH-lah-moats) Synagogue
V. In Terezin Concentration Camp
VI. In Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp
VII. The Violin Comes to Pavel
The author, playing Pavel’s violin.
Many thanks to the more than 1,000 Visitors so far
to Pavel’s Violin
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
No tender bowing
ever craft a song of hope
for those whose hope is lost
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
from 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.
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.