A Child Survivor of Terezin

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:

Final Cover

 

A Nice Violin

Excerpt from Chapter 40 of “Pavel’s Violin”Cuckoo

(C) 2017, Walter William Melnyk
All Rights Reserved

“A Nice Violin”

 ~ 6 March 1945 ~

Adam slowed his battered ammunition truck to a stop in front of the house, after another long day. Seven long trips up and down Vružná, Wrosna and Ostrý vrch. Live howitzer ammunition going up, empty shells coming down. It’s hard to tell whether he or his truck was covered with more mud. They’ll both have to be washed down before he can get some rest. The other trucks are already parked, with no sign of any mud having been removed. He rounds the house to the back gate, and finds Novak and Svododa standing there, watching the back window intently.

“Hey, guys, what’s . . .” They both wave him off wildly, and put fingers to their lips to shush him. So he approaches the gate silently, on tip-toe.
“What is it?” he whispers.

“There’s a cuckoo in the house,” Svoboda whispers back.

“A what?”

“Sssshhhhh.”
“A what?” asks Adam, more quietly.

“A cuckoo,” Novak whispers.

Adam listens carefully. There is a blackbird on the chimney pot, silently grooming its feathers. But no cuckoo, in or out.

“I don’t hear anything.”

“Wait. Maybe it’ll start again.” And then it does. Quietly at first, then louder, then more softly again.

“Cuckoo. Cuckoo. Cuckoo.”
“Cuckoo. Cuckoo. Cuckoo.”

And then a child’s melody in ascending and descending scales of sixteenth notes and eighth notes. And then the cuckoo returns.

“It’s The Cuckoo Song,” you idiots,” says Adam. The other two laugh out loud, slapping him on the back.

“Had you goin’ though, didn’t we,” says Novak. “Still, it’s inside.”

The three sergeants cautiously sneek up to the back door, open it quietly, and step inside. Pavel is facing them, playing Komarovsky’s Cuckoo Song on a Violin, his face beaming with delete, enjoying their surprise. He finishs with a slow decrescendo of cuckoo calls. A-F, A-F, A-F; cu-ckoo, cu-ckoo, cu-koo, fading into silence. His audience pauses a moment in wonder, until Pavel bows, and then the three sergeants erupt into thunderous applause.

“It was here when I arrived, sitting on the table,” Pavel says, pointing to the open case. “Here’s the note that came with it.” He hands a slip of paper to Adam, who reads it aloud.

“Dear Pavel,
I hope you will like this Violin. It’s not so new, but very nice, I think. It
comes from a good friend, a Russian Transportation Officer named Sokolov, up in Górkie Wielki who remembers you from your arrival at his unit after your escape. He says you didn’t look much like a violinist then, but he takes my word for it, and wishes you the best. Remember the song we used to sing as kids, The Cuckoo Song? That should be the first thing you play! See you again sometime soon.
Love, Rasti

Pavel holds up the Violin for them to see. “It is a nice Violin,” he says.
It is probably safe to assume that the back room in the little house on the edge of Vendryné has never before experienced the sight of four Czech sergeants dancing circles around one another, and singing,
“Cuck-oo, cu-ckoo, cu-ckoo!”

(C) 2017 Walter William Melnyk
All Rights Reserved

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&PavelsViolin

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

“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.”

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

Another 5 Star Review

“Pavel’s Violin has received another 5 Star Review on Amazon – This from a local Reader:

stars-5-0._CB192240867_5 stars Fantastic Must Read

Pavels_Violin_Cover_for_KindleD.J.C. June 21, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

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.”