Living on a Star in Terezin: a Poem

Terezin Concentration Camp

Living on a Star in Terezin

When I was young I’d lie
upon the cool grass at night
and gaze upon the sky.
And sometimes I would wonder why
I could not live there, on a star,
and in the heavens dance!
Clean and bright, and pure they are,
I thought, to my earth-bound sight;
tiny, shining beacons of the night.
Now, no longer young, and soon
perhaps to die,
now indeed I live upon a star,
between the river and the plains
that stretch as far
between here and home
as if among the starry skies I’d roamed.
A fortress battle-star of brick and earth:
the tortured turf now sick with sorrow,
void of mirth or stellar dance;
Eight pointed prison bastion of a star,
that is an ugly scar
upon a battered dream.

© 2017, Walter William Melnyk

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


Shit Buckets, Rage, and Laughter: an excerpt from “Pavel’s Violin

cattle car

“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

In Absam prope Oenipontum, an excerpt from “Pavel’s Violin”

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

Will Paint  The author, playing Pavel’s violin.

A Child Comes to Terezin. A Poem.


A Child Comes to Terezin

(New Prisoners were housed sometimes
in the dark unheated attic of Podmokly Barracks)

It’s dark in the attic, Mama,
dark and cold, up here.
I know I’m six years old
and oughtn’t fear,
But it’s dark, dark up here.
Hold my hand, Mama,
I hear people moving, in the dark
and someone touched my leg.
Someone touched my leg,
but not someone; something.
Mama! Hold my hand!
Where are you? Something bit!
Why is it so dark, in the attic up here?
And why, Mama, is it so cold?
I know I’m six years old
and oughtn’t fear.
But it’s frightening, Mama,
up here. In this dark.
I promise not to cry, Mama.
But, will we die, Mama?
Up here, in this dark?
Why can’t we go home, Mama?

WW Melnyk, © 2017

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.

“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)


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)



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)

Three for the Price of One

When you purchase a copy of “Pavel’s Violin: A Song of Praise,” you make the world world a better place in three ways:

  • You get an exciting historical novel, that traces the journey of a special Violin from its inception in the Austrian Alps, through palaces of Emperors and Bishops, the countryside of Jewish Moravia, the Great Synagogue of Olomouc (AH-luh-moats), the horrors of the the Terezin and Auschwits concentration camps, until, after liberation, it finds its way to a survivor of those camps and becomes – “Pavel’s Violin.
  • You learn some European history, and experience first hand the camps, transport trains, and gas chambers of the Holocaust.
  • You contribute to Holocaust Awareness, that this might never happen again.  All the authors royalties are contributed to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Survivors and Victims Resource Center. (Per book that is $6.73 for each paperback, or $5.52 for each Kindle version.)

Get Your Copy Today