Poem Research

I’m try­ing to write a poem about Birke­nau that com­bines a sort of infer­nal glee on the part of the Nazis and infer­nal ter­ror on the part of the Jews, Roma and homo­sex­u­als in their pow­er. This is very hard, and made hard­er by the fact that I’m try­ing to use the arrange­ment of the words to indi­cate the inti­ma­cy caused by this mad­ness. Cou­pled with the fact that I have no detailed knowl­edge of either Nazi ide­ol­o­gy and indoc­triniza­tion or the func­tion­ing of a con­cen­tra­tion camp from a prisoner’s point of view; this is an exer­cise in empa­thy [on all sides] that is cur­rent­ly beyond my capac­i­ty. Library, ho. This is the first poem I’m actu­al­ly going to have to do research on. Any book rec­om­men­da­tions from y’all?

8 Replies

  • It’s dif­fi­cult to attribute infer­nal glee to any­body who’s a human being–you just can’t make the assump­tion that the Nazi him­self wasn’t at least a bit hor­ri­fied, too, or at least remorse­ful after light­ing the match. That’s why we invent­ed Satan and Lucifer and that whole crew, I guess–to per­son­i­fy the pure evil we couldn’t stick or project onto a fel­low human, cred­i­bly. You’ve giv­en your­self a tough assign­ment.

    I might talk to some of the WWII vets still around, notably those who par­tic­i­pat­ed in the lec­ture series (I saw a few at the South Euclid library, and I think they were record­ed) a few years back that essen­tial­ly said that war is a piss-poor way to set­tle our dif­fer­ences.

    Par­tic­i­pants I recall off­hand were Dr. Joe Foley of Cleve­land Heights and Robert Madi­son the archi­tect, who may still be from Cleve­land Heights, so you could prob­a­bly start there.

  • Thanks for the direc­tion! I’m main­ly try­ing to work with the form, but with­out a sense of con­tent it won’t be effec­tive. I could pos­si­bly drop the specifics alto­geth­er and work at it from anoth­er angle. I’ll think about it on my dri­ve home.

  • Shalom Adam,

    Start with Maus and Maus II. Then plan a trip to the Matlz Muse­um here in Cleve­land. And any­thing by Ellie Wiesel, spe­cial­ly Night, is an excel­lent source.



  • Adam,

    I get touch by visu­al and Euro movies par­ti­c­urlar­ly the Ital­ians and French of the post war era were excel­lent at com­mu­ni­cat­ing the spir­it and emo­tions of that time. Some of these movies by De Sica, Vis­con­ti and Rosselli­ni are authen­tic but may be dif­fi­cult to see.

    My favorites were:

    Two Women with Sophia Loren direc­tor Vic­to­rio De Sica

    I would rec­om­mend you to see “Life is Beau­ti­ful” and “The Pianist” which are eas­i­ly avail. in DVD

    Sophie’s Choice” and “Schindler’s List” are also very good but I pref­ered “Sophie” Vanes­sa Red­grave was incred­i­ble in “Play­ing for Time” about female pris­on­ers spared from death in return for per­form­ing music for their Nazi cap­tors. It was based on a true sto­ry.

  • I’ve seen most of those, Daniel­la, but I’m look­ing for some­thing more his­tor­i­cal rather than cin­e­mat­ic cop­ing mech­a­nisms, which are what most Holo­caust and Viet­nam movies end up being, no mat­ter how well inten­tioned. Schindler’s List is a par­tic­u­lar­ly appro­pri­ate exam­ple in that con­text.

  • Yeah, the cin­e­matog­ra­phy is incred­i­ble. Unfor­tu­nate­ly the Jews are effem­i­nized and their deaths made into beau­ti­ful things, and a Nazi war prof­i­teer is idol­ized. A pret­ty bad show­ing for a movie made by a Jew­ish man. If I want­ed to dig through box­es of com­put­er para­phre­na­lia I might be able to find the paper I wrote on it back in col­lege. Unfor­tu­nate­ly I don’t have a 3″ flop­py dri­ve any­more, so I wouldn’t be able to get to it any­way.

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