At the Terezin ghetto, children were housed separately from adults, and boys separately from girls. Each home had an adult supervisor who held illegal classes so that the children would not be behind in their education once they were free from imprisonment. One home, which housed boys aged 13 to 15, set up their own government and also secretly created a magazine that included poems, articles, columns, dialogues, artwork, and whatever the boys and their teacher wanted to record. They gathered every Friday night from 1942 to 1944 to read aloud the week’s issue. Most of the boys perished in the death camps. Of the few who survived, one managed to save the magazine. The book We Are Children Just the Same is a compilation of selections from the magazine, with additional excerpts from the diaries of the children, letters to their families, and artwork not only from the magazine but from other children of Terezin as well. The following selections are reprinted from We Are Children Just the Same, with permission by the Jewish Publication Society.
The Thaw, By Orce
Silently, lightly, slowly it drifts down
Onto the black and bleeding earth,
From somewhere up high, steadily descending
Whirling in the air on a tender breeze.
Covering all and glittering strangely,
As if to envelop this aged rot
And as in a dream, suddenly everything
Becomes once again what it once used to be.
Hidden is the filth that blankets the world
Hidden the darkness that blinds us all
Hidden the hunger that makes us retch,
Hidden the paid that breaks our backs.
Just for a while we breathe again freely
Drugged by the glitter, by the world all in white
I look out the window, the steady snow falling
And suddenly everything’s water again.
Orce is the pseudonym used by Zdenek Ornest (1929-1990), one of the few survivors among the many contributors to Vedem. One of the three editors of We Are Children Just the Same, Ornest died before the book’s publication. This poem is one of many which he wrote while imprisoned in Terezin.
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