Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
A Wall of Two

A Wall of Two: Poems of Resistance and Suffering from Kraków to Buchenwald and Beyond

HENIA KARMEL
ILONA KARMEL
Introduction and Adaptations by Fanny Howe
Arie A. Galles
Warren Niesluchowski
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Pages: 158
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pnc52
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    A Wall of Two
    Book Description:

    Buchenwald survivors Ilona and Henia Karmel were seventeen and twenty years old when they entered the Nazi labor camps from the Kraków ghetto. These remarkable poems were written during that time. The sisters wrote the poems on worksheets stolen from the factories where they worked by day and hid them in their clothing. During what she thought were the last days of her life, Henia entrusted the poems to a cousin who happened to pass her in the forced march at the end of the war. The cousin gave them to Henia's husband in Kraków, who would not locate and reunite with his wife for another six months. This is the first English publication of these extraordinary poems. Fanny Howe's deft adaptations preserve their freshness and innocence while making them entirely compelling. They are presented with a biographical introduction that conveys the powerful story of the sisters' survival from capture to freedom in 1946.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94074-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  4. Preface: To an Unknown Reader
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    Henia Karmel and Ilona Karmel
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
    Fanny Howe
  6. Introduction
    (pp. xix-xxxvi)
    FANNY HOWE

    The poems in this volume were written by a young woman who married at twenty, on the verge of incarceration, and by her sister, who was seventeen when they entered the Nazis’ forced labor camps in 1943. The poems were written behind barbed wire in Poland and Germany by the two, who stayed together throughout the Second World War and who miraculously survived, as did their poems. The poems are rough, immediate, emotionally young, and determined by an early education in rhymed verse. The two sisters often used traditional forms that helped them preserve a learned and beloved culture in...

  7. Key to Translators
    (pp. xxxvii-xxxviii)
  8. THE POEMS

    • Autobiography: Childhood
      (pp. 3-6)
      ILONA KARMEL
    • The March of the Fifteen-Year-Old Boys
      (pp. 7-8)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • Us
      (pp. 9-9)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • Procession
      (pp. 10-10)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • The Land of Germany
      (pp. 11-11)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • German Uniform Mania
      (pp. 12-12)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • Pursuit at Night
      (pp. 13-14)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • To a Friend from a Strange Planet
      (pp. 15-17)
      ILONA KARMEL
    • Fatherland
      (pp. 18-19)
      ILONA KARMEL
    • The Day Will Come
      (pp. 20-21)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • A Night among Frenchwomen
      (pp. 22-25)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • The Mark on the Wall
      (pp. 26-26)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • Snapshots
      (pp. 27-29)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • On Learning of the Latest Transport
      (pp. 30-30)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • The Days of Vengeance
      (pp. 31-31)
      ILONA KARMEL
    • Flight for Life
      (pp. 32-33)
      ILONA KARMEL
    • The Origin of a Poem
      (pp. 34-34)
      ILONA KARMEL
    • Terrifying Laughter
      (pp. 35-35)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • Our Blood
      (pp. 36-36)
      ILONA KARMEL
    • Time (To the new year, 1944–45)
      (pp. 37-38)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • Strange Poem
      (pp. 39-39)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • A Child’s Vision of Peace
      (pp. 40-41)
      ILONA KARMEL
    • My Life
      (pp. 42-42)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • Verses
      (pp. 43-43)
      ILONA KARMEL
    • An Answer
      (pp. 44-44)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • The Demand
      (pp. 45-45)
      ILONA KARMEL
    • The Abscess
      (pp. 46-46)
      ILONA KARMEL
    • To Our Professors
      (pp. 47-48)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • Prison Nights
      (pp. 49-49)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • Harmonica
      (pp. 50-50)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • Fear in the Barracks
      (pp. 51-52)
      ILONA KARMEL
    • When You Find Out
      (pp. 53-53)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • Encounter
      (pp. 54-54)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • Two Machines (For Basia Bogucka)
      (pp. 55-55)
      ILONA KARMEL
    • Christ Lonely
      (pp. 56-57)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • To the Rhythm of a Very Fast Waltz
      (pp. 58-59)
      ILONA KARMEL
    • The Robots
      (pp. 60-61)
      ILONA KARMEL
    • Bread
      (pp. 62-62)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • Pears
      (pp. 63-63)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • Waiting
      (pp. 64-64)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • The Gallows
      (pp. 65-66)
      ILONA KARMEL
    • An Army in Retreat
      (pp. 67-67)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • Anniversaries
      (pp. 68-68)
      ILONA KARMEL
    • Memory: Skarzysko
      (pp. 69-69)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • To the German People
      (pp. 70-71)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • At Laban’s Grave
      (pp. 72-72)
      ILONA KARMEL
    • Meditation in an Air Raid Shelter
      (pp. 73-73)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • My Language
      (pp. 74-74)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • Movie
      (pp. 75-76)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • The Converts
      (pp. 77-77)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • The Bastard
      (pp. 78-79)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • To My Hungarian Brothers
      (pp. 80-80)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • No One Is Calling
      (pp. 81-81)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • And My Songs
      (pp. 82-82)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • To Jews Abroad (To Mr. Sternbuch)
      (pp. 83-84)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • My Freedom
      (pp. 85-85)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • Letter from the Hospital
      (pp. 86-87)
      ILONA KARMEL
    • Second Letter
      (pp. 88-89)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • Purim 1946
      (pp. 90-91)
      HENIA KARMEL
    • Autobiography: Youth
      (pp. 92-95)
      ILONA KARMEL
    • An Open Letter to Julian Tuwim—1947
      (pp. 96-104)
      HENIA KARMEL

      Dear Sir:

      I am taking the liberty of sending you some of my poems—for one reason. Because you, like me, stood at the gates of the temple in which it was “forbidden to pray.” Because you, like me, felt “the great reserves of spirit, accumulated for nothing,” because you, too, heard the “song of the damned.”

      Maybe you’ll find these poems too simple, commonplace, not worthy of notice. Maybe you’ll even throw them away without reading them all the way through. But please remember one thing—these poems are real, not just scribblings. They come from behind the wires...

  9. Afterword
    (pp. 105-106)
    Leon Wolfe

    I wish to express my personal thanks and gratitude, as well as the gratitude of my family members, for what Fanny Howe has done to memorialize the Karmel sisters. When I first read her translations, I made a very complimentary statement—that the essence she conveyed was truer than the original poems. Having spent most of my life in America, I now feel much more comfortable with American English than I do with Polish. I consider myself part of the English-speaking world, and I am proud that these poems are now available to that world.

    The Hebrew wordhaskamarefers...

  10. Notes on the Translations
    (pp. 107-114)
    FANNY HOWE
  11. About the Translators
    (pp. 115-116)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 117-118)
  13. Acknowledgments of Permissions
    (pp. 119-119)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 120-120)