The Angel of Chomutov

Angel copy

Photo: Marilyn Herman 2018.  Angel – from a monument in Chomutov for protection against the bubonic plague.

In April 1945, my father, Abraham Herman, and his brother, David Herman, were prisoners on a forced death march from Rehmsdorf to Theresienstadt.  When they crossed over from Germany into the Czech Sudetenland, in the town of Chomutov, Czech bystanders were throwing food to the prisoners, but there would be such a scramble, the bread would break up, and nobody would get any.  (I have very recently visited Chomutov, and interviewed some people who lived through WWII.  They informed me that during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, ethnic Czechs and ethnic Poles were effectively subjected to a policy of slow starvation – with food rationing enforced to a degree that it was not possible to live on the rations alone.)  The German guards threatened to shoot anyone who gave the prisoners food. One heroic, defiant young woman ran inside the line of prisoners, placed bread firmly into Abraham’s hands, and as she ran back out, a German guard smashed the butt of his rifle down on her head.  In all likelihood, she never got up again.

I am composing a work to commemorate this unknown Czech heroine.  I was scouring poetry and psalms for words, and even ordered an anthology of Czech poetry with translation.  Finally, I decided to use my own words:

 

The Angel of Chomutov

 

To risk your life

to give bread

to a suffering child

Not knowing if he would live

another hour

another minute

 

To give your life

not knowing

if all he would live to know

was that you risked your life

to give him bread

 

Most precious of gifts

More than all the garnet of Bohemia

all the gems of Moravia

Your bread – bestower of life

 

To risk your life

not knowing

that the last thing you would do

would be to give bread

to another woman’s starving child

 

To give your life

to show a tortured child

Life almost extinguished

by forces of darkest destruction

To show this captive child

the precious value of his life

 

Tower

Photo:  Marilyn Herman 2018.  Chomutov 

 

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