A film watched on a visit to friends in Sweden
Warsaw 1939, peril charges the atmosphere;
A pianist lives there amongst a people dwelling in fear.
The very air is bristling with malevolence.
Talented and young, this Jewish Pole,
Along with millions of others,
Is about to fall foul of invading Nazi devils,
Determined to rip out of the people its very soul.
The pianist’s recreated story yet lingers
As the camera alternates between reality
And his giftedly dancing fingers.
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Storm clouds bring storm troopers,
A most bloody bunch of merciless murderers.
Reality crushes all connection with the word ‘free.’
On those like the Jews without protection,
The wicked rush with cords and fetters to bind,
On perceived weak segments of humanity,
Who please not the evil mind.
The Jewish catastrophe, as portrayed
Through the suffering soul of the pianist,
Has not disappeared into time’s mist:
The film amply relates the eternal story of Jewish fate.
Pathos bathes the narrative: strongly it speaks to me.
First rate as a tragic tale, dexterous fingers play skillfully.
It communicates the longing in the human breast to be free,
Particularly of Europe’s doomed Jewry. A good illustration,
Recreating a plighted picture of the desperate Jewish situation,
The greatest onslaught to blot out Israel’s name forever,
To bring the people down to dust, reduce us to nought,
Destroy us completely as part of the human race.
Almost successful in Satan’s eternal endeavor,
It became Germany’s perpetual disgrace.
If in the wrong place I’d been born
Ten years too early, runs my thought,
Night would have imprisoned my dawn.
I’d have been captured and caught
In the wicked whirlpool which over the Continent spread.
It would have sucked up me and my extensive family:
We’d have been part of the millions of maimed and dead.
The reflection, too much to entertain, I put aside.
The tale engrosses me, interwoven in the nation’s genocide.
The Pianist captures the savagery of the inflicted wound
On the Jewish soul; will we ever again be healthy and sound
After the all-time attempt to swallow our people whole?
A more savage wound could not have been wrought
By the willing executioners of the Devil’s thoughts,
Who succeeded in the tertiation of our small, abused nation.
Excellently playing their parts, the actors reconstruct that hell.
It’s not for the viewer who wants his sensitivities spared:
Omnipresent danger creates a hard film to watch.
A recent segment of Jewish history it well tells:
All-pervading, the hateful Nazi spirit charges the air.
Ugly fulfillment in morbid imagination’s dread deeds,
The camera catches: it portrays a people of broken reeds.
But it’s not overdone.
The pianist desires to live and have fun:
His romance with a Polish girl turns forlorn,
Terminates under evil’s lengthening shadow;
The ‘final solution’, pregnant in hate-filled readiness,
Awaits to unleash on Europe its saddest morn.
Radical racial laws forbid ‘mixing,’
Seal all Jews inside the ghetto,
Lock all doors of life to the condemned Jews;
Their dire fate psychopaths are at liberty to choose.
I wonder in the Germany of Hitler’s generation,
If total mental and moral derangement
Wasn’t the condition of the entire population.
The transported viewer in his mind’s eye
Visits war-torn Warsaw and the ghetto people
Doomed to die. Endlessly the question rhetorically implores:
Why, oh why, the closing of all human doors
As torrents of blood from butchers’ knives pour?
Great theologians and historians, writers of every hue,
Strike explanational dumbness by evil’s mystery,
At eternity’s producing Israel’s greatest all-time enemy,
At worldwide indifference to the eradication of the Jew.
I find difficulty in facing that part of Jewish history:
The film’s sensitivity solemnly speaks to me,
Another never-to-be-forgotten reminder
Of what it meant to be a Jew in Nazi-occupied Europe,
A continent for twelve protracted years devoid of hope.
Certain memories dominate my recall:
The child smuggler in his lower body beaten to death
Half-way through the dividing wall,
Men called out of roll-call
line, ‘Du! Du! Du!’
A bullet through the brain for each
For the crime of being a Jew.
Scenes of the ghetto perishing in flames,
A smoldering mass of burned out rubble,
Cruelty exalted as the highest of aims,
Germany bringing on our people
Indescribable, unparalleled trouble.
Frequent return to the pianist’s playing,
His nimble fingers and oh so sensitive face,
Pull on the viewer’s heartstrings.
Much is spoken without words telling:
The young man ably acts out the receiving side
Of the supreme barbarism of the master race.
Some Poles, people with human souls,
Help him escape to the wall’s Aryan part.
There he finds a few ‘safe’ houses of fear,
Frightened by his loud palpitations of heart.
A fate of staying alive acts as his sole safeguard;
He returns to the ghetto to dust-crumbling hideouts,
Waiting for fate to deal his final card.
The film’s end an unlikely angel sends:
A German officer. He gets him to play
A piano conveniently placed nearby.
The pianist plays for all his worth;
Desperation gives birth to inspiration,
Truly a hunted creature of the sorry earth.
He plays as if it’s his way out of trouble,
In that haunted site of devastation and rubble.
Verily almost dead from fear,
Mercy is presented as drawing near.
The officer brings the starving pianist food,
Gives him his coat. He is good,
An angel of mercy amongst the demons,
A human being amongst anti-humans.
His personality carries a kindly stamp,
But later he dies in a Soviet prison camp.
His compassion comes as a surprise of course:
A Nazi officer, what an unlikely source!
Who would take mercy on a despised Jew
Of whom only a handful remain alive, a pitiful few?
Introduced late as a ray of light,
He appears as daybreak glimmering in total night,
When complete destruction forms the ghetto’s plight.
Nothing is said of if he agrees with Hitler’s plan,
But here is a Nazi officer presented as human.
Dying recently at eighty eight,
The pianist bore a heart torment over-great.
Doubtless his music kept him semi-sane
In wandering through a world of emotional pain,
But a normal man’s life tends to revive and live again.
An excellent short story, it seeks at its core
To capture a period of time, relive it once more,
And by its creative power enable the viewer to imagine
Life in Warsaw at this time.
To the historical moment it lays hold,
Recreating with passion the all-time crime,
As I watch a segment of the Holocaust unfold.
Power indwells the story, speaking strongly to me.
Through the presentation of a slice of history and place,
It reconstructs the offense, meets the requirement:
Tearfully we view the incurable wound in reenactment,
Which down through the decades reverberates
Of the Jews’ darkest hour, climax of a climate of hate,
Clutched by evil’s ruthless power.
The pianist after the war continues in Warsaw,
A living monument to the fate of the Jews.
His generation of survivors are mostly gone
But the memory undying lives on.
Necessity cries, ‘learn from yesterday’s sorrow,
If not, you will repeat it again tomorrow.’
The Pianist belongs in Holocaust literature,
Highlighting man’s cruelty to his fellows
As a permanent, not to be forgotten feature.
It’s been like that from days of old;
May the story not be hidden but retold.
The Jewish people will perpetually recall
How a fearsome fate on an unprotected people fell.
The poem was written by David Ben Haim in 2005. It was originally published as part of authors book “Journey of a Soul” (PDP International Press, 2012).
© David Ben Haim, 2005.
Join the conversation (24 comments)
I thank you all for your kind and compassionate replies to my poem The Pianist. When there is so much growing anti-semitism in the world, it is good to feel that we Jews have many friends too. And that many of them are from Christian communities throughout the world! I have always wanted to write something on the Holocaust, a burden I received some time in childhood, but until I watched the movie described in my poem, I thought that everything that could be written, already had been written. The visual and emotional impact nestled inside me for a good while, and then brought forth the writing, which I labored upon until it became an expression of my heart.
So, much blessing to you all on your Christian/Jewish studies course, in Messiah’s Name.
אמ יִשְׂרָאֵל חַיָּ
What a touching story!
May God always protect Israel forever!
I’m left without words as I read this poem I read the bible and the persecution of the Jewish people is endless yet God said you are the apple of My Eyes and rescued them therefore His people will never be eradicated no matter how much others will come against them for God words stands their are no other people as brilliant as the Jewish people for this cause persecution is at their door from the begging. But the love of God is greater than any spirit of hatred in the heart of the most heartless for it cause one in the camp to be move to serve his captive amazingly David (David soothed Saul’s tormented spirit through music).
Thank God for David to bring to light this story we must always love our fellow man in so stop the plan of evil God you are the Alpha and Omega.
Excellent, this captures the atmosphere and message of the film which I have on DVD. Four of us returned from Hungary by car some years ago and visited Dachau. Our guide was a young German woman who was visibly moved by what she showed us and determined that her children would not forget what her nation had done. It still brings tears to my eyes. There was a memorial with the words ‘never again’ and we returned to Britain to the dreadful bombing at Inniskillin in Northern Ireland. It is a time etched on my memory. The heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked. Come Yeshua.
This is a great movie that embodies the Jewish soul. Who but the Jewish people would form symphonies in concentration camps? Also, this and other details about the holocaust reveal that the SS went after the very cream of society, the very rich, doctors, lawyers, etc. It turned the Jewish people into objects, rather than fellow human beings.
It was more about stealing the wealth of the Jews than it was about anything else. All the master race junk was a cover up to justify stealing everything from these precious people and wiping out all generations of each family so they would not be around to re-claim their belongings.
Hitler was a homeless failed artist with a big mouth but he must have represented what many in the Germany of his day believed. The holocaust was actually Martin Luther’s idea. Luther penned the term ‘final solution’ in his 600 page diatribe against the Jews, five hundred years before the holocaust. Kristallnacht was held in ‘honor’ of Martin Luther’s birthday.
Sorry, this is getting too long. Google Henry Ford. He was given the highest civilian award by the Nazis. Ford and other industrialists, funded the Nazi war machine. Hitler was their puppet. He could have done nothing without their money.
Dear Marian, thank you for posting your first (I think) comment and welcome to our group. Dr. Eli
Still cannot find all the space in this world within me to unravel all the “whats” and “whys”. Always baffled by it all..
I’m concerned that man’s inhumanity to man seems to have no end but I find solace in knowing that G-D has His ways of giving judgement. He is a righteous judge.
Will the judge of the whole Earth not judge justly?!
Shalom, Dr Eli
Thanks for the brilliant post. Man under the horrible influence of the devil has never understood how evil he is. G-d chose the nation of Israel to Reveal Himself & be known by mankind whom He created. If people could just ask HIM why he chose the Jewish nation life would be simpler; and the devil does’nt want other nations to understand & know the almighty G-d. Hatred is an abomination that will be eradicated oneday when our Lord Jeshua comes.
Dear Dr. Eli,
Great poem! Are you trying to rip my heart out? I will pass it on, no it can never be forgotten nor repeated, all the senseless cruelty and suffering at the hands of an evil monster!!
The Lord Bless Israel Forever!
Nice poem on a touching story. I express a very deep sorrow for the beloved Jewish people of that time, many of whom still survive. Why it came to happen? So noble, but so mistreated by some less-than-worms! But I know that a special God’s promise was fulfilled again: that the name of Israel wasn’t and never will be blotted out from Earth. His love overcame their hate.
Am Israel hai! (People of Israel live! from Hebrew)