“To the Little Polish Boy” 2020 Poetry Exhibition

“TO THE LITTLE POLISH BOY” POETRY READING VIA ZOOM


The outreach workshops of the Holocaust Memorial and Education Center of the Shimon and Sara Birnbaum Jewish Community Center of Bridgewater are offered free of charge to public, private and parochial schools, and temples and synagogues in New Jersey. In-service teacher workshops and resources are available upon request. Contact: Nancy Gorrell, Holocaust Education Center Director


The “Little Polish Boy” Poetry Workshop is in Commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of April 1943 and in Memory of Victims of Genocide Everywhere.

 

“To the Soldier with the Gun”

If I could, I would remove you from this picture.
So I could make a new picture of all the Jewish people being set free.

Keira Guevara, Grade 9, Age 15
St. Thomas Aquinas High School

Poetry Workshop: Developing Empathy through Ecphrastic Poetry

Middle and High School students from five regional New Jersey schools wrote poems in response to viewing the historic photo-journalism of the Nazi liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto, April 19, 1943. The purpose of this Holocaust workshop is to teach empathy through the tool of ecphrasis, or visual poetry. Students first learned the story of Peter Fischl, a child survivor from Budapest, Hungary who was hidden during the war. Then they learn the story of how Peter wrote his famous poem, “To the Little Polish Boy.” After reading Peter’s poem, students view the historic photo of the Warsaw Ghetto.

The students were asked these questions:

  1. If you could speak to the little polish boy, what would you say?
  2. If you could speak to anyone in the photograph, what would you say?
  3. If you could imagine any of the subjects speaking, what do you think they would say?
  4. If you could imagine any of the subjects thinking, what do you think they would be thinking?

The students were given these poetry writing prompts:

  1. Talk to a person in the photo.
  2. Take on the identity of a person in the photo.
  3. Describe what you see in the photo, detail by detail.
  4. Reflect or meditate upon the photo.

Over 300 students wrote first draft poems and shared them in this one-hour workshop. Teachers were encouraged to follow up with their students viewing photo-journalism from recent genocides.

We thank all the participating students, teachers and schools in this year’s “Developing Empathy through Ecphrastic Poetry Workshop.”

With Gratitude to:

  • Jennifer Furphey; Morristown High School, Morristown, New Jersey
  • Sharon Taub, Ann Kanarek; Kehilat Shalom, Belle Meade, New Jersey
  • Pam D’Amato; Maarif School USA, Bloomfield, New Jersey
  • Sharon Taub; St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Edison, New Jersey
  • Lisa Friedman, Sarah Gluck; Temple Beth El, Hillsborough, New Jersey

Read the 2020 Holocaust Workshop Student Poetry:

 Morristown High School, Morristown, New Jersey
Kehilat Shalom, Belle Meade, New Jersey
• Maarif School USA, Bloomfield, New Jersey
• St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Edison, New Jersey
Temple Beth-El, Hillsborough, New Jersey

ABOUT PETER FISCHL

Peter Fischl was a young boy when Hungarian Jews were being rounded up and killed during World War II. Unlike his father, and millions of others, Fischl survived.  In the 1960s, now living in the United States, he saw a powerful picture in Life Magazine taken of a young boy in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943.

The boy epitomized fear, as a German soldier stood behind him, rifle at-the-ready. The photograph haunted Fischl for years, reminding him of what his fate could have been, when he was about the same age as the boy in Poland.

One night, in 1970, Fischl stayed up all night and wrote a poem, which he called: “To the Little Polish Boy Standing with His Arms Up.” Then, in 1994, Fischl was inspired by the movie Schindler’s List, motivating him to retrieve the old poem from his desk drawer, where it had been collecting dust for 24 years. The retired printer had generated millions of pages of words during his career, but this was the first and only time he had been moved to create and distribute his own work. He used the poem as a personal form of therapy, as well as a vehicle to educate children and adults around the world about the horrors of the Holocaust.

To the Little Polish Boy Standing With His Arms Up

Poem by Peter Fischl, Survivor
b

I.

I would like to be an artist
So I could make a Painting of you
Little Polish Boy

Standing with your Little hat
on your head
The Star of David
on your coat
Standing in the ghetto
with your arms up as many Nazi machine guns
pointing at you

I would make a monument of you
and the world who said nothing

I would like to be a composer
so I could write a concerto of you
Little Polish Boy

Standing with your Little hat
on your head
The Star of David
on your coat
Standing in the ghetto
with your arms up
as many Nazi machine guns
pointing at you

I would write a concerto
of you and the world who said nothing

II.

I am not an artist
But my mind had painted
a painting of you

Ten Million Miles High is the Painting
so the whole universe can see you Now
Little Polish Boy

Standing with your Little hat
on your head
The Star of David
on your coat
Standing in the ghetto
with your arms up
as many Nazi machine guns
pointing at you

And the World who said nothing

I’ll make this painting so bright
that it will blind the eyes
of the world who saw nothing

Ten billion miles high will be the monument
so the whole universe can remember of you
Little Polish Boy

Standing with your Little hat
on your head
The Star of David
on your coat

III.

Standing in the ghetto
with your arms up
as many Nazi machine guns
pointing at you

And the monument will tremble
so the blind world
Now
will know

What fear is in the darkness

The world
Who said nothing

I am not a composer
but I will write a composition
for five trillion trumpets
so it will blast the ear drums
of this world

The world’s
Who heard nothing

I
am
Sorry
that
It was you
and
Not me