Gedenkstätte für die in der Shoah ermordeten Juden Österreichs / Memorial to the austrian jews who were murdered in the Shoah

THOUGHTS AND POEMS

KURT MEZEI 1924 – 1945
Author of the poem “Fate of the Jews”

The twins Kurt and Ilse Mezei, born in 1924, were able to survive as persecuted Jews with their mother, until 1945. Their father had been murdered in Auschwitz. Ilse Mezei died from a bomb which fell on the building of the Jewish Community Council in Vienna.

On the 12th of April 1945, barely a few hours before the Red Army entered Vienna, her brother Kurt was dragged from the basement of the house on Förstergasse 7 by an SS patrol, who promptly shot him. The only survivor of the family, Margarete Mezei, died in Vienna in 1993.

The Diary Records of Kurt Mezei, which are preserved today in the archives of the Vienna Jewish Museum, are a deeply distressing account of the National-Socialist Era in Austria.

 

Fate of the Jews

By Kurt Mezei

Today I saw a thousand people, with distraught countenances
Today I saw a thousand Jews, wandering to nothingness,
In the grey of the cold morning shuffled the banished crowd,
And behind it faded out what was their life’s reward,
They passed the gates and knew: never back!
They left behind everything: fortune, prestige, luck.

Where will they bring you? Where will your journey end?
They know only this: barbed wire is where they will be sent!
And what will await them is agony, pain and distress,
Loss, hunger, epidemics, and for many of them death.

I looked into their eyes with fraternal unity,
Expecting deepest laments for their adversity,
But instead of despair I just saw tremendous struggle,
Attitude of resistance from their eyes full of trouble.
Saw the hot will of life, saw hope and hot hardihood.
I saw in some faces a smile, intense and good.
But then I’ve noticed, deeply moved, the people’s spirit,
Who selected to suffer, coped to overcome pain bit by bit,
Who chosen to suffer misery, exile, slavery and detention,
Still stand with unbroken strength and hope for redemption.

Today I saw a thousand people, confused in some way
Foresaw the “rays of eternal light”, while all is still grey.

Translated from the German by Cathérine Hug and Harold Otto

 
 
 

Walter Lindenbaum

Author of the Poem “The Song of Theresienstadt”
Vienna, December 11th 1907 – Buchenwald, February 20th 1945

Walter Lindenbaum spent his youth in the Leopoldstadt, as the 2nd District of the City of Vienna has been known for centuries. It was the district in which the poorer immigrants from the lands of the old Austrian Empire used to settle.

His poems and newspaper stories frequently dealt with themes of the daily lives and struggles led by so many people in large cities. In December 1933 he married Rachel Liebling.

After the National Socialist Regime took power and Austria was incorporated in the German Reich, Walter Lindenbaum found employment with the Jewish Community Council of Vienna. He wrote communications and greetings on behalf of the Council, frequently in the form of poems. It was a difficult existence. Walter and Rachel Lindenbaum were given one more moment of joy in August 1938, when their daughter Ruth was born.

In April 1943 the family was deported to the Concentration Camp Theresienstadt. Located in Czechoslovakia, on the grounds of an old army barracks, it was used by the Nazis as a showplace, to prove that Jews were well treated in the German Reich. Very few people did survive the camp, since after a stay of a few months they were deported to Auschwitz, only to be replaced by new convoys of inmates.

In September 1944 the family Lindenbaum was deported to Auschwitz, where the mother and the 6 year old daughter soon perished in the gas chambers. Walter Lindenbaum was later transferred to the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, where he died in February 1945.

 

The song of Theresienstadt
Walter Lindenbaum

Translated from the German by
Cathérine Hug and Harold Otto

 

We are here, 40 000 Jews,
There were many more at this place,
And those we didn’t load off to Poland,
We carried them away in a burial case.
And in the courts of the caserns,
In the evenings, anxious we stand there
At eternal stars we look up like at lanterns.
Freedom lives in the firmament somewhere
And not in the barracks of the casern,
And at night, we whisper while dreaming:
How much longer, how much longer…
Oh, please note: brother, comrade,
The little song of Theresienstadt!

For bare life, we fight to death
And every day brings new dread.
Pride isn’t allowed here,
We beg for a piece of bread.
Before one couldn’t do this so soon:
To grovel for soup in a tin bowl
And slurp it madly without a spoon,
Here they say: devour or you’re gone!
And demasked, misery reveals itself
In the face of each creature,
Failing, nagging, sometimes stealing,
Because here reigns the selfish nature,
Oh, please note: brother, comrade,
The little song of Theresienstadt!

And where we live, it isn’t bright,
Only hope shines in front of us,
Where horses had their stables right,
There sleep 60 men now.
The cheeks hollow and meagre,
From longing one doesn’t get fat either,
So one lies at night in his bunk,
And dreams of a bed and mattress.
The pain, that bravely we suppress
By day, when glaringly the sun shines,
It often tears our heart in shreds
In nights when alone one cries,
Oh, please note: brother, comrade,
The little song of Theresienstadt!

The city of children and aged people,
The former the seeds of our hope,
The latter sleep away little by little
And go back to their fathers’ home.
Death, the black knight, takes a child,
Regardless of whose and whatsoever,
Then goes through all other mothers, wild,
A sustained scream of pain and fever.
The men who usually never regret,
However hardened they are,
They feel a shivering in their heart,
After her kid, the scream of a mother.
Oh, please note: brother, comrade,
The little song of Theresienstadt!

This is how we live,
Residing in the “model” ghetto,
A destiny holds us all alive,
We Jews here, the 40 000
Of millions are the rest.
We are sad, we are afraid,
And many pains last,
We live here day by day,
But ultimately are still alive.
A lot could be stolen thus,
Destiny brought us and our wives.
But this we kept: the belief in us
That it might change one day.
Oh, please note: brother, comrade,
The little song of Theresienstadt!

And should it one day be different,
Will hardship and afflictions be gone,
Peace be back without constraint,
Then I will sing my song at home.
But should fate want it different,
Will I not experience freedom,
And also be buried here in lament,
It will continue to live, my poem.
And when the years will fade away,
For you full of careless happiness,
Remember then perhaps, someday,
And think back of those times,
Then sing, oh brother, comrade,
This my little song of Theresienstadt.

Translated from the German by Cathérine Hug and Harold Otto