notes from prague (2)

去捷克三天,在布拉格犹太庙里印象很深的有小孩在集中营做的画和其他艺术品,还有诗歌。

Čtrnáctiletý Hanuš Hachenburg a s ním i ostatní nově hledají své místo na světě, které jim bylo
ukradeno.

„Co jsem?

Ke kterému patřím z národů?

Já děcko bloudící?

Je mojí vlastí hradba ghett,

či země zrající,

spějící, malá, spanilá,

jsou Čechy vlastí, svět?“ [8]

Odpovědí na Hanušovy otázky mohou být verše Františka Basse. Tento chlapec vyjadřuje hrdost na svůj
původ a neochotu poddat se. Promlouvá ke všem Židům, podněcuje je k tomu, aby se nestyděli za to
kým jsou a aby po zemi vždy kráčeli se vzpřímenou hlavou.

“Jsem žid

Jsem žid a židem zůstanu

i když já hlady umírati budu

tak nepodám se národu

Bojovat já vždy budu

za můj národ na mou čest

Nikdy se stydět nebudu

za můj národ na mou čest.

Pyšný já jsem na svůj národ

jakou má ten národ čest

Vždy já budu utlačený

Vždy já budu zase žít.“[9]

Upstairs in the Pinkas Synagogue at the Old Jewish Cemetery of Prague, they have a collection of children’s art works from Theresienstadt (Terezin), where the Jews from Bohemia, Moravia and other regions were imprisoned before further deportation. Very few children, about 100 of 50.000, survived. I don’t remember the exact numbers, please check the links in the pictures, there is a lot of information, and there are pictures of the synagogues in Prague, some of the children’s art works, and so on. At the other end of the Old Jewish cemetery, at the Klausen Synagogue, in a glass case somewhere among the explanations about Jewish holidays, customs and traditions, was a little poem that begins with “Jsem žid“, “I am Jewish”. It was written by František Bass, or Franz Bass, don’t know how they called him at home. Franz Bass sounds very much like Franz Kafka. Many Jews spoke German, or Jiddish, others spoke Czech, many spoke and wrote all three and more. František Bass was 11 years old. The poem is not very long, and rather conventional, as a patriotic poem. It is very forceful, very powerful, in the circumstances. So I wrote it down, in Czech, tried to copy all those letters and symbols exactly. There was an English translation next to the original poem. But although I don’t speak Czech, I could tell that the original was a real poem, there is economy in the words, there are very few words compared to the clumsy translation. I wrote it down, and a few days later I got around to Google the poem. So I found this paper online, a thesis or a dissertation at a Czech university, just a text file. The little poem by Franz Bass is quoted in full, and it is put in context with another poem by the 14-year-old Hanuš Hachenburg. Hanush Hachenburg asks, asks himself and the listener what he his, which country or nation he could belong to. He should be Czech, at least he writes in Czech. But no, Hachenburg is answered by Frantishek Bass, he can only say for certain that he’s Jewish. And you can be proud of being Jewish, says Frantishek Bass. That’s what his poem is about, so I’ve called it patriotic. I think it’s very powerful. Jsem žid a židem zůstanu, i když já hlady umírati budu, tak nepodám se národu. I am Jewish, I will stay Jewish, even if  I die of hunger, I won’t give up my nation. Or I won’t give in to any other nation, it doesn’t really matter, you’ll see. Bojovat já vždy budu, za můj národ na mou čest, Nikdy se stydět nebudu, za můj národ na mou čest. I’ll always be fighting, for my nation, on my honor. I’ll never be ashamed of my nation, on my honor. Big words. I grew up in Austria, and I’ve lived in China for a long while, and there is ample reason in Austria and in China and in many other places to be suspicious of such words. But in this Czech Jewish poem, they are different words, their meaning is different. Pyšný já jsem na svůj národ, jakou má ten národ čest. I am proud of my nation, an honorful nation. Vždy já budu utlačený, Vždy já budu zase žít. I will always be oppressed and killed, and I’ll always live again.

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