Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Orpheus Raising Hell: Memories of the late Aleksander Kulisiewicz

"The late Aleksander Kulisiewicz (Alex to his friends) lived
in a world turned topsy turvy. While others did backward
somersaults of denial to compensate for the rude disruption
to their everyday lives, turning a blind eye to the unsightly
reality, thereby deflecting attention from themselves and
feigning normalcy, Alex had the effrontery (foolish or
courageous—take your pick) to stand upright and look the
lies and liars in the eye. Neither Jew nor Gypsy, Communist,
homosexual, Jehovah's Witness, high profile Polish intellectual
or other likely candidate for the Nazi roster of undesirables,
he could, like most of his contemporaries, have kept his mouth
shut and bit his tongue to still the hunger and disgust, but Alex
stuck out his tongue. "Genug Hitler, Heil Butter!"
(Enough Hitler, Heil Butter!) he wrote in an anonymous jibe
entitled "Homemade Hitlerisms" in a student newspaper
subsequently traced by the Gestapo back to its author.
He was arrested in 1939, at the age of 22, and sent to
Sachsenhausen concentration camp, the grim finishing school,
where he spent the next five years (or more precisely,
66 months in Hell) and found his true calling as a modern
day Orpheus, a troubadour of the unutterable. In 54 of his
own songs composed and first performed surreptitiously
during his incarceration, Alex snubbed his nose at the German
authorities to amuse and boost the morale of his fellow inmates.
He also committed to memory hundreds of other songs and
poems gathered from those who suspected that their own
end was near. Following an informant's denunciation and the
subsequent brutal interrogation, he was injected with
diphtheria bacilli to shut him up for good ... "

Opening lines to the essay
Orpheus Raising Hell: Memories of the late Aleksander Kulisiewicz
By Peter Wortsman

The full essay is available on the Web-site of the United States
Holocaust Memorial Museum, at this page (one must click the
link to the Wortsman essay near the bottom of the opening page):



The above link also includes two photos of Aleksander Kulisiewicz,
taken in Krakow, Poland, in ca. 1970 and, I believe, ca. 1980.


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