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ESCAPING THE LIONS IN THE COLISSEUM THAT WAS WARSAW
am 15. Februar 2000
On my first visit to Warsaw my 81-year old cousin, a friend of the author, recommended this book. I was told that as Smierc Miasta it was poorly written: in English Anthea Bell has made it poetic, and truly evocative.
The story of the herding into the ghetto; the parasitical class conspiring with the Nazis to be at the top of the pyre, gaining extra weeks of life.
The symbolic of slicing a toffee as a last meal at Umschlagplatz before the family go off to cremation; the escape by random selection of the author; the hiding, the fear, the isolation and sense of being alone. The suicidal streak, and yet survival.
To hide, and yet be discovered against the backdrop of the Warsaw Rising of August 1944, and to be discovered by a German Officer....and fed, and saved. An officer who lost his own life in a Soviet camp. The path to redemption of the German officer, ashamed of what his people have done, and saving one life amidst the loss of so many. Do not forget 250.000 people died in that August Rising, and the rest taken to Pruschkow for transport to concentration camps.
It is a story of poignancy: you begin to wonder what he has survived for; family gone, friends gone; city gone; culture gone. How does one rebuild after peering into the Abyss ? And, it should not be forgotten - visit Pawiak, the remnants of the Nazi Gaol - 40.000 Poles were executed for hiding Jews in a country where whole apartment blocks were executed for common humanity. This was the story of a Polish Jew, a pianist trained in Germany, and the utter barbarity of demonic forces of destruction.