Seventy years since the survivors’ of Auschwitz were liberated, I was watching a tv documentary where six of them recounted their stories of survival and the terrible aftermath they’ve endured, of nightmares and tragedies. One Polish man, Dr Tadeusz Smreczynski, who became a doctor and practiced general medicine within ten minutes of the camp gates, has been forever haunted, not just by the memories but by his own physical proximity to the camps. One other thing that horrifies him, is an aria from Puccini’s opera, Tosca, itself a tale told against a backdrop of tyranny and oppression. He heard an inmate singing the aria. He said it was strange to hear such a thing in the surroundings of the camp. An S.S. guard heard it, too and ran to find its source. Our survivor asked someone, what happened? The singer was killed. His story moved me to write this poem.

Tosca’s tale
of love and loss
sung aloud, forlornly
in Auschwitz,
the charnel house
of tyranny,
rang true and clear
without breath of fear,
set free by willing
and defiant spirit,
to relate the story
of love’s contentious struggle
against bitter hate
and treachery
and though
suddenly snuffed
and silenced,
its defiant message
rings true today
as in the words
of Edmund Burke,
sing now
and defy
all tyrants

7 thoughts on “Tosca’s Tale

      • My pleasure Dermott. It is timely now but also then for those who didn’t have their heads in the sand… For my thinking, such as it is, it could have been run at least annually since the debut of blogging. I’m afraid I’ve seen to much to believe otherwise.

      • This poem acquired a life of its own when it was used by a class of post graduate linguistics students in Poland to translate. Then their professor translated it and finally, it was translated to German by a lecturer in Trinity College, Dublin. The last I heard about it was a proposal to publish all three versions in a pamphlet for the Auschwitz monument in Poland along with a letter I received from Dr Tadeus Smerzinsky regarding its sentiment.

      • Wow! I wrote a couple of poems, but one in particular from a painting that grabbed me as I entered the Simon Wiesenthal Museum in Los Angeles back in 1990. I used it a few years ago as a post on one of my blogs. While I hate reading publicly I read it at a University Photography Museum years ago. A friend who was a survivor walked in as I was doing so and I saw her from the corner of my eye. I also saw her turn around and walk out. Later, Claire told me she just couldn’t hear it anymore but that it was important to keep sharing it. That is why I posted it.

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