June 19, 1909|
|Died||August 0, 1942
|Occupation||Poet and writer|
Second World War
|Notable work(s)||Zamknięty pokój (1930)
Imiona świata (1934)
Henryka Łazowertówna (pron. xɛnˈrɨka waˌzɔvɛrˈtuvna; in full Henryka Wanda Łazowertówna); also Henryka Lazowert, or wrongly Lazawert, (born 19 June 1909 in Warsaw; died August 1942 at Treblinka) was a Polish lyric poet. While in general deeply personal in nature and of great emotive intensity, her poetry is not devoid of social concerns and patriotic overtones. She is considered one of the most eminent Polish authors of Jewish descent.
To the reading public she is best known as the author of the famous poem "Mały szmugler" (The Little Smuggler), written in the Warsaw Ghetto c.1941 but first published posthumously in 1947, and dealing with the subject of a smuggler child struggling single-handedly to keep his family alive by bringing provisions over from the "Aryan" side at the risk of his own life – a poem which begins with the stanza:
Przez mury, przez dziury, przez warty
Przez druty, przez gruzy, przez płot
Zgłodniały, zuchwały, uparty
Przemykam, przebiegam jak kot.
Over walls, over holes, past guards unsparing
Over fence, barbed wire and rubble
All-famished but stubborn and daring
My steps, like a cat, I redouble.
Past rubble, fence, barbed wire
Past soldiers guarding the Wall,
Starving but still defiant,
I softly steal past them all.
The original text of the poem, together with translations in English and in Hebrew, is today inscribed on the Memorial to the Child Victims of the Holocaust (see Pomnik Pamięci Dzieci) in Warsaw, serving as the epitaph for the million children murdered in the Holocaust.
Henryka Łazowertówna was the daughter of Maksymilian Łazowert and his wife Bluma. Her mother was a schoolteacher. Łazowertówna studied Polish and Romance philology at the University of Warsaw, and subsequently French literature at the University of Grenoble on a scholarship funded by the Polish interwar Government. A significant episode during her studies in Warsaw was the commotion she witnessed one day on her way to lectures in which Warsaw University students, members of ONR–Falanga were assaulting those with Semitic features at the gates of the University campus. They let her through without incident.
She was a very active member of the Warsaw section of the Polish Writers' Union, participating in the events organized by the institution, such as for example the conference commemorating the 10th anniversary of the death of the writer Stefan Żeromski in December 1935, an event during which she read from her works alongside such famous poets as Czesław Miłosz, Juljan Tuwim, and Kazimierz Wierzyński. Among the literary magazines of the day Łazowertówna collaborated principally with the literary journals Droga and Pion. She was seen as being poetically close to the Skamander circle, publishing in her short life of 33 years two collections of poetry, Zamknięty pokój ("A Closed Room"), in which the Closed Room of the title poem is self-avowedly a metaphor for the person of the poet herself, and Imiona świata ("The Names the World is Known By"), whose programmatic poem fulfills the poet's promise of the earlier collection to sound a voice uniquely her own among the women poets of the interbellum period. Zamknięty pokój ("A Closed Room") was – in the words of the writer and a stern literary critic Karol Wiktor Zawodziński (1890–1949) – a manifestation of a particularly subtile poetic talent and an extraordinary intelligence, both struggling to break free of the magic circle of subjectivism and onto the rough and tough ferment of the world (zamęt życia).
Politically speaking, Henryka Łazowertówna was known for her left-wing sympathies, a point on which she differed – in the opinion of Józef Łobodowski – from another famous poet of her generation, Zuzanna Ginczanka. However, her leftism was a condition of her sensitivity to social injustice and her moral rejection of all forms of oppression rather than an outcome of a political ideology. In contradistinction to Lucjan Szenwald, her contemporary, she remained fundamentally a lyric poet to the end.
Also unlike Ginczanka Łazowertówna was not a woman of extraordinary physical beauty, but she possessed charm and grace which, coupled with her simplicity of demeanour and straightforward attitude, made her in the eyes of those who knew her personally the embodiment of femininity. A certain simplicity and straightforwardness of style characterizes also her poetry. Łazowertówna never tried to project herself as other than she was. She lived in Warsaw with her mother in the ulica Sienna. She loved books, which she bought at a considerable harm to her meagre budget rather than using libraries because, as she explained, "when I tackle a book I do not part with it until I am finished, reading at meals, in bed... The book is with me at all times, I do not take a single step away from it, and such close companionship is possible only where a book does not repulse by its physical appearance [sc. as many library books do]. I do prefer to read a book untouched by the hands of others, to cut the pages, to rejoice in the peculiar fragrance of the printer's ink."
Biographer Eugenia Prokop-Janiec of Jagiellonian University asserts that it is the active antisemitism of the Polish society (Gazeta Warszawska) in the 1930s that ultimately forced the writers and poets like Henryka Łazowertówna and Sydor Rey (1908–1979), who never espoused any particular aspect of specifically Jewish identity while working in the Polish language, to align themselves with the Jewish community for the first time during either the Interbellum or the Second World War. Indeed, the hostility obtaining between the Jewish and non-Jewish communities in Poland receives an eloquent treatment in Łazowertówna's own fictional short story Wrogowie ("The Enemies"), published in 1938 – sixteen months before the outbreak of the Second World War – where she tells the story of two child hawkers of pretzels, the one Jewish the other Gentile, who with great animosity towards each other aggressively compete for custom until common misfortune counsels them to join forces in the cause of common good (see Works in Prose).
Other established Jewish writers enjoyed the utmost prestige in the country, such as Bolesław Leśmian, Julian Tuwim, Antoni Słonimski as well as other Jewish members and celebrated recipients of the Golden Laurel from the Polish Academy of Literature (PAL), thus making Łazowertówna's biography somewhat unique.
In the Warsaw Ghetto
During the Nazi Germany's Invasion of Poland in September 1939 part of Łazowertówna's Warsaw apartment in the ulica Sienna, which she shared with her mother, was destroyed in the strategic bombing conducted by the Luftwaffe, but it was found possible to make the remaining quarters habitable again. (Łazowertówna's father had died of natural causes before the War.)
A year after the outbreak of the Second World War Henryka Łazowertówna found herself suddenly interned in the Warsaw Ghetto, like other residents of Jewish origin in the city, though without forced resettlement — the ulica Sienna of her residence having been simply encircled by the borders of the so-called "Little Ghetto" (of the Ghetto's two parts, the North Side and the South Side, this was the South Side). As observed by Władysław Smólski (1909–1986), who visited her often during the first year of the War, the drama unfolding around her proved for Łazowertówna an opportunity to rise to the occasion displaying unhoped-for reserves of determination and strength. She immediately began collaboration with the Jewish charitable organization CENTOS whose mission was the care for orphaned or homeless children. Here she was recruited by Emanuel Ringelblum as a worker at his social-aid organization, the Żydowska Samopomoc Społeczna or Aleynhilf. Her duties were those of a copy-writer for the various ad hoc utilitarian publications of that charitable institution (information leaflets, appeals for donations, etc.).
She was subsequently recruited by Ringelblum to staff the Oyneg Shabbos Archives — also known as the Emanuel Ringelblum Archives in the UNESCO's Memory of the World Programme's Memory of the World Register — where she distinguished herself in her work documenting the tragic vicissitudes of fate of refugees from various parts of Poland, having been praised by Ringelblum for her remarkable ability to bring to life and instill with vivid actuality the dry statistical facts recorded for the posterity by the organization about individual human beings.
In the Ghetto she continued to write poetry. Apart from the testimony to the realities of Ghetto life memorialized in the famous poem "Mały szmugler" (The Little Smuggler), there also survives (preserved in the Adam Mickiewicz Museum of Literature of Warsaw) the letter of Łazowertówna addressed to the poet Roman Kołoniecki (1906–1978) and dated 6 September 1941, a moving lyrical account of the Ghetto streets and the passersby to be encountered in them.
Łazowertówna had apparently no illusions that she needed outside help in order to survive: already in February or March 1940 (i.e., many months before the creation of the Ghetto), she enlisted the services of Ludwik Brandstaetter, the father of the well-known writer Roman Brandstaetter, in approaching a mutual Polish poet-friend with a request for assistance with resettlement in Cracow, a city which she believed would offer her anonymity and hence greater security. One last (bitter) comment on the ultimate fate of Łazowertówna is offered by Emanuel Ringelblum himself:
- Łazowertówna was ill with a lung condition; however without a substantial amount of money in cash, without some ten thousand zlotys or so, one could not dream of [crossing over to] the Aryan side... she had lots of Polish friends, after all they honoured her with many an authorial evening reception, she was a member of the Polish Writers' Union — despite all this there wasn't anyone in the end to save her...
However, Władysław Smólski reports that when it became clear in the course of 1941 that the Ghetto would be eventually closed off from the outside world, many of Łazowertówna's friends counselled her to leave the precinct (together with her mother) while this was still possible, offering to find a safe house for the two of them. She apparently refused to do so, arguing that she was needed by the most unfortunate of beings, the children, orphaned or homeless, from whom she cared at the time.
During the so-called Großaktion Warschau, the mass deportations of the Warsaw Ghetto population to the Treblinka extermination camp conducted by the Nazis between July and September 1942, Henryka Łazowertówna of her own free will accompanied her mother to the Umschlagplatz or the railway loading-dock that served as a point of departure for the victims being sent to their deaths at Treblinka gas chambers some 84 kilometres to the north-east as the crow flies. The organization that employed her, the Aleynhilf, attempted to rescue Łazowertówna from being included in the transport, but when she learned that she would have to leave her mother behind Łazowertówna declined the assistance being offered to her alone.
- Zamknięty pokój (1930)
- Imiona świata (1934)
- "O zachodzie słońca" ("At the Setting of the Sun"; Pamiętnik Warszawski (Warsaw), vol. 3, Nos. 7–9, July–September 1931, page 88)
- "Noc na ulicy Śliskiej" ("A Night in Śliska Street"; Droga: miesięcznik poświęcony sprawie życia polskiego (Warsaw), vol. 14, No. 4, 1935, page 365)
- "Mały szmugler" ("The Little Smuggler", c.1941; first publication in: Pieśń ujdzie cało...: antologia wierszy o Żydach pod okupacją niemiecką, comp., ed., & introd. M M. Borwicz, Warsaw, [n.p.], 1947, pages 115–116) (See on Google Books.) (For an English translation, see e.g., Patricia Heberer, Children during the Holocaust, Lanham (Maryland), AltaMira Press (in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum), 2011, p. 343. ISBN 9780759119840, ISBN 0759119848.)
- "Anna de Noailles" (On Anna de Noailles; Droga: miesięcznik poświęcony sprawie życia polskiego (Warsaw), vol. 13, No. 4, 1934, pages 399–401)
- Wrogowie: opowiadanie ("The Enemies: A Short Story"; Nowy Głos (a daily Jewish newspaper of Warsaw), vol. 2, No. 120, 30 April 1938, page 6. An allegory, not without hope, on the hostile race relations between the Jewish and non-Jewish communities of Poland.)
Notes and references
- Edward Kozikowski, Więcej prawdy niż plotki: wspomnienia o pisarzach czasów minionych, Warsaw, Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1964, p. 424.
- Bibliografia literatury polskiej Nowy Korbut, T. 17, vol. 1 ("Bolesław Prus (Aleksander Głowacki)"), ed. T. Tyszkiewicz, et al., Warsaw, Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1981, pp. 178, & 186. ISBN 8306001044.
- Samuel D. Kassow (May 18, 2011). "A Band of Comrades". Who Will Write Our History?: Rediscovering a Hidden Archive from the Warsaw Ghetto. Random House Digital. pp. 181–182. ISBN 0307793753. Retrieved 2013-05-06.
- ISHS (2013). "The Image of Humanity in the Shadow of Death". The International School for Holocaust Studies. Yad Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority. Retrieved 2013-05-06. "Lazawert, Henryka, as quoted in Trunk, Isiah, Holocaust Curriculum for Jewish Schools – "Civil Self Defense", New York: American Association for Jewish Education, date unknown, p. 8."
- The French encyclopaedia Grand Larousse encyclopédique (see "Pologne").
- Bella Szwarcman-Czarnota (April 2013). "Henryka Łazowertówna re: "Mały szmugler"". Baza wiedzy, Literatura (in Polish). Adam Mickiewicz Institute Culture.pl. Retrieved 2013-05-06.
- Henryka Łazowertówna, "Mały szmugler" (The Little Smuggler; lines 1–4); in: Pieśń ujdzie cało...: antologia wierszy o Żydach pod okupacją niemiecką, comp., ed., & introd. M M. Borwicz, Warsaw, [n.p.], 1947, pp. 115–116.
- Richard C. Lukas, Did the Children Cry?: Hitler's War against Jewish and Polish Children, 1939–1945, New York, Hippocrene Books, 1994, p. 31. ISBN 0781802423.
- Władysław Smólski, "Tragiczny los poetki" (The Tragic Fate of a Poetess), Stolica (Warsaw), vol. 20, No. 14 (904), 4 April 1965, p. 16.
- "Uroczysta akademja ku czci Stefana Żeromskiego" (A Solemn Ceremony in Honour of Stefan Żeromski), Tygodnik Illustrowany (Warsaw), vol. 76, No. 49 (3,965), 8 December 1935, p. 976. (See online.)
- Henryka Łazowertówna, Zamknięty pokój, Warsaw, Nasza Bibljoteka, 1930, p. 52.
- Kazimierz Andrzej Jaworski, "Noty", Kamena, vol. 1, No. 9, May 1934, pp. 170–171.
- Karol Wiktor Zawodziński, Opowieści o powieśći, ed. Cz. Zgorzelski, Kraków, Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1963, p. 261. Cf. Władysław Smólski, "Tragiczny los poetki" (The Tragic Fate of a Poetess), Stolica (Warsaw), vol. 20, No. 14 (904), 4 April 1965, p. 16.
- Józef Łobodowski, "O cyganach i katastrofistach" (About the Bohemians and the Catastrophists), Kultura (Paris), No. 9, 1964, pp. 59–68.
- Tadeusz K. Gierymski, "O tym nie można ani mówić, ani milczeć" (A Subject Unfit to be Talked About or to be Passed Over in Silence), Spojrzenia (ezine), No. 123, 28 April 1995. ISSN 1067-4020. (See online.)
- Edward Kozikowski, Więcej prawdy niż plotki: wspomnienia o pisarzach czasów minionych, Warsaw, Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1964, p. 425.
- Eugenia Prokop-Janiec, Polish–Jewish Literature in the Interwar Years tr. A. Shenitzer, Syracuse (New York), Syracuse University Press, 2003, pp. 94–95, 109. ISBN 0815629842.
- "Polska Akademia Literatury". Encyklopedia Onet.pl, Grupa Onet.pl SA. 2011. Retrieved December 12, 2011.
- Tadeusz K. Gierymski, "O tym nie można ani mówić, ani milczeć" (A Subject Unfit to be Talked About or to be Passed Over in Silence), Spojrzenia (ezine), No. 123, 28 April 1995. ISSN 1067-4020. (See online.) On CENTOS (or Centos; "The Central Organization for Orphan Care"), see Barbara Engelking & Jacek Leociak, The Warsaw Ghetto: A Guide to the Perished City, tr. E. Harris, New Haven (Connecticut), Yale University Press, 2009, p. 341. ISBN 9780300112344, ISBN 0300112343.
- Samuel D. Kassow, Who will Write Our History?: Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes Archive, Bloomington (Indiana), Indiana University Press, 2007, p. 181. ISBN 9780253349088, ISBN 0253349087.
- Samuel D. Kassow, Who will Write Our History?: Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes Archive, Bloomington (Indiana), Indiana University Press, 2007, pp. 181–182. ISBN 9780253349088, ISBN 0253349087.
- The Adam Mickiewicz Museum of Literature, shelf mark 2235, vol. 2. Cf. Piotr Matywiecki, Kamień graniczny, Warsaw, Latona, 1994, pp. 196 & 276. ISBN 8385449205.
- Edward Kozikowski, Więcej prawdy niż plotki: wspomnienia o pisarzach czasów minionych, Warsaw, Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1964, p. 431.
- Władysław Smólski, "Tragiczny los poetki" (The Tragic Fate of a Poetess), Stolica (Warsaw), vol. 20, No. 14 (904), 4 April 1965, p. 16. Cf. Barbara Engelking, Zagłada i pamięć: doświadczenie Holocaustu i jego konsekwencje opisane na podstawie relacji autobiograficznych, Warsaw, Wydawnictwo IFiS PAN [Instytutu Filozofii i Socjologii Polskiej Akademii Nauk], 1994, p. 129. ISBN 8385194983. (Engelking (b. 1962) claims that Łazowertówna "refused to cross over to the Aryan side because she did not want to be separated from her mother".)
- Samuel D. Kassow, Who will Write Our History?: Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes Archive, Bloomington (Indiana), Indiana University Press, 2007, p. 182. ISBN 9780253349088, ISBN 0253349087.
- Cf. The Ghetto Anthology: A Comprehensive Chronicle of the Extermination of Jewry in Nazi Death Camps and Ghettos in Poland, comp. & ed. R. Mogilanski, rev. B. Grey, Los Angeles, American Congress of Jews from Poland and Survivors of Concentration Camps, 1985, p. 50. ISBN 0961645003.
- Cf. Jenny Robertson, "Don't Go to Uncle's Wedding": Voices from the Warsaw Ghetto, London, Azure, 2000, p. 18. ISBN 1902694112.
- Zamknięty pokój ("A Closed Room"; 1930) on Google Books
- Imiona świata ("The Names the World is Known By"; 1934) on Google Books
- Encyklopedia PWN, s.v. "Łazowertówna, Henryka" online (See also Internetowa encyklopedia PWN.)
- Poezja polska, 1914–1939: antologia, comp. & ed. R. Matuszewski & S. Pollak, Warsaw, Czytelnik, 1962. An anthology of Polish poetry criticized in the Polish press specifically for its inclusion of only two poems by a poet "as important as Łazowertówna": see T. S., "Antologia poezji" (An Anthology of Poetry?), Stolica (Warsaw), vol. 18, No. 6 (792), 10 February 1963, p. 19.
- Edward Kozikowski, "Henryka Łazowertówna"; in id., Więcej prawdy niż plotki: wspomnienia o pisarzach czasów minionych, Warsaw, Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1964, pages 420ff.
- Władysław Smólski, "Tragiczny los poetki" (The Tragic Fate of a Poetess), Stolica (Warsaw), vol. 20, No. 14 (904), 4 April 1965, p. 16. (Recollections of a personal acquaintance of Łazowertówna; the article includes a rare photograph of her.)
- Karol Wiktor Zawodziński, "'Zamknięty pokój' Henryki Łazowertówny" (A Closed Room of Henryka Łazowertówna), Pamiętnik Warszawski (Warsaw), vol. 3, No. 3, March 1931, pages 90–93; reprinted in id., Wśród poetów, Cracow, Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1964, pages 312–315; see also pages 117 & 329–330.
- Piotr Matywiecki, Kamień graniczny, Warsaw, Latona, 1994, pages 196 – 276. ISBN 8385449205.
- Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, ed. I. Gutman, vol. 4, New York, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1995, p. 884, col. 1. ISBN 0028960904.
- Tadeusz K. Gierymski, "O tym nie można ani mówić, ani milczeć" (A Subject Unfit to be Talked About or to be Passed Over in Silence), Spojrzenia (ezine), No. 123, 28 April 1995. ISSN 1067-4020. (See online.)
- Ionas Turkov, C'était ainsi: 1939–1945, la vie dans le ghetto de Varsovie, tr. from the Yiddish to French M. Pfeffer, Paris, Austral, 1995. ISBN 2841120309.
- Regina Grol, "Henryka Łazowertówna: poetka i świadek życia getta warszawskiego", Midrasz (Warsaw), No. 4 (108), 2006, pages 22–25. ISSN 1428-121X.
- Samuel D. Kassow, "The Polish Language Writers: Henryka Lazowert [sic] and Gustawa Jarecka"; in id., Who will Write Our History?: Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes Archive, Bloomington (Indiana), Indiana University Press, 2007, pages 181ff. ISBN 9780253349088, ISBN 0253349087.
- Barbara Engelking & Jacek Leociak, The Warsaw Ghetto: A Guide to the Perished City, tr. E. Harris, New Haven (Connecticut), Yale University Press, 2009, passim. ISBN 9780300112344, ISBN 0300112343. (Includes English translation in blank verse of the poem "Mały szmugler"—"The Little Smuggler", pp. 448–449.)
- Patricia Heberer, Children during the Holocaust, introd. Nechama Tec, advisory committee Christopher R. Browning, et al., Lanham (Maryland), AltaMira Press (in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum), 2011, pages 342ff. ISBN 9780759119840, ISBN 0759119848. (Includes literal English translation in blank verse of the poem "Mały szmugler"—"The Little Smuggler", p. 343.)