The Holocaust poet
Kalman Lis (1903-1942) was born in Kovel, Wolin. He
studied in a traditional kheder, then in a Polish gymnazie, and in Vilna and
Warsaw high schools. He specialized in the care of children with special needs. From 1937
until his death, he was in charge of the Tsentos Institution for Defective
Children in Otwosk, near Warsaw. He began publishing his writing in his school years. His first book,
published in 1930, was Woliner Shliakhn,
(“Roads of Wolin”). His second book, Ershte Internatsionale Antologie fun Yiddishe
Lider (“First International Anthology of Yiddish Modern Yiddish Poetry”) was to
have been published in Warsaw, but never came out because of the outbreak of
WWII. In 1939 he won the I. L. Peretz Award for Young Poets from the Yiddish Pen
Center in Warsaw. He was wounded during the bombing of his Children's
Institution on September 1, 1939. He recovered in a Warsaw hospital, then
returned to the Otwosk Childrens Institution. When it was attacked by
Germans in 1942, he and some of the children ran away. His hiding place was
discovered and he
was shot and killed together with the children. It is uncertain whether he was killed by Nazis
or by Poles.
And say that the mountain is unknown and far
and I am no more than a mischievous boy
that chases no goal but a far-crawling sun
to capture the light from the golden dish,
that dances on fences and walls like a squirrel
and is only a step on a mirrored rim ...
And believe me, Kalman the Jew is someone he hates.
Absurd? How come? That something called Kalman
should be the friend
of a mountain so proud of his Aryan root.
That to him should come someone so common, so plain
with a sack on his back, and a rope and a cane
to share the mountain eagles' good luck…
But know that the mountain is not what once was.
The mountain looks down from on high at today
and sees the blood bath in the valley below
and ponders that there will yet come ...
there will yet come a time when humans will know
that only one thing is purer than pure
Not race and not root—
just the swing of free wings and kindled flame
that burns in blood with one powerful wish
to go and to come with mountain stride
where space flows together with time—
in the blue unending eternity.