Two Hundred Smiling Orphans

Two Hundred Smiling Orphans

A Story by Alan S Jeeves
"

This is a true story, My visit to Jerusalem's Yad Vashem in 1994 was one of the most poignant days of my life. I sat alone in the solace of Janusz Korczac Square and tried to imagine the unimaginable

"
On a bright and sunny morning in the early January of 1994  I stood in the peaceful tranquillity of Janusz Korczak Square within the walls of Yad Vashem, Israel's famous monument to the victims of the Holocaust, which is perfectly sited near the Jerusalem Forest on the western slope of Mount Herzl (Mount of Remembrance), Jerusalem.  I gazed in awe there at a large sculptured statue portraying a bearded man embracing a dozen small children as if he was protecting them from something or someone wicked.  I was, in fact, looking at a fine statue standing approximately twice life size and wonderfully cast in bronze.  I learned that it was sculptured in 1978/79 by Russian-Israeli artist Baruch (Boris) Saktsier (1942-2016) who named his creation 'Korczak and the Ghetto's Children'.  There was just something about this intriguing statue that inspired me to endeavour to learn more.  What was it doing there?  Who was Janusz Korczak?  What deeds did he perform to earn a prominent place here at Yad Vashem?

Janusz Korczak, then, was a Polish educator and doctor.  He was actually born Henryk Goldszmit, in Warsaw, on July 22nd. 1878 (or maybe 1879 as he was unsure of his birth year ~ no matter).  He was also an author of books concerning children.  He had worked as a pediatrician at Warsaw's 'Bersohns and Baumans Children's Hospital'  and later travelled to Germany's capital city, Berlin, in order to work for the Orphans' Society there where, in 1909,  he met one Stefania Wilczńska (1886-1942) ~ or Stefa as she was affectionately known.  However, Dr. Korczak made up his mind to return to Poland with the intention of setting up an orphanage, the Dom Sierot, for Jewish children in Warsaw and he invited Stefa to work with him there.  Originally born into the Jewish faith, he became an agnostic later in his life.  

Henryk Goldszmit, the author, had decided to use a pseudonym and chose the name Janusz Korczak, inspired by the title of a book that he admired called 'O Janaszu Korczaku i Pięknej Miecznikównie' (Janusz Korczak and the Pretty Swordsweeperlady) by Jósef Ignacy Kraszewski.

In early August 1942 Dr. Korczak had in his care, at his orphanage, some 192 children aged between seven and fourteen years.  The establishment had earlier been relocated to the Warsaw Ghetto of a Nazi occupied Poland.  On 5/6 August soldiers of the German army arrived at the orphanage to transport all of the children to Treblinka Extermination Camp.  Janusz Korczak had been offered sanctuary by the Polish underground organisation, Żegota, but repeatedly refused, preferring to remain with the children to the end. The children were requested, by Dr. Korczak, to dress in their finest clothes and were each allowed a favourite book or toy to take as a travelling companion.   Then Dr. Korczak and Stefa, accompanied by around ten other orphanage staff members and the children, all made their way down to the railway station in five orderly lines and were never seen or heard of again.  I have to ask myself  'Would I have done the same in his place?'  ~  Or was Janusz Korczak really the son of God?

A Polish contemporary of Janusz Korczac, Yiddish writer Joshua Perle (1888-1943), wrote the following poignant words as he witnessed the group marching off  (Perle ultimately suffered the same fate as them, having been transported to Auschwitz II - Birkenhau concentration camp one year later).  

     'Janusz Korczak was marching, his head bent forward, holding the hand of
        a child, without a hat, a leather belt around his waist, and wearing high boots. 
      A few nurses were followed by two hundred children, dressed in clean and
     meticulously cared for clothes, as they were being carried to the altar.


TWO  HUNDRED  SMILING  ORPHANS
by Alan S Jeeves



Two Hundred smiling orphans
Playing in the sun.
Two Hundred smiling orphans
Jolly, having fun.
Two Hundred smiling orphans
Protected by their master...
Two Hundred smiling orphans
Destined for disaster.

Two hundred smiling orphans
Understanding their new ways.
Two hundred smiling orphans
Enjoying happy days.
Taught by Janusz Korczak,
Father to them all,
Two hundred smiling orphans
Learning to walk tall.

Two hundred smiling orphans
Trapped within a war.
Two hundred smiling orphans
Blind to what's in store.
Two hundred smiling orphans
Timid, weak and shy...
Two hundred smiling orphans
All condemned to die.

Two hundred smiling orphans
Marching down the street,
Two hundred smiling orphans
In the August heat.
Two hundred smiling orphans
In his wake like ducks,
Led by Janusz Korczak
Author of their books.

Two Hundred smiling orphans
Transported far away.
Two Hundred smiling orphans
Facing their last day.
Two Hundred smiling orphans
Taken for a stroll,
Along with Janusz Korczak
Father of their soul.

Two hundred smiling orphans
Arrived at their new place.
Two hundred smiling orphans
Marching on apace.
Two hundred smiling orphans
Alighting from the train
Would they and Janusz Korczak
Ever smile again?

Two hundred smiling orphans
Now their dolor is told.
Two hundred smiling orphans
Their memoir to uphold.
Two hundred smiling orphans
Going on before,
For they and Janusz Korczak
Will smile for evermore.












© 2022 Alan S Jeeves


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A very moving poem ThAnkyou

War is tragic and we are all every country in a type of war now with our own govts many do not know this yet before it’s too late ⏰

Posted 2 Months Ago


Alan S Jeeves

2 Months Ago

Thanks for reading and commenting Julie.
This, so very sad, story of WWII is not so well kno.. read more
The history behind this poem is one we hoped would never happen again, and yet we do have again in Europe, with Ukraine an evil war with the potential to spread much further afield.

Your poem Alan, so poignant all I could do was shed tears. A tribute to the bravery and compassion of a man dedicated to the welfare of children who had already suffered incredible loss. He went with them knowing he could not leave them.


Chris

Posted 2 Months Ago


Alan S Jeeves

2 Months Ago

I think this is a lesser known incident of those terrible times Chris. You will be able to see Sakts.. read more

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Added on June 27, 2022
Last Updated on June 27, 2022
Tags: Holocaust, Janusz Korczak, orphans, world war II, Treblinka

Author

Alan S Jeeves
Alan S Jeeves

West Yorkshire, United Kingdom



About
I live among the Pennine Hills near Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, England. I was, though, born in Nelson, Lancashire., England. My days are spent writing, arranging and playing music - and also writing .. more..

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