Paul Hartal

An Oak Wood Piano On Kristallnacht - Poem by Paul Hartal

The SS guard hit Zindel Grynszpan on the head and he fell
Into a ditch. Father, he heard the voice of his son, you must
Go on. Zindel took the hand of his son and climbed out of
The trench. With his wife, a son and daughter on his side
They continued the march. But the SS guards did not stop
The savage whipping of the deportees. Blood was flowing
On all sides.

The Grynszpan family were Polish Jews from Hanover.
When the Nazis came to power they became outcasts.
In October 1938 they were expelled from Germany
And deported to Poland in a group of 12,000 Jews.
They were taken by train to the frontier town Neubenschen
And from there on foot to the German-Polish border.
When they reached the border heavy rain started to fall.

The Nazis confiscated their money. They had no food to eat.
Polish officers arrived and began to inspect their papers.
They admitted the refugees with Polish passports,
Housing them in military stables. Old, sick and children
Were herded together in most inhuman conditions.

One of the first things that Zindel did in Poland was to send
A postcard to his seventeen year old son Hirsch in Paris.
When Hirsch Grynszpan read the family’s tribulations
He became furious. His heart was filled with rage and hatred
And he decided to avenge their sufferings. On the morning
Of November 7, Hirsch entered a gunsmith’s shop on rue
Faubourg Saint-Martin and purchased a 6.35 calibre pistol
With a box of 25 bullets, for 235 Francs.

Then he took a ride on the Metro to the Solferino stop
And walked to the German Embassy at 78 rue de Lille.
Hirsch told the receptionist that he has some documents with him.
He was received by Ernst vom Rath, the third secretary.
When the German diplomat closed the door Hirsch pulled out
The gun. “You are a filthy Kraut”, he said, “and in the name of
12,000 persecuted Jews here is the document”. He fired five
Bullets from point blank range at vom Rath. The diplomat died
Two days later of his wounds.

The assassination came as a godsend thing for the Nazis.
Hitler denounced it as part of a global Jewish conspiracy
Against Germany. It became a pretext for the well-orchestrated
Pogrom of Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass.
During the night of November 9-10,1938, in every place
Throughout the Third Reich, Storm Troops attacked Jews
And Jewish institutions.

Hitler’s henchmen burnt down or destroyed in Germany
Nearly two hundred synagogues. They burst into Jewish houses,
Broke the glass of Jewish businesses and beat up Jews wherever
They found them. About ninety people were murdered
And thousands of others were wounded in the street violence.
The Nazis also arrested thirty thousand Jews and sent them
To concentration camps in Buchenwald, Dachau,
And Sachsenhausen. And on top of all this, the Reich
Cynically imposed a billion mark penalty
On the Jewish Community to pay for the damages.

In Berlin hundreds of truncheon swinging storm troops
Led the mob in smashing up the glass plate windows
Of Jewish stores. In the Jewish neighbourhoods of German
Cities the Nazis lit bonfires. They threw on them to burn
Torah scrolls, prayer books and whole libraries. Thousands
Of Germans joined the Storm Troops in the atrocities.
But many resented the pogrom. People watched in horror
The roundup; they cried silently behind their curtains.

On a third floor balcony in Leipzig
Storm Troops shattered a balustrade and pushed
An upright oak wood piano over the edge. It plunged like
A black wingless dragon and fell helplessly to the street.
It crashed on the pavement with a shocking clamour.
Its wooden casing had split. The strings stripped bare
Stood in the middle of the wreckage as an orphan harp
Screaming with a heartbreaking outcry.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, October 10, 2011

Poem Edited: Tuesday, October 11, 2011

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