War Memories With Acrostic - Poem by Paul Hartal
Memories woven to monument towering to heaven
Of a sweet, gracious and wonderful woman.
Though she did nothing wrong, she was persecuted
Held daughter and son in arms, her man was deported.
Edgy at the brickyard, hurt in Jewish pride
Rascals put her in a jammed freight car for a railway ride.
Weary from thirst and hunger, surrounded by pain
Horror was unfolding on a rattling train.
Exhausted of the ordeal she arrived at the camps
Robbed of her freedom she stood under the lamps
Exposed to blowing snow, the barracks lacked ovens.
A small vulnerable woman there had seen forehand
Ruthless degradations, beastly atrocities offhand.
Experienced nightmare while the sun was shining
Yet hope knocked the door when bombs were falling.
Overwhelmed by explosions, frightened, panic-stricken
Unprotected against the blasts, she shielded her children.
Poet's Notes about The Poem
A rhyming echo of the Second World War, 'Memories with Acrostic' tells a true story of the Holocaust, based on the first hand experience of the poet.
On March 19,1944, Hitler's armies occupied Hungary. It did not take long and the then eight year old Paul Hartal and his family were deported to Nazi concentration camps. He was liberated from the Strasshof slave labor lager by the Russians in the spring of 1945. The bombing mentioned in the poem refers to an air raid that occurred on March 26,1945, when the US Air Force attacked the Strasshof marshalling yards in the vicinity of Vienna. Unbeknownst to the pilots that hundreds of Jewish prisoners—among them Paul Hartal, his mother and sister—were locked in box cars of a freight train, the American planes destroyed the marshalling yards in a dreadful carpet bombing raid in which many people died. Ironically, the bombing almost killed the future poet, too, but at the same time it probably also saved his life, because it interfered with the ‘final solution' plans of the Nazis in the camp.
An amazing part of this story pertains to an emotional meeting that took place many years after the war. In the spring of 2004 Paul Hartal met in San Diego with Hal Rout and Larry Rosenberg, American aviators who participated in Mission 203, the bombing of Strasshof. Rout was the co-pilot and Rosenberg the bombardier of a B-24 Liberator in Mission 203. Ironically, Lt. Rosenberg, recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, happened to be a Jewish raider of Strasshof. The 'reunion' was reported by Fox News in California on March 27,2004.
'Memories with Acrostic' was firs published in 'Postmodern Light: A Collection of Poetry' by Paul Hartal; Montreal and San Diego: Orange Monad Editions,2006, p.82
For further reading:
Arthur Lightbourn, 'Three men whose lives crossed during WWII meet almost 60 years later in RSF',
Rancho Santa Fe Review, April 8,2004
B. A. Lanman and L.M. Wendling, 'On Heroic Wings', Foreword by President George H.W. Bush, San Diego: The Distinguished Flying Cross Society,2012, pp. 64-67
Paul Hartal, 'Liberation', The 461st Liberaider (US Air Force) , June 2002, Vol.19, No.1
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