Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction, Yiddish Literature, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality historical novels are some of my Literary Interests





Sunday, July 30, 2017

Dancing on a Powder Keg: The Intimate Voice of a Young Mother and Author, Her Letters Composed in The Lengthening Shadow of Hitler's Third Reich, Her Poems from the Theresienstadt Ghett


Poems and Letters by Ilse Weber, translated by Michael Swartz, with an afterword by Vlaike Migdal, and an essay by Ruth Brady.  Letters and poems composed 1933 to 1944

First published in 2008, translated in English 2016

Bunim and Bannigan, Ltd, Publisher









Ilse Weber's letters and poems were found in an attic in London in 2000.  She wrote some sixty poems while an inmate at the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in Czechoslovakia, where she, her husband and their young son were sent in 1942.  In 1944 she, her husband and their son were transferred to Auschwitz.  After she died her husband hid the poems, it was a punishable offense to write anything about your experiences, in a garden shed, he was a camp gardener.  After the war he retrieved the poems and took them to London.  They remained in an attic until 2000 and were first published in 2008.

Weber belongs in the grand tradition of Holocaust poets including Paul Celan, Nelly Sachs and Dan Pagis.

Dancing on the Powder Keg also included a very moving collection of letters Ilse Weber wrote starting in 1933 revealing the growing cancerous corruption in Nazi dominated Czechoslovakia.  She continued to write letters once confined to the camp  but censors required they be very upbeat.

Dancing on the Powder Keg has been endorsed by Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Memorial Center as a valuable contribution to Holocaust Literature.



Dancing on the Powder Keg is a very important book, deeply moving.  Ilse Weber was a successful writer of children's books and radio scripts.

The production values on this book are very high.  I commend the publisher Bunim and Bannigan, Ltd for making this translation, including very illuminating essays by experts, available in English.



About the Author:

Ilse Weber (January 11, 1903 – October 6, 1944) née Herlinger, was born in Witkowitz near Mährisch-Ostrau in northern Czechoslovakia. A Jewish poet, she wrote in German, most notably songs and theater pieces for Jewish children. She married Willi Weber in 1930, and from 1933 onward she and her family were persecuted by the Nazis. In 1942, Ilse and her family were deported to the Theresienstadt Ghetto, where Ilse worked with sick children. In 1944, refusing to abandon the children, she voluntarily registered to the transport to Auschwitz with the children of Theresienstadt, where she was killed in the gas chambers, along with her son, Tommy. Her most popular book was Mendel Rosenbusch: Tales for Jewish Children (1929), and her songs – most notably Wiegala – continue to be performed by musicians around the world today. 

About the Translator:

Michal Schwartz studied literature and philosophy in Frankfurt and Jerusalem, and received her PhD in German-Jewish philosophy from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. After receiving a Max-Planck scholarship and spending two years of research and teaching in Germany, she moved with her family to Canada, where she completed a Masters in Studies of Law and taught philosophy of law at the University of Toronto. Her book, Metapher und Offenbarung. Zur Sprache von Franz Rosenzweigs Stern der Erlösung, was published in Berlin in 2003. Along academic articles and translations, she has enjoyed exploring and writing on Kabbalah and contemporary culture.n

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1 comment:

Suko said...

This is a wonderful introduction to Holocaust poets. Excellent post, Mel!