Over 60 years after the Holocaust, hatred, antisemitism, and genocide still threaten our world. The life stories of Holocaust survivors transcend the decades and remind us of the constant need to be vigilant citizens and to stop injustice, prejudice, and hatred wherever and whenever they occur.
This podcast series presents excerpts of interviews with Holocaust survivors from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s public program First Person: Conversations with Holocaust Survivors.
In today’s episode Herman Taube talks with host Bill Benson about his life before the Holocaust. Herman began writing poetry as a young boy in prewar Lodz, Poland.
While you were young, you actually—quite young—began to write poetry. Tell us about how you got started and how you managed to be able to write poetry.
When my mother died I was nine years old. I was very lonely. My other grandmother lived in another town. And relatives—each one struggled to make a living. I used to write letters to my mother. “Why did you leave me?” This type of poetry. I didn’t have any paper so I used to write on the wall in my room and then erase it. So one day my grandmother discovered it and bought me a copy book that I should write it in that. And so I started to write notes. Actually it wasn’t poetry. Writing notes to my mother always asking “Why did you leave me so alone?” and “How dare you leave me,” so this was my beginning.
At school, at gymnasium later, I started to write poetry for a newsletter, a school newspaper. In the beginning we didn’t even print it. We had it on the wall hanging there every week. So I always contributed poetry to that. And this was the beginning. And at the age of 15, for my birthday, they surprised me with a small booklet with 48 of my poems, 48 pages, a booklet. They surprised me as a gift for me for my birthday.
At that time I met the editor of the Jewish, Yiddish newspaper there in Lodz, Mr. … a poet who lived on the same street as my grandfather. And he took a liking to me. He used to invite me to his home. I had a crush on his only daughter, Anka. She’s still alive in Florida, you know. But, so he took some of those poems and published them in the weekly edition, they call it, to the newspaper. And this way I started with poetry.
You have been listening to First Person: Conversations with Holocaust Survivors, a podcast series of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Every Wednesday at 1 p.m. from March through August, Holocaust survivors share their stories during First Person programs held at the Museum in Washington, DC. We would appreciate your feedback on this series. [Please take our First Person podcast survey and let us know what you think.]