In world history, the Holocaust is one of the worst tragedies of humanity. For 12 years, the Nazis in Germany, with the help of collaborators from different countries, attempted to completely exterminate entire nations. They subjected people to mass executions, poisoned them in gas chambers, brought them to exhaustion in the most challenging work, and conducted all kinds of medical experiments on them. The extermination of Roma people during the Second World War in Germany and the occupied countries is less discussed. However, in terms of the severity of the deed, it is no less terrifying. The extermination of the Roma was part of the general policy of the National Socialists to destroy political opponents, homosexual people, terminally and mentally ill, drug addicts, and Jews. It brought an enormous number of human sacrifices and pain to millions of people around the world.
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The analyzed poem is “Tears of Blood” by Bronislawa Wajs, also known as Papusza. She left behind a collection of poems, an invaluable personal experience, and the horror that the poetess had to face when her ethnic group was subjected to genocide, embodied in poetic form. The Nazis did not tolerate gypsies as much as Jews. Rabid German nationalists, forming parties, “promoted the concept of the Volk as an underlying idea in German history since the medieval era.” (Duiker, 2015, p. 84)
According to the Nazi theory, racial purity was its basis, so the Roma and other nationalities, which represented a threat for this, were subject to extermination (Segal, 2018). According to some reports, half a million gypsies were killed during the war (Stone, 2019). From the woman’s recollections, her camp had to hide in the cold and hungry. Papusza’s longest poem is dedicated to this event, “Tears of Blood.” Bronislawa herself was a participant in bloody events and faced genocide, she had to survive, hiding in the forest for several years, fleeing death every day.
The massage of the poem is associated with the horror of death, the inability to live like a person who has the right to do so. There is a resentment that grows into horror at the realization of an uncertain future. The work is filled with endless pain, to a greater extent, not for herself, but for children who will freeze in winter without clothes.
“How to live with children in the cold of winter?” (Wajs, 2021, line 5).
“No one knows, only the sky” (Wajs, 2021, line 36).
Realizing that there is no one to turn to for help, they can only rely on their own strength and faith. The gypsy woman laments her fate for all the litigation she had to see and experience, grief, hunger, stones piercing her bare feet, and bullets. Thoughts about the value of life give her strength, and hence a strong desire to live is traced, to endure all difficulties, because it is impossible otherwise.
The poem does relate to the bigger picture of the Holocaust. The problem of the Holocaust usually stands in the context of the Jewish nationality, while the Nazis also exterminated other ethnic groups, people with deviations, considered unworthy and unclean. A vast number of Roma suffered due to these events, therefore it is necessary to mention them when talking about the problem of the Holocaust. The work reveals the idea of persecution, the extermination of Roma and Jews by the Germans. The horrors reflected in the images that the gypsies faced during the war are presented so that they can convey ideas to the reader quite effectively. The desire to live was more robust than the cold, hunger, and conditions in which it was necessary to wait to be saved. Bronislawa managed to stay alive and leave a mark in the literature and history of not only her nation but the whole world.
Duiker, W. J. (2015). Contemporary world history (6th ed.). Cengage Learning.
Stone, L. (2019). Quantifying the Holocaust: Hyperintense kill rates during the Nazi genocide. Science advances, 5(1), pp. 1-10.
Segal, R. (2018). The modern state, the question of genocide, and Holocaust scholarship. Journal of Genocide Research, 20(1), 108-133.
Wajs, B. (2021). Web.