The great writer and mystifier Bruno Schulz left a plethora of puzzles, myths and hidden chambers in two thin booklets of essays. However, one of his lesser-known and most challenging riddles was forgotten under a thick layer of paint in one of the former villas of Drohobych.
Bruno Schulz has emerged as one of the most important writers and innovators of the Polish language in the 20th century, his works translated into 39 languages. He was born in 1892 in the then Austrian (later Polish and now Ukrainian) town of Drohobych to Jakub Schulz, a Jewish cloth merchant. The provincial oil town on the outskirts of Poland and the fading visionary image of his sick father later became the key characters of his magical metaphorical prose. Apart from being a writer and a painter, Schulz was earning his living as a school teacher.
He never left Drohobych for an extended period of time; the Nazi invasion of Poland trapped Schulz within the town’s ghetto. In order to save his life, Dziunia Szmer, a friend of Schulz’s, put him into a life-prolonging contract with a Nazi officer Felix Landau. As an ‘indentured Jew’, Bruno Schulz had to catalogue loot, make cliché verres and drawings and produce inlays, as well as paint murals in at least four different buildings in Drohobych – the SS casino, a new annex to the riding hall, the former Jewish orphanage and the ‘play room’ of the mansion Landau had confiscated. The officer lived there with his mistress, the Gestapo secretary and former dancer Trude Segel, along with the children from his first marriage, Wolf-Dieter and Helga.
On the 19th of November 1942, Schulz was shot dead on a street in Drohobych. His murderer is believed to have been Karl Günther, Landau’s rival. However, Schulz was murdered on the day of ‘Black Thursday’, coinciding with the massacre of 230 other Jews in the ghetto; identifying the actual killer of Schulz is thus difficult.
The murals of Schulz were painted over and subsequently forgotten. So were Schulz’s essays, rediscovered and appreciated only decades after his death. Despite an intense search for them, none of the murals were ever found.
In 2001 German film director Benjamin Geissler came to Drohobych , together with his father the writer Christian Geissler, hoping to discover the lost ‘fairy tale mural’ in the former playroom of Landau’s villa. Their search and its outcome are described in Geissler’s documentary ‘Bilder Finden’ (‘Finding Pictures’). With the help of Alfred Schreyer, the last living student of Bruno Schulz, Landau’s villa was identified; a closer look at the walls of a present-day storage room in a private apartment revealed the shapes of Schulz’s images. An official commission of Polish and Ukrainian experts arrived at the spot and, having uncovered some fragments of the mural, verified that Bruno Schulz was the author of the paintings. The next step was to obtain international funding needed to professionally uncover, restore and preserve the murals.
Nonetheless, the discovery of the seemingly lost mural was not the end of its mysterious story. Shortly after the finding, representatives of Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, removed three fragments of the mural and transported them to Israel. The act was claimed to be illegal, since such appropriation could only have been possible with the special permission of the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture. Another five fragments were removed in 2002 by Ukrainian restorers.
The controversy over national claims to Schulz’s heritage, which broke out right after the Yad Vashem incident, was naturally triggered by the region’s diverse background, so typical for pre-war Central Europe. For Yad Vashem, Schulz is a Holocaust victim and his murals are part of a Holocaust story. For Poland, Bruno is a Polish writer, innovator of the Polish language and literature, and last but not least, a Polish citizen. For Ukraine, he was a resident of the Ukrainian town Drohobych, and this is exactly where the very mural was created and later found.
Yet according to Benjamin Geissler, Schulz’s work cannot be torn apart, neither metaphorically nor literally. Geissler suggests the characters Schulz depicted in his last mural are not merely fairy tale figures, as expected in the decoration of a children’s room. On closer observation, one can unmistakably recognize Felix Landau on his beloved horse, his lover Gertrude, Schulz’s mother and many other subtle images among the depicted characters. Schulz’s mural is a Brothers Grimm tale on the surface and a Holocaust story, likewise a personal tragedy on a deeper level, says Geissler. Turning a task demanded of him into something much more meaningful and personal was an act of both childishness and prophecy, inherent to Schulz’s art. It’s because of its messages that the mural cannot be separated and can only be viewed in the way it was created, in the way its elements were placed in relation to each other.
Luckily, there is still a chance to see how the room used to look. Benjamin Geissler has created a 3D model of the chamber with pictures, and it was recently exhibited in Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin. Once one enters the model of the dark narrow storeroom, Schulz’s drawings start to project on each wall, accompanied by a mysterious tune. Outside of the 3D installation, one can read about the life of Bruno Schulz and the story of the discovery and loss of the mural.
Despite having perished over 70 years ago and remained virtually unknown for years after his death, Schulz’s work appears to attract more interest with every passing year. Yuri Andrukhovych, a renowned Ukrainian writer and poet, who took part in a panel discussion during the exhibition, said he felt sceptical about publishing his translation of Schulz’s works into Ukrainian. It was not only about the great responsibility of translating the complicated metaphorical language of Schulz, but also about the unclear demand for this book in Ukraine. However, the edition was sold out faster than estimated, even by the bravest of expectations. Over the last few years, Bruno Schulz has been transformed from a complete stranger, a weird Polish Jewish ghost from the past into a local genius, a beloved figure from Drohobych for many Ukrainians. Andrukhovych claims his translation is meant to make Schulz even more accessible to the Ukrainian reader; he tried to unload the complicated text of unnecessary polonisms and local words, inherent to some previous translations, and pay due attention to the rhythm and pace of the text.
Andrukohvych’s colleague Yuri Prokhasko also took part in the discussions, and not only due to his own fascination with Schulz’s prose and story – Prokhasko himself served as Geissler’s assistant during the filming of ‘Bilder Finden’ in Drohobych.
The Schulz exhibition has found its place among an immense series of memorials and exhibitions called ‘Diversity Destroyed’, taking place in Berlin in 2013. Under the caption ‘Berlin 1933 – 1938 – 1945,’ it approaches the wartime European tragedy from the perspective of the flourishing diversity characterising pre-war Europe. The fantastic and mysterious semi-fictional and real worlds of Bruno Schulz, who as the exhibition introduction states ‘was born as an Austrian, lived as a Pole and died as a Jew’, is certainly one of the last and most intense embodiments of this epoch.
Edited by Benjamin Geissler and Dmitri Macmillen.
unsere Kinder haben ein Recht darauf die ganze Wahrheit zu erfahren, keine halben Sachen, das ist nicht fair, nicht förderlich und schlichtweg einfach nicht die Wahrheit !
Deutsche Schulbücher erklären Israelis zu Tätern
Im Nahost-Konflikt machen deutsche Schulbuchverlage die israelische Seite zu Tätern, Palästinenser zu Opfern. Cornelsen, Westermann und Klett sehen keinen Grund für Änderungen. Von Gideon Böss
Wo bleibt Dein Aufschrei jetzt, G.G.?
Liegt er vielleicht nur verborgen unterm letzten Schnee?
Kämpft er vielleicht nur noch mit dem Frost
aus dem ach so fernen Fernost?
Wo bleibt Deine ‘Lyrik’ jetzt, G.G.?
Ist sie erschallt und schon zertreten von Kim Jongs kleinem Zeh?
Bist Du zum öffentlich-lyrischen Schämen schon zu taub,
die allerletzte Tinte im Tintenfass schon Staub?
Wo bleiben Deine Worte jetzt, G.G.?
Müsstest Du nicht heulen über den nuklearen Klee,
in einem haltlos ungereimten Gedichte?
Oder liest Du am Ende gar keine Zeitungsberichte?
Wann fängst Du wieder an zu dichten, G.G.?
Wann schenkst Du uns wieder einen lyrischen Dreh,
um zu sagen, was gesagt werden muss,
jedes Wort ein Hammerschlag, ein treffsichrer Schuss?
Wann hören wir wieder was von Dir, G.G?
Wir wollen Deine Ruhe nicht stören zwischen Luv und Lee.
Wahrscheinlich folgt bald Dein Beweis, dass sich die Erde verbiegt
und Nordkorea eigentlich in Israel liegt.
Ich bin auf und doch schon
noch nicht davon.
Ich soll vertrieben werden
von diesen Erden
zurück ins Meer,
geht es nach denen
die mich ‘ungläubig’ nennen
mich aber nicht kennen,
von diesen, die verrückt spielen,
auf mich zielen
mit ihren Hobbys.
Ich bin auf und doch noch nicht davon,
liege nicht mehr, aber schon aufgestanden,
den Schlüssel in der Hand,
die Schatten schon an der Wand,
die Tür auf schon einen Spalt,
noch ein letzter Halt,
aber doch schon
noch nicht davon.
Ich hab’ einen Schuh schon an einem Fuss,
einen Arm schon in der Jacke,
den Schal um den Hals
(wie eine Schlinge),
aber noch nicht gebunden -
den Weg haben sie noch nicht gefunden.
Ich bin auf, aber doch schon
noch nicht davon.
Soll ich gehen
dass sie mich vertreiben
mit Waffen im Anschlag
und im Kopf die Messer,
ist es da nicht besser,
zu gehen auf & davon?
Ist das die Saat,
und die Tat
erster Tinte schreiben,
um zu bleiben,
um zu bestehen,
an schießende Mädchen
zwischen den Berliner Stelen,
deren Schüsse mich nicht verfehlen
Die Saite ist gespannt,
aber nicht gestimmt.
Die Seite ist gelesen,
aber noch nicht umgeblättert.
Der Countdown erst bei Drei
und noch nicht vorbei,
doch die Wunde blutet schon unterm Verband
der deutschen Demokratie,
der letzten Hand
des verwehenden Atems auf der Zielgeraden
Ich bin auf, aber doch schon
noch nicht davon.
Die Welle sieht das Ufer schon,
aber sie kann noch nicht brechen.
Noch kein Flammenmeer auch,
aber schon genügend Rauch.
Die Glocken schwingen,
die Scharniere singen,
doch es gibt noch kein Läuten dabei -
wie war das noch: Arbeit macht frei.
Ich werde ihnen
nicht das Feld überlassen,
meiner, unserer Verwesung,
nicht ihrem Zynismus,
nicht ihrer Scheinheiligkeit,
nicht ihren Schatten der Zeit,
nicht ihrer Dummheit
noch ist es nicht soweit,
aber merkt euch:
Wir sind auf, aber längst nicht davon,
auf und nicht davon.
Surprise surprise. The New York Times reports that the Hezbollah men who traveled to Burgas, Bulgaria to kill Israelis, did so by using Australian and Canadian passports, and they also carried fake Michigan IDs which were fabricated in Lebanon.
Now I know Australia is furious with Israel over the latter’s use of its passports. And apparently Israel promised Canberra that it wouldn’t do so again. Australia even expelled two Israeli diplomats after the Mabhouh affair, in which Mossad apparently used Australian passports. Will Australia now read the riot act to Hezbollah? Will Canada call in the Lebanese ambassador, who represents a government of which Hezbollah is a senior member?
I may be extremely naïve, but I can’t see why this would be necessary in this day and age. I understand the necessity of sovereignty and not putting Australian citizens traveling abroad in precarious situations, but as I see the global terror map, Israel and Australia are on the same side, with Hezbollah and its ilk on the other. So if everyone is using everyone else’s passports, why would the Australians give Israel so much stick over the use of its passports? The same goes for Canada. I understand that Australia and Canada don’t want their traveling citizens to be suspected of working for Mossad, and I feel their apprehension. I also see the inherent problem here for Australian Jews of being accused of dual loyalty. But what if this wasn’t even an issue? What if Australia and Israel’s security concerns and priorities dovetailed when it came to the war on terrorists? What if every Australian, Jewish and non-Jewish, understood that he or she stands shoulder to shoulder with Israel in this fight?
Surely Canberra and Jerusalem could come up with a modus vivendi that works for both countries, who are in the same boat against global Islamic terrorism.
What possible gain could Australia get by exposing Mossad operations against Iran and terror groups? Wouldn’t Australia benefit from the intelligence that Mossad gathers and the operations that it carries out? Doesn’t Australia have its own war to fight against Islamic terrorists? READ MORE
I can’t believe I’m actually writing this blog post. It’s been far too long ago, and I’m sorry. I guess, life has been filled with too many projects the last year and now I’m finally ready to talk about them.
Four major things happened in 2012:
1) I dug out that courage within me and finally booked a ticket to Ukraine, to do that trip I always dreamt of. For two weeks I travelled around in Western Ukraine, in my grandfathers footsteps, alone. Discovered the place where he was born, the city where he grew up and sadly also the city where his family died during the Second World War. I will write a blogpost about this trip and about my family research (a pretty amazing story) very soon!
2) Got elected as one of the youngest members of the Jewish Community Council in Stockholm. Really looking forward to get going with this mission, being a more active part of the Jewish Community.
3) Went to Belarus with a Swedish Television crew from “Uppdrag Granskning” (Mission: Investigation), filming the TV documentary ‘The Black Boxes’ about the telecom company TeliaSonera and their cooperation with secret services in dictatorships, which started a huge debate in Sweden and internationally about corporate responsibilities.
4) Went to Poland with my cousin, producing our first Radio Documentary together, about the political happenings and antisemitic campaign in Poland 1968, also a little trip back to our mothers roots…
It’s a new year now, and I hope that this year will be filled with at least as many interesting happenings as last year… I already have one thing to look forward to. Guess what! In a week from now I’m going to Berlin, for the first time in my life. I’m so happy to be one of 50 participants from all over the world, at the ‘Shifting Thought Shifting Action‘, starting next sunday in Berlin, where change-makers of Jewish life in Europe are gathering to re:envision the future of Jewish communities in Europe. I’ll be listening to and meeting loads of interesting people, but also have a session/workshop myself, where I’ll be talking about campaigning; how to reach out and succeed with your goals (actually, how to CHANGE; change the society, change the world, you name it). I’m so much looking forward to this. I’m sure that these few days will be really inspiring when it comes to my work within the Jewish Community of Stockholm, but also life in general.
I always wanted to go to Berlin! Now I’m finally doing it. See you soon!
du schreibst, der tod sei ein meister aus deutschland,
der uns die schwarze milch trinken lässt
zu jeder tageszeit, während er seine margarete fand
und feiert mit ihren goldenen haaren ein fest.
du schreibst, der mann schreibt, mit schlangen spielt er
und schickt die briefe nach deutschland.
du schreibst, dass wir die gräber schaufeln, kreuz & quer
durch die luft, aber doch nur in auschwitz’ sand.
du schreibst, der mann befiehlt, zum tanz aufzuspielen
dazu und sulamiths haar zerfällt zu asche so grau.
ihr verbranntes fleisch gilt es in den bäuchen zu fühlen,
und zu sehen die strahlenden augen des mannes so blau.
es sei nicht mehr möglich zu schreiben, das gedicht
ist verbrannt für immer nach diesem brand,
auf der ganzen welt sei kein mögliches gericht,
sagt man, das gerechtigkeit findet mit diesem land.
und auch wenn die bestie noch zuckt, ihr haupt
mit der kalten fratze der feuer immer noch hebt,
auch wenn es mancher überall leugnet und nicht glaubt,
wir haben die aschenen haare sulamiths überlebt.
die tränen sind nicht getrocknet, aber wir schreiben
wieder gedichte und trinken die milch wieder weiß.
wir sind hier, gingen nicht verloren, stehen im kreis,
wir wissen, auch wenn wir es nicht wussten: wir bleiben!
Yes, this result is amazing. Okay, Netanyahu will continue to annoy us as prime minister but just one month ago it looked like we would have to deal with a rightwing revolution and having a scenario of Netanyahu, Lieberman and Bennett ruling the country, isolating Israel even further and widening the gap between the Jewish country and the Jewish diaspora.
But Bibi won´t kick it extremist-style, not when the rightwing majority remains just 61-59 seats versus the center parties. Probably he will need Yair Lapid, the shooting star of this election, who led his Yesh Atid Party to the second place with 18-19 seats. And Yair Lapid may be neither Rabin nor Obama, but for sure he is also not Naftali Bennett. Israel jumped over the abyss. Sorry Mr. Shlomo Sand, this is not an invented people, this is the Start Up Nation, big difference. The haters may say whatever they want, but in times when there is civil war in Syria and Islamists taking over Egypt, the little Israel in between is voting not for fear, but for a surprising dose of hope. Yair Lapid in the government would mean that an independence from either the Ultra-Orthodox parties or Bennett´s freak collection is theoretically possible.
And another great thing – where the heck is Lieberman now? The strategy of Netanyahu and Lieberman has failed. And as long as they won´t send Lieberman anymore around the world as the foreign minister in the next years, this election was already quite a Moses-styled splitting of the sea. READ MORE
For those of you who don’t know much about Lapid, here are a few insights into the leader of Yesh Atid, who looks like he will be THE big player on the Israeli political scene. Lapid is kingmaker to King Bibi.
Lapid says he knows Israeli politicians well from covering politics for many years as a journalist, and he’s “not afraid of them.” I wonder though about his staying power: just how much fight does this former amateur boxer have in him? Because listening to his fighting words, especially against the current political system and pretty much every single serving Israeli member of Knesset [especially the religious MKs but not just them], I predict that Yair Lapid is going to get into the fight of his life – whether he joins the next coalition or stays in the opposition. And it’s going to be a long and ugly fight, so it’s just as well that Lapid said he’s going into politics for the long run. “It’s my second career and there won’t be a third,” he says.
He says he’s going to be a good, thorough, and professional politician, that he’s going to take it extremely seriously, and stuck to his promise of not recruiting any serving Israeli MK into his new party.
Like US President Barack Obama when he ran for his first term, Lapid is someone who is banking on a message of change; change in the political system, change in the nation’s fiscal and social priorities, change in the education system, change to the rules of national burden: he promises that he will work for seismic changes to the national fabric of Israeli society: the ultra-Orthodox must serve in the army or national service and they must join the workforce etc.
But like Obama, Lapid may be creating too many expectations, and might suffer from this down the line when he’s faced with the harsh realities of the Israeli political system, and the expected economic downturn and massive budget cuts the next government will have to implement.
But for now, Yair Lapid is clearly enjoying himself. He’s enjoying “telling the truth” as opposed to politicians’ necessity of messaging and towing party lines. He’s enjoying motivating people and firing up the discontented secular middle class.
Like Obama’s first campaign, Lapid crowd-sourced his campaign, mostly on the Internet. His Facebook friends asked him questions, and he sat all night and answered them. I followed one of his staffer’s Instagram account, and I can tell you that Lapid held at least one parlor meeting every day somewhere in the country. Every day. READ MORE
In my mind, the central theme of the 2013 Israeli elections was that there was no challenger to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Within that context, all the main political battles that took place occurred within the political blocs: Yechimovich vs Lapid vs Livni; but more interestingly, between Netanyahu and Habayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett. The latter were canvassing for essentially the same voter base. And if the polls hold true, Bennett emerged victorious – even if he is not crowned prime minister. He will be a major player in the next governing coalition.
Why did Bennett do so well? How did he manage to take away so many votes from the Likud? And how did they succeed in attracting voters so distant from their traditional national religious Zionist base?
For one, Bennett modeled himself on Netanyahu, and that drove the prime minister absolutely up the wall. And talking about walls, take a look at the following two pictures, I think they speak volumes about the two men, and the battle they waged between them. READ MORE