Poet Laureate of the Warsaw Ghetto
Today on Tablet
By January 1938, Władysław Szlengel knew enough about the impending doom to write a poem called “Do Not Buy New Calendars.” But it was not until the German invasion, and the suppression, and the deportations, and finally the uprising that he truly found his voice. But there’s a quirk: Szlengel wrote in Polish, making him overlooked by one people who did not regard Jews as their own and by another people who did not consider Polish one of its languages (“If he had written in Hebrew or Yiddish or German, he would be known,” says one scholar).
It is due only to a brief ode Szlengel wrote to the great African-American boxer Joe Louis on the occasion of his 1938 defeat of the Nazi-sympathizing Max Schmeling at Yankee Stadium that contributing editor David Margolick got curious. Today in Tablet Magazine, he delivers the comprehensive profile of an artist unjustly forgotten and a man even more unjustly fated.
American novelist’s defense raises questions about the imminent flotilla