Volume 4, Number 1 (January 2006) : 41--78|
The Book of Laughter and Unforgetting
Countersigning the Sperre of September 1942 in The Legend of the Lodz Ghetto Children
Rubric A: Topoi
Written in Polish in the form of a long poem accompanied by 17 illustrations, The Legend of the Prince was created in Leon Glazer’s tailor workshop in the Lodz Ghetto, and was found in the ghetto’s ruins after the war by a survivor, Abraham Wolf Yasni. Designed in the form of an album for presentation to the Ghetto’s Elder, Chaim Rumkowski, the legend is told from the perspective of those having the good fortune to work in Glazer’s tailor ressort. However, within the bright illustrations and rhyming, metred verse that carries the legend from start to finish is buried the tragic story of the September 1942 Sperre. This essay argues that the story that is offered in the spirit of a light-hearted and diverting fairy tale and tribute, fictionalizing the trials and tribulations of the children working in Glazer’s workshop, is in fact a sophisticated memorial act, registering for its creators the trauma of the mass deportations of children, the sick and the elderly which took place over eight days of mandatory curfew in the Ghetto.
Following a pattern of visual and narrative instabilities in the album's self-presentation, I attend to moments in which The Legend points not only to the events in Lodz Ghetto of which it must not speak but also to familiar works of children's literature, such as Alice in Wonderland and The Pied Piper of Hamelin, which contribute to the "logics" by which the album might be read.