Compaison of two poems - 'Night Over Birkenau' and 'Earrings.'

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Riyadh Abdulla 10J4               Reading C/WK 2                             Teacher – Mrs Monaghan

Compare and contrast: Night over Birkenau  and  Earrings

This essay will be analysing and contrasting two poems relating to the Auschwitz concentration camp during WWII and how it diversely affected Jews.

 The first poem is 'Night over Birkenau,' a  first hand experience poem written by Tadeusz Borowski to  display the daily lives of Jewish prisoners in concentration camps and 'Earrings,' a second generation poem by Annette Bialik Harchik, written to inform readers how Jewish women were imprisoned whilst exploring aspects such as the racial discrimination by Nazi Germans in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

By exploring these aspects it seems that the poems are written to give a voice to the deceased Jews who have died without having the chance to inform the world about the inhumane crimes inflict upon them deceitfully.

  From the start of 'Night over Birkenau' readers are given a clear  insight to the poem's setting, hence the title 'Night over Birkenau.' This gives readers the sense of insecurity as a setting in the night is likely to be more vile. This is then reinforced in, “Again the grim sky closes.” 'Grim' gives readers a sense of horror; and 'sky closes' evidently proves that the prisoners are captivated in this horror, it is inescapable. 'Again' reinforces that it is cyclic, constant and never ending within their hearts.

  The Jews' feeling of horror is initially derived from the horrifying methods used by the Nazi Germans to exterminate them. These were methods such as the crematorium, “and the eyes of the crematorium blaze.” The word 'blaze' allows readers to interpret the intensity and aggressiveness of the flame but it is the use of personification in 'eyes'  which emphasises the intensity of the heat as the eyes symbolise the shape of an igniting red and blue flame. The personification allows readers to interpret how slow the Nazi Germans have made the length of the termination process, as the eyes represent a quality of live humans. They were burnt alive which emphasises the agony that Jews had to go through. Just to die in the end.

 All this gives us a like comparison of hell. In my opinion, the Germans in the poem possess a character equivalent God's, shown by their possessiveness over a wide nation, and, how they wiped them easily because of their  ignorant, unjustified hate.

  There is further reference to the 'eyes' later in the poem which can effectively be linked to stanza four where Borowski refers to the eyes and the poison on the same line, “my eyes are poisoned from sleep.” This reinforces the idea that the prisoners were tortured in the methods of death used as poison takes a long time to distil in the body, slowly working its way through the body resulting in the victim left in agony. Alternatively, the reference to the 'eyes' made in the above quotes can mean that the Germans' crimes were being watched and would not go without being known to the world (hence how we now know). The use of 'eyes' shows that they are being watched more widely than simply saying 'eye'.

Imagery of nature's deceitful and unwilling characteristic is similarly portrayed in 'Earrings.'

 At the end of the poem, we are similarly shown how nature trying to contribute to the Germans' crimes.

This is shown on the ending stanza of the poem. Harchik does this by describing the holes dug in which the camp prisoners' corpses to be buried in, “The empty holes,” and, on the next line they are described as 'grown shut.' This is a very effective way to use language, it emphasises nature's attempt to stop the finding of the Jews' corpses after the massacre. This is shown by the use of  oxymoron to emphasise how the holes that the Germans have dug to mass bury the prisoners' corpses is veiled by grass growing over the burial sites eventually levelling off with the rest of the earth.

 The idea of nature's conceal of the Germans' crimes is similarly portrayed in 'Night over Birkenau.' “Fog descends over Birkenau.” 'Descends' allows readers to see the slow approach of the 'fog' covering all signs of reality. The use of 'fog' allows readers to interpret the spreading of loss and confusion on its progression. The fog concealing  Birkenau can symbolise the ignorance of the outside world. They were blinded by mere fog which the Germans used as a temporary veil to their crimes. The world's ignorance is shown by the way the outside world did not have a basic outlook of what was actually happening inside this typical, yet deceitful looking camp.

 Day be day, the tension of: hunger;sickness and fear accumulated within the prisoners. Even their feet were not put to rest. But, instead, they had to wear wooden shoes. A source of pain and can sometimes prove fatal. And with all this people in the Auschwitz camp were  losing sanity. They were afraid of dying. Not just dying; but  not being found again. Borowski cleverly presents the loss of sanity to  readers by the theme of astronomy, “blue Orion- lost among the stars.” For one, a setting in outer space is very effective as it reinforces the same theme as the night, as space, likewise, is pitch black. The real reason to why Borowski used this quote is because the Orion is visible to everyone, all around the world. Yet, historically, because of  the business (and lack of care) the world gave no attention to the crimes which were happening.

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 Physical loss is shown in 'Earrings' in stanza four. On the first line, Harchik shows readers how atrocious her mother's physical condition is once she left her 'earrings' from the last stanza, “Under her wavy white hair.” The use of  'white' emphasises the dramatic change in physical attributes that happen within a character – this emphasises how much the camp prisoners must have been worked out. The use of the alliteration, 'Wavy white,' gives a double impact and meaning to the ageing idea, as similarly 'wavy' hair is often degraded in quality and is the last stage of hair 'development' ...

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