Oct 19, 2009

Werner Cohen and Gail Rosen Speak Hilda Stern Cohen's Words

On October 18, 2009, at the Bethesda, Md., The Writer's Center held a reading of Holocaust survivor Hilda Stern Cohen's work, published for the first time in English--translated from her native German--in Words That Burn Within Me.

Her husband Dr. Werner Cohen laid the groundwork for the reading by describing how he came upon her journals after her passing and how he strove to bring those writings to publication.  She wrote about 150 poems in addition to her prose.

Initially his wife's writings were published in German: Genagelt ist meine ZungeThe Words That Burn Within Me, which is the English publication, took its title from one of Cohen's poems, which "bitterly laments how her own sense of self is tied to a language and culture that sought to destroy her."

He also did a delightful and impassioned introduction of the unique qualities of her writing, particularly since she observed not only her own suffering but that of those around her in the Lodz Ghetto and the concentration camp of Auschwitz.

Gail Rosen read from Words That Burn Within Me, which include not only Rosen's interview material with Hilda before her death, but also Hilda's essays and poetry.  I'm going to let the videos I shot during the reading speak for themselves.

For more about the reading, please visit my D.C. Literature Examiner page.

I wanted to point out that Hilda Stern Cohen lived in Baltimore, Md., with her husband and children, though most of her writing did occur in a "displaced persons camp" following WWII and the Holocaust, I think Marylanders can claim her as their own.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

Well, that was something that just sort of knocks you over! And I thought the reader, Gail Rosen, did a fantastic job. Thanks for publishing those videos!!!

Serena said...

Rosen did an excellent job. I wonder if it was because she had interviewed her prior to the book's publication and her death. That could make the difference, though so far the writing is just as expressive and poignant.

Kim said...

I occasionally have the honor of assisting Holocaust survivors in obtaining reparations from Germany (there is one program just opened in the last two years) and once I met with a woman who wrote her own book about her experience and gave me the book at the end of our meeting,"If You Save One Life" by Eva Brown. It's an incredible story of survival and recovery that has a special place in my library.

Serena said...

Kim: What a wonderful gift to receive. "If You Save One Life" by Eva Brown is probably very powerful. I hope you enjoyed the videos of the reading and my little synopsis.

Anna said...

I'll have to check out the videos later when I'm at home. Can't wait to borrow this book when you're finished. :)

Diary of an Eccentric

Michelle said...

Thank you for sharing such a dynamic event and powerful story. It amazes me how people are able to endure such tragic events and share it with people to better the future.