It was in May 2, 1947 in Bucharest that Paul Celan published in the Romanian language, a poem which he named Tango of Death, inspired in Plegaria, a creation of the Argentine musician Eduardo Bianco. But John Felstiner, biographer of Yale University, argues that the original title was Muerte en Fuga, coinciding with the theme behind it. "Only someone who lived in a concentration camp could know the meaning of that title," says Felstiner on his work “Paul Celan, poet, survivor, Jew” published by the same university.
The author, whose real name was Paul Antschel (Ancel, in Romanian) was born in Czernowitz, a German cultural enclave in 1920. That territory belonged to Romania and is now part of Ukraine. Paul Celan continued writing in German and said that "only in the mother tongue one can say the truth."
Now for the story: in the Janowska concentration camp near Czernowitz, an SS lieutenant ordered a group of Jewish violinists to play a song named Tango of death, to play while digging graves in the marches, torture and executions.
The same research tells us that before closing the camp, the Germans killed all the members of the orchestra.
In 1939 the musical group of Argentine Eduardo Bianco played in Paris, when Celan was living there, studying medicine. In the same year Eduardo Bianco played for Hitler and Goebbels, who preferred the tango to the alleged decline of jazz.
Similar situations were lived in the camps of Auschwitz and Majdanek, among others. The Nazis used only the music of Plegaria (Prayer) and not the lyric created by Bianco which tells of a woman praying in a church. The "Nazified" version is registered by Aleksander Kulisiewicz in his disc “Songs from the depth of hell”, stamped Folk) and the record is preserved in Israel and the United States, in museums dedicated to the Holocaust.
When a Nazi commandant of a concentration camp is bullying their victims Paul Celan identifies with them, give them voice. That is the song Muerte en Fuga poem created as a musical counterpoint of several voices, without punctuation and united in this iterative time, like life in those fields.
Celan himself explained that "in this poem the graves in the air are not a metaphor" and Muerte en Fuga became a national obsession in postwar Germany. It was read on the radio, and schools were required text.
Celan thought that "a poem can be a message in a bottle sent with the hope that someone receives at home and perhaps in his heart."
In 1960 this survivor received the National Literature Prize George Buchner, the highest distinction in German tongue, but the fame is not consoled to his grief.
On April 20, 1970, Celan drowned himself in Paris, where he had settled in 1948.
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