Sunday, June 26, 2016



My Readers' Favorite Award Winning crime novel is on sale from now until the 4th of July.

The novel deals with a serial killer loose in a neighbor of Holocaust survivors and refugees in Chicago in the 1950s.

99 cents!

Cheap at half the price!

Just click here: Amazon Kindle

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Leonard Lopate Interview

Dear Friends,

My recent National Public Radio interview with on the Leonard Lopate Show is now available as a podcast online. 

We talk about my new book Echoes of Tattered Tongues and my parents' experiences in the Nazi slave labor camps and the post war refugee experience.

If you do listen, please leave a comment on the podcast page to encourage Lopate to feature other survivors' stories on his show.

Here is the link to the interview.  Just click here.


The photo is by John Vachon from his book Poland 1946.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Father's Day Post -- What My Father Ate

My father spent more than 4 years in Buchenwald Concentration Camp as a Polish slave laborer. He was captured in a round up when he went to his village north of Poznan to buy some rope. When he was taken by the Nazis, he was a kid, just 19 years old.

A lot of times when he talked about his experiences, he couldn't help telling me about how hungry he was for those four years. He said that most days he got about 500 calories of food. Once when he complained about the food, the Nazi guard hit him across the head with a club. From that day on, my dad was blind in one eye.

When the Americans liberated the camp, he weighed 75 pounds. My mother said that when she saw him stumble into her camp at the end of a death march, he was skinny, like two shoelaces tied together.  And he was one of the lucky ones. A lot of the guys in his camp didn't make it.

Once I asked him what it was like that first meeting with my mom, he smiled and said, "First, we had something to eat, and then we got married."


I've written a lot of poems about how hungry he was during those four year. The following is one of them. It's called "What He Ate."  Here's a youtube of me reading the poem. I'm posting a copy of the poem itself after the video.

What My Father Ate

He ate what he couldn’t eat,
what his mother taught him not to:
brown grass, small chips of wood, the dirt
beneath his gray dark fingernails.

He ate the leaves off trees. He ate bark.
He ate the flies that tormented
the mules working in the fields.
He ate what would kill a man

in the normal course of his life:
leather buttons, cloth caps, anything
small enough to get into his mouth.
He ate roots. He ate newspaper.

In his slow clumsy hunger
he did what the birds did, picked
for oats or corn or any kind of seed
in the dry dung left by the cows.

And when there was nothing to eat
he’d search the ground for pebbles
and they would loosen his saliva
and he would swallow that.

And the other men did the same.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Reading at the Holocaust Educators Conference at Lynchburg College

Holocaust Educators Conference at Lynchburg College

I'll be reading poems and some prose pieces from my new book Echoes of Tattered Tongues about my family's experiences as Displaced Persons in Germany and refugees in America.

I love talking to students and teachers about my parents.  If you ever want me to visit a class just drop me a line.  (The Georgia Holocaust Commission gave me an award for talking to high school students in Georgia.)

The first poem I'll read is Refugees.


We came with heavy suitcases
made from wooden boards by brothers
we left behind, came from Buchenwald
and Katowice and before that
Lvov, our mother's true home,

came with our tongues
in tatters, our teeth in our pockets,
hugging only ourselves, our bodies
stiff like frightened ostriches.

We were the children in ragged wool
who shuffled in line to eat or pray
or beg anyone for charity.

Remembering the air and the trees,
the sky above the Polish fields,
we dreamt only of the lives waiting
for us in Chicago and  St. Louis
and Superior, Wisconsin

like  pennies
in our mouths.

(The conference is being conducted by the Holocaust Educators Foundation of Central Virginia.)

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Leonard Lopate Show

The Leonard Lopate Show

I'm going to be appearing on Leonard Lopate's NPR radio program on WNYC radio on Monday June 20th.

I pretty much can't believe this.

He's going to be interviewing me about my new book about my parents and their experiences as slave laborers in Nazi Germany.

Here's what it says about the show on Wikipedia:

"The show's Peabody Award-winning format typically consists of four interviews ranging from twenty to forty minutes in length and covers a broad range of topics including current events, history, literature, the arts, including jazz and gospel music, food and wine (he has won three James Beard Awards), and science. Guests are often interviewed to accompany a book release. Lopate has interviewed politicians, poets, painters, novelists, filmmakers, actors, dancers, and more than a few Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners."

I don't know what I'm going to say.

Thursday, June 9, 2016


June 6 is the anniversary of the Allied invasion of Europe.  It's a day that means a lot to me.  

My parents were two of the 15 million or so people who were swept up by the Nazis and taken to Germany to be slave laborers.  My mom  spent more than two years in forced labor camps, and my dad spent four years in Buchenwald Concentration Camp.  

Like almost every other Pole living in Europe at that time, they both lost family in the war.  My mom's mom, sister, and infant niece were killed by the Germans when they came to her village.  Later, two of her aunts died with their husbands in Auschwitz.  

After the war both my parents lived in refugee camps for six years before they were allowed to come to the US.  My sister and I were born in those refugee camps.  June 6, 1944 was the day that long process of liberation for all of us began.

I've written a lot about my parents and their experiences, and here are two poems from my book Echoes of Tattered Tongues about those experiences.  The first poem is about what the war taught my mother; the second is about the spring day in 1945 when the Americans liberated my dad and the camp he was in:

What the War Taught Her 

My mother learned that sex is bad,
Men are worthless, it is always cold
And there is never enough to eat.

She learned that if you are stupid
With your hands you will not survive
The winter even if you survive the fall.

She learned that only the young survive
The camps.  The old are left in piles
Like worthless paper, and babies
Are scarce like chickens and bread.

She learned that the world is a broken place
Where no birds sing, and even angels
Cannot bear the sorrows God gives them.

She learned that you don't pray
Your enemies will not torment you. 
You only pray that they will not kill you.

In the Spring the War Ended

For a long time the war was not in the camps.
My father worked in the fields and listened
to the wind moving the grain, or a guard 
shouting a command far off, or a man dying.

But in the fall, my father heard the rumbling 
whisper of American planes, so high, like 
angels, cutting through the sky, a thunder 
even God in Heaven would have to listen to.

At last, one day he knew the war was there.
In the door of the barracks stood a soldier, 
an American, short like a boy and frightened, 
and my father marveled at the miracle of his youth 

and took his hands and embraced him and told him 
he loved him and his mother and father,
and he would pray for all his children 
and even forgive him the sin of taking so long.


The boy soldier in the liberation poem is in part modeled after Michael Calendrillo, my wife's uncle.  He was one of the first American soldiers to help liberate a camp.  His testimony about what he saw in the camps was filmed for a documentary called Nightmare's End: The Liberation of the Camps.  You can see a youtube of him talking about what he saw in that camp by clicking here.  

Here's a link to a presentation I gave at St. Francis College about my parents and their experiences in World War II: Just click here.

My daughter Lillian sent me the following link to color photos from before and after D-Day from Life Magazine. The photos are amazing, and a large part of that amazement comes from the color. The color gives me a shock, a good one--it takes away the distance, makes the photos and the people and places in them immediate in a profound way. 

Here's the link: Life.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Review by Leonard Kniffel

Leonard Kniffel is a writer and librarian and former publishing executive for the American Library Association in Chicago. He is creator and publisher of the “@ your library” public awareness website (, and he was editor-in-chief and publisher of American Libraries, the magazine of the American Library Association, from 1996 to 2011.

Recommended: New Collection by John Guzlowski

John Guzlowski
Coming at a time when the Syrian refugee crisis is bringing out the best and the worst in the nations to which these desperate people are fleeing, John Guzlowski’s Echoes of Tattered Tongues: Memory Unfolded is the culmination of some 40 years of writing by America’s foremost chronicler of the Second World War and its impact on the people of Poland, specifically his own parents. Born in a refugee camp in Germany, Guzlowski came to America in 1951 as a Displaced Person. His parents had been Polish slave laborers in Nazi Germany during the war and witnesses to horrors that would haunt them for the rest of their lives.
This moving volume of poetry and prose reveals with painful precision the agony of being a refugee during a time of war. One can only imagine the tears the author must have shed in transforming these horrifying memories into beautiful pieces of art, which is what all truly great writers are able to do. These stories are not easy to read, but the voices within them cry out to be heard, the voices that were so brutally silenced and for which Guzlowski now speaks. Here is an example:
A Life Story
She was born
in a concentration camp
in 1944. She was one pound
eight ounces. She was
a leaf of grass. She was lovely.
She was born dreaming
her mother’s dream
of flying like a robin
through the sky and eating
everything that was pure
and good and golden.

And then the women guards
smashed her into the wall
and wrapped her in newspaper
and threw her in the garbage
with the others.

Echoes of Tattered Tongues: Memory Unfolded is published by Aquila Polonica Publishing and is available for $21.95 wherever fine books are sold.