THE LÜFTWAFFE IN CHAOS
Negative Capability Press, 1985
Richard Eberhart: . . . lively, dynamic poems. . . .The book is a triumph of recreating facts, personalities, ideas and myths of the time of World War II before and after.
Joseph Bruchac: The Lüftwaffe in Chaos is a tough-minded, thoughtful book. It is as necessary as memory, art which is committed and highly crafted at one and the same time. I recommend it to the widest possible audience.
William Matthews: The lunatic banality and horror of Hitler’s reign is seen with a kind of disgusted tenderness, so that our pity and terror are for a prospect wholly repulsive and wholly human.
Leo Connellan: Nicholas Rinaldi confronts this horror with the artist’s knowledge that if we do not face our demons, yes perhaps our very possible nemesis, we cannot fully evolve ourselves or out talent. Rinaldi should be admired for trying to see and know the devil!
Elliot Podwill: In the broadest sense, poetry collections fit into two categories: those that include works on a range of themes, and others that focus on a particular topic. Many modern American poets—Robert Lowell and John Berryman come immediately to mind—have produced volumes falling into the second category, reflecting an interest in specific historic events...Nicholas Rinaldi’s The Lüftwaffe in Chaos, recreating the rise and fall of fascism in Germany, is perhaps one of the most unusual thematic collections ever written. . . . It is to Rinaldi’s credit that his poetic cupboard is so well stocked that the reader feels no inclination to put the book down.
I was quite young, still in elementary school, during World War II, but I do have vivid memories. My cousin Mario was in the army, and we exchanged letters often. I recall the time when he was caught up in the Battle of the Bulge, that long, horrific struggle when the German army made a fierce attempt to turn back the allied armies that were heading for Germany. It lasted about a month and a half, and I remember how I rushed home after school hours, eager for the latest radio reports. Mario survived that battle, and he survived the war. But many, some who had lived in the neighborhood where I grew up, never returned.
Throughout the war, our local movie house usually showed a brief News-of-the-World report before the feature film. I remember the hissing and booing whenever the face of Hitler appeared on screen. And the awesome silence, the sense of horror, when we saw images of the concentration-camp victims, the living and the dead, filmed when American soldiers reached the camps and liberated those who were still alive.
More than half a century has gone by since those terrible times, yet I’m quite aware that some of the scenes in The Lüftwaffe in Chaos will be difficult for those who lost relatives during Hitler’s violent persecution of the Jews. My intention, in writing these poems, was not to add to anyone’s grief, but to contribute, in the small way that poetry can, toward the prevention of such horrors in the future. More than a century ago, George Santayana wrote: “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” Or, as others say, those who forget the devils of the past, are condemned to fall victim to the devils of the present.
From THE LÜFTWAFFE IN CHAOS:
NACHT UND NEBEL ERLASS
The order came down
from the Führer himself:
Persons endangering German security
to be seized. Those not qualifying
for immediate execution
to be interned in special camps.
The prisoners will vanish
without leaving a trace. No information
may be given
as to their whereabouts or fate.
The SD was in charge. Hard to say
how many disappeared. The way
a picture in a newspaper
is clipped out and removed,
excised, nothing left behind,
no clue, no hastily scrawled message,
only the blank space, and the night,
the mist—a hollow, voiceless silence
where even the fog has no name.