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Archive for Thursday, March 5, 1998

KU POET RECOUNTS WWII ATROCITIES

March 5, 1998

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A Kansas University professor writes about the atrocities of war.

Brian Daldorph believes the atrocities inflicted during World War II were so overwhelming, and the victims so numerous, that many people grew numb to the grim statistics.

To personalize both the victims and the perpetrators, he crafted and assembled a series of succinct and subtle poems in ``The Holocaust and Hiroshima: Poems'' (Mid-America Press Inc.).

For Daldorph, the book was a natural outgrowth of his interest in the subject and interviews with Hiroshima survivors. The United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city in 1945, an act that led to the end of the war.

``Ever since I was very young I heard about the events. I think they are the two most significant events of the century. They tell us who we were and what we may become,'' he said.

Daldorph, an assistant professor of English at Kansas University, had trouble writing the material until he received a newspaper clipping from his father.

The article profiled the doctor who first examined Josef Mengele for ``racial purity.'' Mengele became a notorious concentration camp medical supervisor, conducting torturous experiments on prisoners and sending hundreds of victims to their deaths.

``The first poem was inspired by the article,'' Daldorph recalled. ``I thought, `What could he be thinking as he examined Mengele?' It was a breakthrough. Most of the other poems came from the first one.''

To personalize the wartime horrors, Daldorph did historical research and then wrote in first-person.

``There is much we didn't know,'' he said. ``So I tried to be more personal and imagine the persons involved and what they were thinking.''

The book's second half details the Hiroshima bombing. Daldorph spent a year overseas, teaching at Shimane University in Matsue, Japan. The city is three hours from Hiroshima.

``The people I talked to are quite stoic over it and seemed reconciled to their suffering,'' he said. ``But when I was there it was the 50th anniversary of the bombing and there were still raw feelings. Japan is still coming to terms with its war experiences.''

He hopes readers will empathize with the war victims.

``The book brings out the individuality of suffering, ... making people realize the humanity of all involved,'' he said. ``It brings two historical events closer to people and hopefully gets them beyond the statistics.''

While promoting this book, Daldorph is working on another poetry collection and is writing his first play.

``The Holocaust and Hiroshima: Poems'' is available at Raven Bookstore, 8 E. Seventh; Hastings Books Music and Video, 1900 W. 23rd; and KU campus bookstores.

-- The Mag's phone message number is 832-7146. Send e-mail to biles@ljworld.com.

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