• Print
  • TWEET

1943: Werner Heisenberg Pays a Visit to Hans Frank in Kraków

Adam Zagajewski, translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh

A difficult visit, though elementary particles
never commented on current events.
Hans Frank, a subtle connoisseur of art, a murderer,
had been his older brother’s classmate
—they shared a love for music.
You don’t pick your brothers, or their friends.

He couldn’t quite see why Frank had picked
the royal castle for his residence.
The passersby struck him as sad,
they moved like black puppets,
above, the clouds were ominous, violet,
below, the city like a frosted mirror.

It was December, a frosted month.
The elementary particles were mute.
He gave a lecture (just for Germans).
He couldn’t understand those clouds,
that mirror, fortunately, other matters soon
absorbed him; his homeland was in flames.

Those dark streets were not his homeland.
Those leafless trees, that chill, the women wrapped
in shawls and scarves—it must have been a dream.
He skipped this episode in his memoirs,
insignificant, after all. What goes unsaid
should stay unsaid. So he thought.