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International Reflective Writing


Jan Theuninck
(1954-    )

Though born after World War II in 1954, Jan Theuninck finds himself writing about the war and its aftermath.  A poet and minimalist painter with a strong interest in social and political issues, Theuninck writes under his own name as well as the pen-name, ORC, a name he uses in honor of Raoul Wallenberg.  Although Dutch is his mother tongue, he often writes in French.  His work frequently appears in poetry journals and magazines internationally.



wandering jew, damned jew
and no words on them are forbidden
suspected of crimes and treason
they have been put in jail
they have been tortured and murdered
in the name of an insane idea
and now - more than ever -
who is next, please?



juif errant , juif maudit
et nul mot sur eux est interdit
traités de crimes et de trahisons
ils ont été mis en prison
on les a torturés et tués
au nom d’une infâme idée
et maintenant plus que jamais
a qui le tour s’il vous plaît ?



‘s avonds laat
vult een mist
Jde vallei
zonder te beseffen
verstikt hij ons
als een duistere macht
op de velden
liggen onze lijken
en onder het graseen bruine aarde.     



late at night
a mist
fills the valley.
without knowing
it suffocates
like a dark power.
on the fields
our dead bodies
and under the grass
a brown soil



the sun shines
on the dune
the bunkers hide
the undesirable
all of them lose 
their innocence
lost blood 
on the beach
the sea...



burned in the oven
I perished in smoke
the remaining ashes
are deep grey


Red River  

the train was too late
by foot it was too far

the river too nearby

the hatred too strong

bullets through your head

river of blood

red Danube

dead Budapest



This poem is about the elimination of approximately 20.000 Jews who fell victim to the fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest.  Today artwork depicted in the wikipedia article is a monument to them: Text from the poem, Tyne Cot cut in the corten steel wall of the library in Zonnebeke, Belgium

© by Jan Theuninck



Tyne Cot

when you left
for the front
you were
living heroes
and now
you are on top
of the hill
where only


Tyne Cot is the largest military cemetery of Commonwealth forces on the continent (WW1), the text is cut in the wall of the library in Zonnebeke, Belgium, a mile away from Tyne Cot : See photo at:



Hill 60

poppies blood

on the green grass

on the hills of mud

away they pass


© by Jan Theuninck



Polygon Wood   

like a shrine

you lie

in the middle

of the wood 

and warn

of those

who preach 


and make 


© by Jan Theuninck



Frans Masereel

A pacifist in World War I, Frans Masereel, tried to make his art accessible to the ordinary man. His works were banned by the Nazis and widely distributed in Communist countries. But he rejected "political" art and party affiliation, condemning all enslavements, oppression, war and violence, injustice, and the power of money. We present here some of his many works and witnesses.

The painter and graphic artist Frans Masereel was born in the Belgian town of Blankenberghe in 1889. In 1896 he moved to Gent, where he began to study art at the "Ecole des Beaux-Arts" in the class of Jean Delvin at the age of 18. In 1909 he travelled to England and Germany, where he was inspired to create his first etchings and woodcuts. 

From 1911 Frans Masereel settled in Paris for four years and then emigrated to Switzerland, where he worked as a graphic artist for various journals and magazines. His woodcut series, which were mainly of sociocritical content and of expressionistic formal concept, gave Frans Masereel international acclaim. Among them were his so-called image novels including "Passion eines Menschen", "Mein Stundenbuch", "Die Sonne", "Die Idee" and "Geschichte ohne Worte", which all date from around 1920. At that time Frans Masereel also drew illustrations for famous works of world literature by Thomas Mann, Emile Zola and Stefan Zwei.

In 1921 the artist returned to Paris, where he created his famous street scenes, the Montmartre paintings. From 1925 Frans Masereel lived near Boulogne-sur-Mer, where he painted predominantly coastal landscapes, harbor views and protraits of sailors and fishermen. During the 1930s the number of illustrated books and individual woodcuts decreased considerably.

In 1940 the artist fled from Paris and lived in several locations in Southern France. At the end of World War II, Frans Masereel was able to resume his artistic work, which had been lying idle for years. He created woodcuttings and paintings. From 1946 Masereel worked for several years as a teacher at the "Centre des Métiers d'Art" in Saarbrücken. In 1949 he moved to Nice. In the following years until 1968 numerous woodcut series appeared, which differed from his earlier "novels in images" as they were no longer based on a continuous narrative but on variations of a subject.



Examples of Frans Masereel's Woodcuts


During the Great War, Frans Masereel joined in the fight to stop the war, a hopeless struggle, given the general fervour. Ink drawings and woodcuts were his instruments, and his engravings were brought together in collections Arise, You Dead and The Dead Speak which are unequivocal denunciations of the blood-letting. Masereel simplifies, brutalizes, contrasting black and white. He takes scenes and photographs from the newspapers and in a drawing style all of his own, he takes suffering to unbearable extremes. Or he uses a macabre and fantastic style with two headless bodies carrying their heads on a stretcher, one with a French képi and the other with a German helmet. It is madness everywhere, a madness against which Masereel knows he is powerless.



Émile Verhaeren

Emile Verhaeren was a Belgian poet, art critic and wrote short stories and verse plays. He was born at St Amand lez-Pueres, NC Belgium on May 21st of 1855. He studied law at the University of Louvain and while there started a journal, La Semaine, which was suppressed by the authorities as well as the following work Le Type. He was admitted to the bar at Brussels in 1881 but soon began devoting his time to literature, writing in French. He was soon one of the leading figures of the Belgian literary renaissance. His poetry hovers between powerful sensuality, as in Les Flamandes (1883) and the harrowing despair of Les Debacles (1888). Among his most notable works are La Multiple Splendeur (1906) and the five-part Tout la Flandre (1904-11).Source:


In this play the Belgian poet, Emile Verhaeren, has voiced his hopes for the regeneration of human society. The city of Oppidomagne is beseiged by a hostile army, and the revolutionists in both armies conspire and revolt. The gates of the city are thrown open, and the end of war declared. A captain in the hostile army is speaking over the body of Hérénian, leader of the revolutionists in the city.

I was his disciple, and his unknown friend. His books were my Bible. It is men like this who give birth to men like me, faithful, long obscure, but whom fortune permits, in one overwhelming hour, to realize the supreme dream of their master. If fatherlands are fair, sweet to the heart, dear to the memory, armed nations on the frontiers are tragic and deadly; and the whole world is yet bristling with nations. It is in their teeth that we throw them this example of our concord. (Cheers.) They will understand some day the immortal thing accomplished here, in this illustrious Oppidomagne, whence the loftiest ideas of humanity have taken flight, one after another, through all the ages. For the first time since the beginning of power, since brains have reckoned time, two races, one renouncing its victory, the other its humbled pride, are made one in an embrace. The whole earth must needs have quivered, all the blood, all the sap of the earth must have flowed to the heart of things. Concord and good will have conquered hate. (Cheers.) Human strife, in its form of bloodshed, has been gainsaid. A new beacon shines on the horizon of future storms. Its steady rays shall dazzle all eyes, haunt all brains, magnetize all desires. Needs must we, after all these trials and sorrows, come at last into port, to whose entrance it points the way, and where it gilds the tranquil masts and vessels.


The Cathedral of Rheims

He who walks through the meadows of Champagne 
At noon in Fall, when leaves like gold appear, 
Sees it draw near 
Like some great mountain set upon the plain, 
From radiant dawn until the close of day, 
Nearer it grows 
To him who goes 
Across the country. When tall towers lay 
Their shadowy pall 
Upon his way, 
He enters, where 
The solid stone is hollowed deep by all 
Its centuries of beauty and of prayer. 

Ancient French temple! thou whose hundred kings 
Watch over thee, emblazoned on thy walls, 
Tell me, within thy memory-hallowed halls 
What chant of triumph, or what war-song rings? 
Thou hast known Clovis and his Frankish train, 
Whose mighty hand Saint Remy's hand did keep 
And in thy spacious vault perhaps may sleep 
An echo of the voice of Charlemagne. 
For God thou has known fear, when from His side 
Men wandered, seeking alien shrines and new, 
But still the sky was bountiful and blue 
And thou wast crowned with France's love and pride. 
Sacred thou art, from pinnacle to base; 
And in thy panes of gold and scarlet glass 
The setting sun sees thousandfold his face; 
Sorrow and joy, in stately silence pass 
Across thy walls, the shadow and the light; 
Around thy lofty pillars, tapers white 
Illuminate, with delicate sharp flames, 
The brows of saints with venerable names, 
And in the night erect a fiery wall. 
A great but silent fervour burns in all 
Those simple folk who kneel, pathetic, dumb, 
And know that down below, beside the Rhine - 
Cannon, horses, soldiers, flags in line - 
With blare of trumpets, mighty armies come. 

Suddenly, each knows fear; 
Swift rumours pass, that every one must hear, 
The hostile banners blaze against the sky 
And by the embassies mobs rage and cry. 
Now war has come, and peace is at an end. 
On Paris town the German troops descend. 
They are turned back, and driven to Champagne. 
And now, as to so many weary men, 
The glorious temple gives them welcome, when 
It meets them at the bottom of the plain. 

At once, they set their cannon in its way. 
There is no gable now, nor wall 
That does not suffer, night and day, 
As shot and shell in crushing torrents fall. 
The stricken tocsin quivers through the tower; 
The triple nave, the apse, the lonely choir 
Are circled, hour by hour, 
With thundering bands of fire 
And Death is scattered broadcast among men. 

And then 
That which was splendid with baptismal grace; 
The stately arches soaring into space, 
The transepts, columns, windows gray and gold, 
The organ, in whose tones the ocean rolled, 
The crypts, of mighty shades the dwelling places, 
The Virgin's gentle hands, the Saints' pure faces, 
All, even the pardoning hands of Christ the Lord 
Were struck and broken by the wanton sword 
Of sacrilegious lust. 

O beauty slain, O glory in the dust! 
Strong walls of faith, most basely overthrown! 
The crawling flames, like adders glistening 
Ate the white fabric of this lovely thing. 
Now from its soul arose a piteous moan, 
The soul that always loved the just and fair. 
Granite and marble loud their woe confessed, 
The silver monstrances that Popes had blessed, 
The chalices and lamps and crosiers rare 
Were seared and twisted by a flaming breath; 
The horror everywhere did range and swell, 
The guardian Saints into this furnace fell, 
Their bitter tears and screams were stilled in death. 

Around the flames armed hosts are skirmishing, 
The burning sun reflects the lurid scene; 
The German army, fighting for its life, 
Rallies its torn and terrified left wing; 
And, as they near this place 
The imperial eagles see 
Before them in their flight, 
Here, in the solemn night, 
The old cathedral, to the years to be 
Showing, with wounded arms, their own disgrace. 


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