'Refugee': a person who flees to another country to escape being persecuted for their religion or politics, or to escape war.
'Blues': a slow, sad song, traditionally with 3-line stanzas with 4 beats to each line. The music features 'blue notes': mainly flattened thirds and sevenths. The Blues were first sung by African Americans working on slave plantations in the southern states of the USA; these melancholy ballads expressed the unhappiness of the slaves' lives. Later, Blues became part of the development of popular song and jazz. WH Auden's poem uses many of the characteristics of a blues lyric.
'souls': individual people
'consul': an official appointed by a country to represent its citizens in another
Jews have lived in Europe for nearly 2,000 years. Throughout that time they have frequently experienced racist hostility and persecution. In the 1920s, German Jews began to face such anti-Semitism from the Nazi (Nationalist) political party, led by Adolf Hitler. When he came to power in 1933, he introduced laws which, step by step, deprived German Jews of their human rights; after 1939 the Nazis organised a systematic programme to deprive them of their lives as well. This included forming death squads who, under cover of the Second World War, hunted down Jews (especially in Poland and Russia) in order to kill them.
In the 1930s many German Jews looked for refuge - became refugees - abroad. At first they were received kindly, but as war approached many countries became reluctant to take them, at least in large numbers, and made immigration more difficult.
Israel background to conflict
WH Auden does what a blues writer would do: takes a single main theme and makes variations on it, leading to a particularly powerful finale. The theme of this 'song' is the abuse of human rights experienced not only by German Jews...