Three Poems from the Holocaust,
From the Book: Tears of the Past
By John D. Langwell
THIS NUMBER ON MY ARM
THERE ARE THOSE VOICES WHO CONTEND
THE PAST IS BUT A LIE.
THE HOLOCAUST,…A DREAM,..FIGMENT,…
SIX MILLION DID NOT DIE.
MY NIGHTMARES WERE OF HUNGER PAINS,
OF DEATH AND FIRE,…INSULT,…HARM;
AND NIGHTMARES ARE ALL THAT REMAINS,
AND,…THIS DAMNED NUMBER ON MY ARM.
THOUGH SIXTY-FIVE YEARS PASSED TODAY,
YOU FIND FEW GRAVES AROUND;…
SIX MILLION SOULS JUST BLEW AWAY
IN SMOKE,…NOT TO BE FOUND.
SHUT UP, YOU VOICES FULL OF HATE,
THE TRUTH CAN’T BE DENIED,…
AND NO ONE CAN ERADICATE
THE FACT: SIX MILLION DIED.
I know a little township, a place I went to live.
It’s name I will not mention, I’ll call it just “AS IF”.
Not everybody can just move to this little place:
‘cept those who by selection are of the “AS IF” race.
The people in the streets here, they run from end to end,
And, (although they get nowhere), they just like to pretend.
They’re living an existence, AS IF’s the life they knew,
And they enjoy all hearsay, AS IF it all were true.
There, too, is a café-house with music and Ersatz,*
And you can go and feel like…AS IF you’re Moishe Potz.
And many a one person will oftentimes act whiffy:
At home he was no big shot; here he pretends AS IF he….
On Sunday, (yes on Sunday), we’re getting hash. Of course
THAT may have looked, (while still alive), AS IF it was a horse.
On mornings and at evenings one drinks Ersatz….”AS IF”.
And, with just soup and little food, one feels much like a sieve.
One lies on straw to rest on, AS IF this were a bed,
And thinks of friends and loved ones, AS IF some news one had.
One bears this heavy burden AS IF there were no sorrow,
And speaks of one fine future AS IF it comes tomorrow.
Please pardon my translation. I did it just AS IF
I never had forgotten this town I had to live………………DIETER
*Substitute coffee, made from roasted wheat.
I SAW A THOUSAND PEOPLE, DISTROUGHT AND IN DISTRESS,
CONDEMNED AS JEWS, THEY WALKED TODAY,…INTO NOTHINGNESS.
AT DAYBREAK IN THE MORNING, THE COLUMN COULD BE SEEN;
AND FAR BEHIND THEM FADED WHAT ONCE THEIR LIFE HAD BEEN.
THEY CAME INTO THE GHETTO AND KNEW RIGHT AT THE GATE,…
THEIR PAST WAS LOST OUTSIDE NOW: PRESTIGE, LUCK AND ESTATE.
WHERE WILL ONE BE THEY WONDER, ONCE WHEN THE JOURNEY ENDS,
THEY’RE ONLY SURE OF ONE THING: INSIDE…BARBED WIRE FENCE.
AND WHAT IS WAITING FOR THEM IS MISERY….(NO LESS),
STARVATION, PEST AND TORMENT….FOR MANY CERTAIN DEATH.
WITH BROTHERLY COMPASSION I TRIED TO CATCH THEIR EYES…
EXPECTING LAMENTATION, BUT MUCH TO MY SURPRISE,
INSTEAD OF DESPERATION I SAW BURNING DESIRE
TO RETAIN SELF CONTROL. IN EYES ALIVE WITH FIRE
I SAW TREMENDOUS WILL TO LIVE, SAW COURAGE AND SAW STYLE,
AND HERE AND THERE WERE FACES SHOWING A CARING SMILE.
THEN, DEEPLY MOVED, I REALIZED THE SOUL OF ISRAEL,
THOUGH DESTINED TO BE SUFFERING, NO TYRANT COULD IMPALE.
A PEOPLE WHO KNOWS EXILE, KNOWS HARDSHIP AND KNOWS TEARS,
A RACE, THAT WITHSTOOD HATRED FOR MANY THOUSAND YEARS…
I SAW A COMING TRANSPORT OF PEOPLE IN DISTRESS
AND SAW AT DAWN THAT MORNING, THE LIGHT OF HOLINESS.
TRANSLATION BY DIETER
The Author and His Wife, also a holocaust survivor
Visit their website http://tearsofthepast.com
from the May 2011 Edition of the Jewish Magazine