Poems Honoring the Righteous Gentiles

        May 2014    
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Poems Honoring Righteous Gentiles During The Nazi Holocaust

By Norman Chansky

The Righteous Ten Booms*

(*During World War II, the pious family ten Booms practiced their Christian faith by making their home a refuge for Jews and members of the Dutch underground . Several family members were interred in concentration camps. Some died there. Cornelia (Corrie) had located local families who provided safe houses, thereby saving some 800 Jews from extinction. She survived Ravensbruck and continued her good works after the war. )

Nazi soldiers clad in brown

   Goose stepped through old Haarlem town,

Shrilly shrieking,"The Jews are slime.

   Harb'ring them's a heinous crime."


Rising during this dawn of madness

   When good hearts filled with pain and sadness

Was the righteous fam'ly of ten Boom,

   Who shone like sun 'midst growing gloom.


Papa, Betsy, and pious Corrie,

   Who'll live forever in hallowed glory,

Disguised a room and there concealed

   Escaping Jews whose doom was sealed.

The downcast Jews in isolation

   Wept in dread of extermination

Until Papa ten Boom read from the sacred text,

   Perpetual elixir to souls perplexed.


To feed the guests growing by the score,

   Ration cards were stolen by a coconspirator.

Corrie knew that she was suspected.

   Still risking all, her Jews she protected.


In time the ten Booms were jailed

   Where a reign of evil prevailed.

For many days they had not eaten.

   And, in fact, were often beaten.


Yet the ten Booms never revealed

   Where the Jews were concealed.

Papa died. The sisters staggered to detention camp

   To endure in cells dark and damp.


Although the guards only showed disdain

   And inflicted upon them shame and pain,

The sisters reached high for the mighty Lord

   Who ruled the world with love, not sword.


Corrie taught Bible and each day prayed

   For the innocents the Nazis shroud-laid

At Ravensbruck camp where grief was bred

   By evil guards who defiled the dead.


Betsy died there like so many others:

   Defectives, babies, and nursing mothers.

Then within Corrie rose a solemn ambition

   To spread God's Love, life's sacred mission.


And as the war was finally ending

   Broken souls were in need of mending

Corrie did as sister Betsy had willed,

   She healed both victims and those who killed.




Dr. Aristedes De Sousa Mendes.*

(*Dr. Mendes, Portuguese consul in Bordeaux , having learned of the plight of 10,000 refugees many of them Jews , signed their passports to freedom. Stripped of his pension, he lived in ignominy until he was honored in Yad Vashem (1966) and in Portugal (1986). He once said, "If thousands of Jews can suffer because of one Catholic (Hitler), then surely it is permitted for one Catholic to suffer for so many Jews.)

Consul Dr. Sousa Mendes.

   Honored Sir. Write us a visa!

We the desperate refugees

   From Hitler's slaughter were weeping

While the rest of the world was sleeping.


Dr. Mendes brought his message to Salazar,

   Portugal's avatar

Who said no visa for Jews.

   But your honor, Portugal will be known

In the annals of compassion

   For providing a haven for the desperate.

No. No visa for the Jews.

   But your honor, Portugal will be known


As a sinning, Catholic country.

No. No visa for the Jews.

But your honor, the marking of Jews

Is unconstitutional.


Sousa Mendes took to his bed

   Where he languished, where he anguished.

How can he countermand his government's orders?

   How can he send innocents to their extinction?

His woes harassed his body;

   His torment set his brain on fire;

His soul was filed with ire.

   In his dreams were babies crying;

In his dreams were groans of the dying;


Then like Jesus, he rose on the third day.

   He fed his fasting body;

He filled his brain with plans;

   He filled his soul with human suffering.

Mercy entered every chamber of his heart.

   Energized, he signed the visas.



Sempo Sugihara*


(*Japanese consul in Kovno was approached by Dr. Zorah Warhaftig asked him to grant Japanese transit visas to Polish Jews in Kovno so that they could get Soviet visas. The plan was to allow them to travel to Curacao where an entry permit was not necessary. The Japanese government rejected the proposal. Sugihara went ahead and issued 1600 visas. He was shunned by his countrymen and disgraced by his government. He was honored at Yad Vashem and decades later in Japan.)

Consul Sugihara.

   Honored Sir.

Please grant Polish Jews

   Living in Kovno

Transit visas so they can emigrate

   Lest they be immolated.

We have martyrs enough!


For days the consul tossed and turned

   While righteous anger within him burned.

He saw dread in every Jewish eye;

   He heard screams that terrify.

In his dreams were Jews dressed in sadness;

   In his dreams were eyes burning with madness.

The Nazi weasel Jewish blood was drinking

   As their propaganda was the world hoodwinking.


The consul's heart with mercy was beating

   While en masse Nazis were Jews deleting.

His decision was clear:

   Be true to what I hold dear.

Can I allow innocents to die

   In a world that has gone awry?

Whatever punishment I am to receive

   I cannot my own conscience deceive.


Each visa kindled a cosmic spark

   Bringing light to a world too dark.

Each visa permitted passage to tomorrow

   Into a world with a little less sorrow.



from the May 2014 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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