Faces Tell Stories – A Holocaust Poem

In commemoration of Holocaust Day, which begins tomorrow evening, I would like to remind us that although we are always shocked by the sheer number of Holocaust victims, we would do well to remember that every single one of the was a person with dreams, ambitions, loves and stories to tell; of their lives  – and their tragic deaths.

Faces Tell Stories

An eight year old boy on Zaida’s knee,
He picks up a picture and shows it to me.
That’s Hymie, and Sheyna, and Beila and Yankel””
I point to an old man, he says “he was my uncle”.
I look up at his face and ask “where are they now”?
“They’re gone”, he says, and furrows his brow.

He tells me a story of a street and a house,
And the echo of jackboots and men shouting, “Raus!”
A story too sad for a young boy to hear,
But tell it he must, while he wipes at a tear.
It was when I was older that I got what he said,
Why no uncles or cousins. They were all dead.

He taught me a lesson, my Zaida, that day,
Of how to remember, a personal way.
That faces tell stories, those seen and those not,
They beseech us to listen, lest be forgot.
And listen we must, it is who we are,
A Jew must be free, not wear a star.

Each number, a face and each face a number,
Each with a story that we must remember.
The pictures show faces, eyes that don’t see,
And I take a deep sigh and think, “That could be me!”
And each face implores us, “never again”!
And this is our duty, as Jews and as men.

Bodies were broken, tortured and burned,
But spirits, like letters, lost then returned,
With liberation, the fire resurged,
Out of the ashes, a nation emerged.
Determined and driven, with tooth and with nail,
We forged our homeland, our Israel!

About the Author
Paul Mirbach made aliya from South Africa to kibbutz Tuval in 1982 with a garin of Habonim members. Together they built a new kibbutz transforming rocks and mud to a green oasis in the Gallilee. He served in infantry during his army service, serving in both Lebanon and the West Bank, including on reserve duty during the first intifada. Paul still lives on Tuval with his wife and two sons.
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