Swastikas on the Soles of our Shoes



In elementary school we had  a ritual

To write the name “HITLER” on the soles of our shoes.

So that all day long, we could rub him out of history,

For we knew he lingered.


We repeated the exercise every day

Because we were convinced that the concrete and laminate

Were not punishment enough for the tainted ink on our heels

That we chose to tattoo there.


We, the third generation, branded our soles this way

Because our souls have been marked since before our birth.

A shared collective of memories not our own

Of trauma, tears and the torture of time, spent in loss.


Children whose dreams are etched with shattered glass

Of pure bred people and dogs, hunting, sniffing, finding.

Hours of the night spent in shadows, barely audible breath

Hoping to be allowed to pick the glass out of our wounds, in the dark.


The 3G language is littered with words and phrases

From a world and place that never belonged to us.

Yet our perspective of the world is tied tight

Tethered to the lifetime of our predecessors.


They whispered and shouted to us, “never again! never forget! Zachor!”

And we nodded and promised, and heard that perhaps it would come again.

For as students of history we know the tide always comes back to the shore

As the wave of Jew hating that the world rides, rises until it crashes and washes us away.


We, the third generation, have stood in gas chambers

Tracing our fingers over the blue veins of Zyklon B residue on the walls

That were left there by millions of last breaths

And imagined we felt suffocated, like them.


We have cramped in cattle cars and lost ourselves

In imagining what would have happened to us, but we know the answer.

We visit these places because we haven’t seen them with our own eyes

Though the images are fresh in our minds as if we have seen them before.


We have been conditioned by stories given to us as a birthright

To choose portable silver candlesticks, and plan escape routes

Hiding spaces and which neighbor we could trust to save our children.

To us, those realities are yesterday and maybe tomorrow.


Echoes and whispers of Judeophobia were our youth

But now the third generation are creating new families, and the hatred is populating too.

These days the news is roaring to our sensitive ears over the din of our relative safety

We vex and shout, “get out while you still can;” for we’ve seen this movie before.


An old story being retold again by history and hatred,

We hear the headlines of rising statistics and incidents in our grandparent’s voices, but the dates are wrong.

No news today, just affirmation of what we have always known,

Since we were coloring on the soles of our shoes.

About the Author
Shira and her MSW, write and work in Marketing. She strives to balance her divinely inspired blessings and tests.
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