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.