Written Reflections from My Trip to Poland

In 1999, I spent a week touring Poland. We traveled to cities and concentration camps. I took pictures and wrote poems. The pictures were to capture what I witnessed. The poems were to describe how I felt; the experience of walking in the footsteps of my grandparents and ancestors. In recognition of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, 2021, I share my feelings here.

(Sochaczew, Chelmno, Lodz)

1.

Hatred from the inner depths of one’s heart

ignites a flame which will soon spread uncontrollably

the basis for this Hatred is unknown, but

the consequences are certainly clear

neighbors become enemies,

friends become foes

the potential for a peaceful world is gone.

a world divided all because of unsubstantiated hatred.

What will become of this now chaotic world;

it is impossible to tell.

but one thing is definite; by the time this

hatred subsides

many people will have died,

and the world will be a much smaller place

2.

Hatred drives people to inhumane actions

it eliminates any semblance of humanity which once embodied that person.

man becomes a machine,

a machine programmed for hate and destruction.

since fury has overcome this person,

he can now do nothing but hate

not having any positive significance in this world, the machine

will soon self-destruct;  

But not before he takes many  

many lives-together with his own.

3.

to give up one’s life for his religion

to give up his physical for his spiritual

there is no greater portrayal of his

devotion to his G-d

These are the righteous people, even those

who devote their entire lives to the service of G-d

do not compare to those who Die for their G-d.

These are the Faithful,

These are the Righteous,

These are the Martyrs; the

Holy Martyrs.

(Plaszow, Krakow)

4.

What once was, is no longer

all that is left is Memories.

to reminisce about the past is nice,

to cry for it; pointless.

the only way of Remembrance which has any significance,

is to live one’s life the way his ancestors died;

by doing G-d’s will, and sanctifying His Name.

(Auschwitz, Birkenau)

5.

how did they feel as they entered the Gates of Hell 

being separated from loved ones,

giving up all personal possessions

being stripped bare?

what went through their minds when

they were stripped of even their identity

and became a mere number?

let these questions remain unsolved,

for the answers are inconceivable.

6.

a room over ten times the size of my room at home

is filled with shoes.

Red shoes, black shoes, boots, slippers

So Many Shoes.

to count them would take days. 

imagine how many feet were needed

to fill these shoes.

where are these feet now?

what happened to those to whom the shoes belong?

where are these people now?

They are No longer

Only the shoes are left to

vouch for their owner’s existence.

to tell the story of those who walked these shoes into Auschwitz

and shall never return to reclaim them.

The Shoes shall bare Witness for all eternity.

7.

a warehouse of sacks

all filled with human hair.

Beautiful red hair,

Braided brown hair,

Silky blond hair,

have all met the same fate.

they shall no longer grow,

no longer be brushed.

they have left the heads

to which they had once belonged;

heads connected to bodies

bodies which are no longer bodies

but rather black ashes buried in

the Fields of Auschwitz

8.

i stand in Auschwitz in the month of march

my hands are Numb, my feet Frozen, my body Cold.

i am wearing gloves, shoes, a shirt, sweater, winter coat, undershirt, and socks

yet I am still so very cold.

imagine how the camp inmates felt

with only rags covering their hard worked bodies,

and wooden clogs covering their tired feet.

who am i to complain?

They never even thought to complain

So how do i have the audacity to complain?!

They lived their lives in this frozen numb state

yet it is i, not they who complain,

i who in a matter of minutes will return to my warm bus,

i have the gall to complain

Such an uncaring, unfeeling person I am!

9.

the Fire in Hell was never extinguished,

it burned all day

and through the night.

This Holy Fire

fueled by the most precious substance ever put on this world.

the fuel?

G-d’s Chosen People.

(Majdanek)

10.

they say i am lucky

lucky that i have not died

but what kind of life do i have now?

all day all night, i feed the furnace,

feed it with my brothers, my sisters, my uncles, my aunts

i must keep the fire strong

or i too will be used as fuel.

i do not call this life

i call this, a living death

yet, they claim i am lucky

i will never understand how they say this

at this point in time, i would prefer death 

rather than life

this is not life.

And I am Certainly Not Lucky!

(Warsaw Ghetto)

11.

through hunger and despair

the brave fought on.

never giving up hope

refusing to go like sheep 

to their slaughter.

these men, women, even children

fought for their pride

fought for their dignity

and died, as Martyrs, in the Warsaw Ghetto. 

(Tykocin, Treblinka, Gora Kalwaria)

12.

a vibrant village is no longer

homes lay empty

fields lay fallow

Where are the many Jews of Tikocin?

Why do they not return?

only the trees know 

the trees of the forest, who have watched their fate.

the trees who have watched thousands of these Jews

dead or alive, being thrown into pits

which were then covered with dirt.

In the end, all that remains,

is the Vacant village of Tikocin. 

13.

i remember when it was that i saw my very last sunset

it was only a moment before the train came to a halt

and i saw the beautiful orange, pink and purple streaks in the sky.

this made me so happy.

i remember thinking how far away it felt to me,

i, was cramped in a tiny dark cattle car

and the colors of the sky were free to float about the horizon.

i remember thinking when it would be that i would become part of those colored streaks

in the never-ending sky

but this point in time seemed so foreign to me.

i had no idea it would be within the hour.

Now, I am no longer- but I beg of you

do not forget me

each time you gaze at the sunset

Please see me in the pink, purple, and orange streaks, for

I have finally become part of G-d’s sunset.

About the Author
Tzachi Rosman, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of issues related to addiction, trauma, and self-esteem. Since 2008, Tzachi has worked at VA Hudson Valley HCS in Montrose, NY serving as Staff Psychologist on the hospital’s residential Substance Abuse and PTSD units. Tzachi has a private practice in Teaneck, NJ, enjoys writing articles about Mental Health, and free-building Lego sculptures. He can be reached at yrosmanpsyd@gmail.com.
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