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)
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
many people will have died,
and the world will be a much smaller place
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
G-d’s Chosen People.
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!
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)
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.
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.