It's cold here, and the other children are very poorly;
But I think I'm ever so lucky
To have my Uncle Mengele looking after me;
He gives me lots of smiles and things to eat;
He makes sure my bed is warm when I sleep;
In the winter, I have shoes on my feet.
I'm only six years old, like my brother Christi;
He looked at us and said 'you are so sweet'
When we arrived here; he came along to meet
Me and my brother, so he could complete
His studies. He said that we looked a little green,
So he'd change that to his liking.
Sometimes, he likes to things that are quite silly
To other boys and girls that are naughty:
He keeps them outside at night when it's freezing --
But not me, 'cause Uncle Mengele loves me;
He's almost like an Angel, or so it would seem;
He's not like the other men -- they're just mean.
He took us to a room, and talked to a baldy
Man in a language that was quite funny.
He said me and my brother were sick, and need
Treatment that would be over quite quickly;
And because we both miss our mother quite dearly,
He said he won't hurt my brother and me.
Uncle Mengele has just gave me bad news: sadly
My brother died just after surgery.
This is even worse than the pain I feel in my tummy.
Uncle Mengele said 'you must forgive me.
I'll make all your problems go away with Zyklon-B.
We'll take you to the shower to be cleaned'.
Its A Monetary Thing Its Never Fate
When There Is No Plan To Resuscitate
Just Junior Doctors With Bodies To
Being Taken On By Age Concern
Their Fighting With A Fascist Regime
That's Taken On The Mengele Theme
“Stay away from me abortion doctor!”
“Now, now, I only want to give you an abortion.”
“Give it to yourself—I'm keeping my baby!”
“Stand still while I administer the vacuum tube.”
“Administer this!” I screamed as I jammed the
vacuum tube into his ear & sucked out his brains.
Hurried re-write: “Back off butcher!”; “I'm going to
kill your baby!”; “Bullshit!” & with that I attacked
Mengele with a protractor.; “Help!” He pig-squealed.
“I'm being paid back for murder!”
Trek my siel uit met swart onlogiese krapmerke op my pick n pay strokie.
Breek my fingers af op n hout skryf blad
en hou die honde naby vir die bene wat spat.
Vermergel dan my vellies
en gooi dit op n graf
en se dis vir al die girlys
-dis van papers wat smag.
Edel en opreg is die regter se kaf.
Heilig is die helde van die bars van die nag.
Ons onthou die spoke van Oranje stad,
Ons kleef aan hulle woorde soos n tros vol kak.
Ons hou van die serries en die doef van Jak,
En moenie met my stry nie ek sal jou in pak.
Melodie jou wysie met ewige tone,
mengel mooi jou woordtjies met jou oulike drome.
Hou die fort van veiligheid en nasionalisme,
Wees n patriot en vermoor Anglisisme.
Beskerm jou mother language teen n kombuis taal.
Daar is niks in hierdie wereld wat die taal mag vaal.
When Van Gogh cut off his ear
It was for reassurance that the rest of him could disappear
That illusion of ownership that nerves create
Should have faded with each baby tooth I lost
It didn't though, contrariwise I worried I would extend
Into roads or trees and then feel the tire's friction or the elm's blight
Empathy is a bitch of its own
I pray I never wake up with a Siamese twin
I'd have to care, lest we lapse into mutual sadomasochism
That hilarious territory of bored lovers
The Thalidomide kids might get a kick
out of feeling new arms attached to other people
but that's the exception that proves the rule
After the Vietnam war, some men believed Agent Orange
Had followed them home, alive in newly discovered nerves
Now what odd god must be behind that shit!
Mengele often awoke from dreams sweating and sure
That his patients would learn a trick to generate biological anesthetics
He needed the feedback of sound to really understand the human body
“Prayer or pleading” he used to say with a wink to his bartender after work
Sometimes I worry that my nervous system
Might have a Mengelian agenda of its own
That I am woven into a potential torture chamber seems clear
but then I remember that I can always pull the tooth or cut off the ear
I: Introduction—A History Lesson
The word swastika was derived from the Sanskrit
meaning good fortune,
or well being.
The shape is a monogram,
the interlacing of two Brahmi words,
a hooked cross which, over 5,000 years ago,
represented the rays of the sun,
the four directions of our natural compass,
and the four elements of our world.
Earth, wind, fire and water,
the symbol was balanced,
sitting firmly on its base
like a poised animal
on its haunches.
In other interpretations,
the symbol was a sacred text
explaining, “here is how the sun moves across the sky.”
A map of the heavens,
a lesson in astronomy.
The swastika, when standing on its base,
is still sacred today
in many religions.
the Buddha’s footsteps,
the seventh saint in Jainism,
and the four possible places of rebirth
in animal and plant world,
hell, earth and the spirit world.
In the 1870s the swastika was changed forever.
An archaeologist engrossed in discoveries
from ancient Troy and Mycenae,
found the symbol likeable
and claimed it,
because as a man he had the power to define.
He designated it
the symbol of his people—the Aryans—
and soon this is what it became.
By 1907 the swastika was turned at an angle
becoming a hooked cross precariously balancing
on its side.
Its meaning, however, was turned upside down.
The cult of Aryan supremacy
and finally Hitler adopted the
as the symbol of the Nazi party
marking the beginning of its legacy
as an image of hate,
a harbinger of genocide,
and unthinkable atrocity.
In the course of twenty five years,
under the direction of Hitler and Himmler
and Heydrich and Daluege
and Jeckeln and Prutzmann
and Eichmann and Mengele
and countless other men with vacant expressions
and the ability to spell death with pointed fingers
the swastika came to mean loss
of integrity, of citizenship, of basic rights,
of personal safety, of property,
of an untarnished image of humanity
Under the swastika
unraveled a calm, coordinated,
and systematic extermination
of 6 million Jews
and unknown numbers
of people of color,
Under the swastika,
there were gas chambers
and the burning of children’s bodies.
There were prison-like ghettos,
and there was no humanity.
Part II: A lesson in Linguistics
First, language is meaningful only
because of shared understanding.
Words mean nothing,
symbols are vacuous
unless we share recognition
of the things that they signify.
All language is arbitrary
if we cannot agree on what object,
or emotion or event in history
are called forth by the words that we say.
Second, to be able to change meaning, you must have power
and you must have time.
if I could rewrite the meaning of every blood-soaked word
I would scrub them clean of their histories.
I’d redefine them,
make them useful,
maybe even kind.
But I can’t, and neither can you.
At least not alone
and not on command.
Because I’m sorry to say
that that’s not how language works.
I’m sorry to say
that a symbol made synonymous with hate
cannot be used innocently,
cannot only mean what it meant before Hitler
and Heydrich and Daluege
and Jeckeln and Prutzmann
and Eichmann and Mengele.
Even if you claim to redefine it,
even if you claim to only use it for what it once was
even if once it was beautiful,
like the stalwart path of the sun,
the swastika has innocent blood on its hooks
and it eyes us sideways like a crooked lamppost
burdened with memories we cannot dismiss.
As a society, we remember,
because pain is a finicky creature
that will not be reasoned with,
or re-defined out of existence.
We cannot use the swastika without remembering the pain
how it was ironed onto the starched coats
and painted on the national flags
of those who murdered
6 Millions Jewish men, women and children,
and unknown numbers
of people of color,
Even if you say so.
Even if you claim to only use it for good.
Part Three: A Story
In elementary school my Hebrew teacher was Mrs. Wygodski.
When I was ten she seemed ancient.
I remember her shaky hands, but the steadiness of her voice.
Most of all I remember the numbers on her forearm
from when the Nazis decided she was no longer a girl,
but a numerical value.
I remember her telling us about the concentration camps
when they shaved her tiny girlish head
and gave her dirty, ill-fitting clothes,
when they took her arm and erased her
like a message in the sand,
and she became a number.
In elementary school someone wanted to play a joke
so they scrawled a swastika
on its side
in large black ink on the white board of class.
The symbol was the first thing you saw
when you entered the room.
when she came in she was smiling
her grey hair down, her kind, open face,
a miracle of a woman,
to withstand the darkest night and still smile.
I remember that Mrs. Wygodski said it is important to forgive
but I could never understand how she forgave the Nazis.
She would look at us and say
“hate is the darkest tunnel,
and harder to climb out of
than forgiveness is to bestow.”
The day she walked into the room with the swastika
looming large on the white board
I will never forget the look on her face.
As the symbol spoke to her directly
it unearthed everything she spent years flattening down,
memories she sifted through for decades with trembling fingers,
images she shelved in the recesses of her mind
to make room for the possibility of tomorrow, and the warmth of smiling children.
For a moment
that symbol broke her,
and in that moment, the swastika once again stole her humanity,
and turned Mrs. Wygodski into the number
they once told her she was.
Part Four: Land of the Free
Today thousands of hate groups continue to use the swastika
the way that Hitler intended it.
Once a symbol of good fortune,
it is now the most widely recognized symbol of hate
the world has ever known.
Used in the United States
the swastika has opened its claws
and staked claim to the beating hearts,
and hopeful sovereignty
and promised dreams
of countless African Americans,
who became the targets of the same bottomless hate
that engulfed millions in the holocaust.
Under our star spangled banner
the swastika has overseen
thousands of racially driven lynchings,
ongoing police brutality
the imprisonment of one out of three black men
and the bombing of black children in their Sunday school dresses.
the swastika celebrates the sealing of borders,
is embraced by the very groups
who once outlawed black existence
in our very own state constitution,
the same groups
who once dictated the state’s refusal
to ratify the 14th amendment
of equal protection,
and the 15th amendment
giving African Americans the right to speak
at the ballot box
and be heard
by their government.
In the land of the free, the swastika
is still tattooed on chests
and ironed to coats
and scrawled on the walls of my classroom.
In our communities
the European Kindred,
the Northwest Hammerskins,
the National Socialist Party,
and the Ku Klux Klan.
And they wear the swastika
because they recognize its meaning,
the meaning we all know
the meaning imbedded deep
by the pointed guns of the Einsatzgruppen
they wear the swastika because they want to swallow the world.
Part 5: In Conclusion
To whoever drew the swastika
in every year before that
in the bathroom, in the hallway, on my classroom wall and desks.
I forgive you.
Not because I want to
but because Mrs Wygodski would.
I will give you the benefit of the doubt.
I will believe you didn’t mean it.
I will believe you didn’t know.
I will still have hope in your humanity
because what choice do I have?
This is my refusal to become what the Nazis wanted,
what hate groups still want.
That is how I resist.
I refuse to hate you,
However, now that I’m addressing you directly,
I want to take this moment to make clear
that when I see the swastika
this is what I see:
I see Mrs Wygodski,
with her kindness that was like a spring
flowing from somewhere dark and unseeable
and I see her face when she walked into a room with that symbol
and I see the colors of her world bleed out.
I see my missing family members,
who I never actually had the chance to really see.
So I imagine them,
my grandfather’s aunts, uncles and cousins
from a shtetle somewhere in Poland,
erased completely from history, from record, from existence
by swastika wearing men
who forgot how to be human.
Finally, I see my students.
The rest of them,
with their still young impressionability
and their beautiful array of skin colors, backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures
and their intact understanding of love.
They are the hope that our grandparents thought was lost,
and this swastika is their antithesis.
It is the undoing of their sanctity,
it is you spitting in the face of everyone who is not you.
And if you do that intentionally,
if you do that knowingly
and with purpose,