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Lieke 7d
Flickering candles of promises, not enough
Being a spectator of these everlasting black fireworks is tough
Beams of convergent love reached an end
Smoky shadows still follow me in ways I cannot comprehend
Being the victim of unrighteous pain, I rebuff.
7 May
Lieke 7d
Round and round but no left no right
Rotation is no escape
Blood from the war stained us head to toe
My only treasure, I tried to prevent a scrape

Principles of decency were cancelled
Regardless guilty or innocent, was horror enforced
We scrambled past, two starved mice
As the hunt was relentlessly endorsed

But what didn’t survive the struggle for life
Was my lovely wedded wife.
7 May
Miklos Radnoti [1909-1944], a Hungarian Jew and a fierce anti-fascist, is perhaps the greatest of the Holocaust poets. His often-harrowing bio appears after his poems. The "postcard" poems were written on a death march that ended with him being executed and buried in a mass grave.

Postcard 1
by Miklós Radnóti, written August 30, 1944
translation by Michael R. Burch

Out of Bulgaria, the great wild roar of the artillery thunders,
resounds on the mountain ridges, rebounds, then ebbs into silence
while here men, beasts, wagons and imagination all steadily increase;
the road whinnies and bucks, neighing; the maned sky gallops;
and you are eternally with me, love, constant amid all the chaos,
glowing within my conscience—incandescent, intense.
Somewhere within me, dear, you abide forever—
still, motionless, mute, like an angel stunned to silence by death
or a beetle hiding in the heart of a rotting tree.

Postcard 2
by Miklós Radnóti, written October 6, 1944 near Crvenka, Serbia
translation by Michael R. Burch

A few miles away they're incinerating
the haystacks and the houses,
while squatting here on the fringe of this pleasant meadow,
the shell-shocked peasants sit quietly smoking their pipes.
Now, here, stepping into this still pond, the little shepherd girl
sets the silver water a-ripple
while, leaning over to drink, her flocculent sheep
seem to swim like drifting clouds.

Postcard 3
by Miklós Radnóti, written October 24, 1944 near Mohács, Hungary
translation by Michael R. Burch

The oxen dribble ****** spittle;
the men pass blood in their ****.
Our stinking regiment halts, a horde of perspiring savages,
adding our aroma to death's repulsive stench.

Published: “Postcard 4” was published by Poetry Super Highway in 2019 as part of their 21st Annual Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) Poetry Issue

Postcard 4
by Miklós Radnóti, his final poem, written October 31, 1944 near Szentkirályszabadja, Hungary
translation by Michael R. Burch

I toppled beside him—his body already taut,
tight as a string just before it snaps,
shot in the back of the head.
"This is how you’ll end too; just lie quietly here,"
I whispered to myself, patience blossoming from dread.
"Der springt noch auf," the voice above me jeered;
I could only dimly hear
through the congealing blood slowly sealing my ear.

Translator's note: "Der springt noch auf" means something like "That one is still twitching."

Letter to My Wife
by Miklós Radnóti
translated by Michael R. Burch

This is a poem written during the Holocaust in Lager Heidenau, in the mountains above Zagubica, August-September, 1944

Deep down in the darkness hell awaits—silent, mute.
Silence screams in my ears, so I shout,
but no one hears or answers, wherever they are;
while sad Serbia, astounded by war,
and you are so far,
so incredibly distant.

Still my heart encounters yours in my dreams
and by day I hear yours sound in my heart again;
and so I am still, even as the great mountain
ferns slowly stir and murmur around me,
coldly surrounding me.

When will I see you? How can I know?
You who were calm and weighty as a Psalm,
beautiful as a shadow, more beautiful than light,
the One I could always find, whether deaf, mute, blind,
lie hidden now by this landscape; yet from within
you flash on my sight like flickering images on film.

You once seemed real but now have become a dream;
you have tumbled back into the well of teenage fantasy.
I jealously question whether you'll ever adore me;
whether—speak!—
from youth's highest peak
you will yet be my wife.

I become hopeful again,
as I awaken on this road where I formerly had fallen.
I know now that you are my wife, my friend, my peer—
but, alas, so far! Beyond these three wild frontiers,
fall returns. Will you then depart me?
Yet the memory of our kisses remains clear.

Now sunshine and miracles seem disconnected things.
Above me I see a bomber squadron's wings.
Skies that once matched your eyes' blue sheen
have clouded over, and in each infernal machine
the bombs writhe with their lust to dive.
Despite them, somehow I remain alive.

Miklós Radnóti [1909-1944], a Hungarian Jew and a fierce anti-fascist, is perhaps the greatest of the Holocaust poets. He was born in Budapest in 1909. In 1930, at the age of 21, he published his first collection of poems, Pogány köszönto (Pagan Salute). His next book, Újmódi pásztorok éneke (Modern Shepherd's Song) was confiscated on grounds of "indecency," earning him a light jail sentence. In 1931 he spent two months in Paris, where he visited the "Exposition coloniale" and began translating African poems and folk tales into Hungarian. In 1934 he obtained his Ph.D. in Hungarian literature. The following year he married Fanni (Fifi) Gyarmati; they settled in Budapest. His book Járkálj csa, halálraítélt! (Walk On, Condemned!) won the prestigious Baumgarten Prize in 1937. Also in 1937 he wrote his Cartes Postales (Postcards from France), which were precurors to his darker images of war, Razglednicas (Picture Postcards). During World War II, Radnóti published translations of Virgil, Rimbaud, Mallarmé, Eluard, Apollinare and Blaise Cendras in Orpheus nyomában. From 1940 on, he was forced to serve on forced labor battalions, at times arming and disarming explosives on the Ukrainian front. In 1944 he was deported to a compulsory labor camp near Bor, Yugoslavia. As the Nazis retreated from the approaching Russian army, the Bor concentration camp was evacuated and its internees were led on a forced march through Yugoslavia and Hungary. During what became his death march, Radnóti recorded poetic images of what he saw and experienced. After writing his fourth and final "Postcard," Radnóti was badly beaten by a soldier annoyed by his scribblings. Soon thereafter, the weakened poet was shot to death, on November 9, 1944, along with 21 other prisoners who unable to walk. Their mass grave was exhumed after the war and Radnóti's poems were found on his body by his wife, inscribed in pencil in a small Serbian exercise book. Radnóti's posthumous collection, Tajtékos ég (Clouded Sky, or Foaming Sky) contains odes to his wife, letters, poetic fragments and his final Postcards. Unlike his murderers, Miklós Radnóti never lost his humanity, and his empathy continues to live on and shine through his work.

Keywords/Tags: Miklos Radnoti, Holocaust poet, Hungary, Hungarian Jew, anti-fascist, translation
Speechless at Auschwitz
by Ko Un
translation by Michael R. Burch

At Auschwitz
piles of glasses
mountains of shoes
returning, we stared out different windows.

Published by Brief Poems

Original text:

Ad Auschwitz
pile di occhiali
montagne di scarpe
sulla via del ritorno
ognuno fissava fuori dal finestrino in direzione diversa.

(da Fiori di un istante, 2001)

Keywords/Tags: Ko Un, Holocaust, translation, speechless, Auschwitz, glasses, shoes, windows, silent, tongue-tied, wordless
Robyn Nemeth Mar 28
Our throats dry, stomachs empty,
Our bones trembling, skin flaking,
If God permits, we find water on the morning dew.

It’s my calling—if I refuse I’m punished with the same fate,
Just a few more seconds praying for my family, and this life as I know it will have vanished,
I submit to the tyranny.

All hope is lost in the European gutters and sewers,
We walk the line, like we used to in grade school, but this time, sided by hounds and lifeless bodies
He will shut out the light once more, and fill me with new air.

My daughter, my dear daughter,
Her peaceful, umber eyes are filled with twinkling stars,
But we live in a world where they hate the stars.
Cleansings
by Michael R. Burch

Walk here among the walking specters. Learn
inhuman patience. Flesh can only cleave
to bone this tightly if their hearts believe
that God is good, and never mind the Urn.

A lentil and a bean might plump their skin
with mothers’ bounteous, soft-dimpled fat
(and call it “health”), might quickly build again
the muscles of dead menfolk. Dream, like that,

and call it courage. Cry, and be deceived,
and so endure. Or burn, made wholly pure.
One’s prayer is answered,
“god” thus unbelieved.

No holy pyre this—death’s hissing chamber.
Two thousand years ago—a starlit manger,
weird Herod’s cries for vengeance on the meek,
the children slaughtered. Fear, when angels speak,

the prophesies of man.
Do what you "can,"
not what you must, or should.
They call you “good,”

dead eyes devoid of tears; how shall they speak
except in blankness? Fear, then, how they weep.
Escape the gentle clutching stickfolk. Creep
away in shame to retch and flush away

your ***** from their ashes. Learn to pray.

Keywords/Tags: Holocaust, poem, ashes, crematorium, chimney, smoke, gas, chamber, Auschwitz, starvation, walking dead, mass graves, genocide, ethnic cleansing, racism, antisemitism, fascism, cruelty, brutality, inhumanity, horror
Die Maske des Bösen (“The Mask of Evil”)
by Bertolt Brecht
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A Japanese woodcarving hangs on my wall—
the mask of an ancient demon, limned with golden lacquer.
Not unsympathetically, I observe
the forehead’s bulging veins,
the strain
such malevolence requires.

Original German text:

Die Maske des Bösen

An meiner Wand hängt ein japanisches Holzwerk
Maske eines bösen Dämons, bemalt mit Goldlack.
Mitfühlend sehe ich
Die geschwollenen Stirnadern, andeutend
Wie anstrengend es ist, böse zu sein.

Bertolt Brecht [1898-1956] was a major German poet, playwright, novelist, humorist, essayist, theater director and songwriter. Brecht fled Germany in 1933, when ****** assumed power. A number of Brecht's poems were written from the perspective of a man who sees his country becoming increasingly fascist, xenophobic and militaristic. Keywords/Tags: Bertolt Brecht, German, translation, Holocaust, poem, Japanese, carving, mask, demon, evil, malevolence, sympathy, compassion, understanding, feeling, forehead, veins, swollen, bulging, effort, strain, exhausting, concentration, suggest, suggesting, suggestive, demonstrating, revealing, showing, wall, gold, golden, lacquer, paint, woodwork, totem, malice, hatred, enmity, spite, spitefulness, animosity, anger, maliciousness, malignancy, venom, spleen, viciousness
Bertolt, Brecht, German, translation, Holocaust, poem, Japanese, carving, mask, demon, evil, malevolence
Don't you remember me?
I was a little girl of three
When my family was taken away
And I was left alone as prey
In a world filled with hate.

Don't you remember me?
I wasn't able to flee
From this madness, this darkness
Consuming my village so harmless
Where did you go, God?

Don't you remember me?
The cats were on a killing spree
Catching mice one by one
My life had just begun
And I was awaiting death.

Don't you remember me?
I was that street girl who'd plea
For love, for peace, for humanity
To try and restore my sanity
After years of concealing my identity.

Never forget my eyes.
This poem is dedicated to the survivors of the Holocaust. The Holocaust was a mass persecution of Jews, Poles, homosexuals, gypsies, and more during WWII. It was conducted by the **** party. I feel like the world needs a reminder of this horrific event in history. Learn from the past. Never forget. Never forget. Never forget.
Buna
by Primo Levi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Mangled feet, cursed earth,
the long interminable line in the gray morning
as Buna smokes corpses through industrious chimneys...

Another gray day like every other day awaits us.

The terrible whistle shrilly announces dawn:
"Rise, wretched multitudes, with your lifeless faces,
welcome the monotonous hell of the mud...
another day’s suffering has begun!"

Weary companion, I know you well.

I see your dead eyes, my disconsolate friend.
In your breast you bear the burden of cold, deprivation, emptiness.
Life long ago broke what remained of your courage.

Colorless one, you once were a real man;
a considerable woman once accompanied you.

But now, my invisible companion, you lack even a name.
So forsaken, you are unable to weep.
So poor in spirit, you can no longer grieve.
So tired, your flesh can no longer shiver with fear...

My once-strong man, now spent,
were we to meet again
in some other world, beneath some sunnier sun,
with what unfamiliar faces would we recognize each other?

Buna was the largest Auschwitz sub-camp, with around 40, 000 foreigners “workers” who had been enslaved by the Nazis. Primo Levi called the Jews of Buna the “slaves of slaves” because the other slaves outranked them. Despite Buna’s immense size and four years of activity, according to Levi it never produced a kilo of its intended product: synthetic rubber. Levi described Buna as “desperately and essentially opaque and gray.” He said not a blade of grass grew within the compound because its soil had been impregnated with the “poisonous juices of coal and petroleum” so that nothing was alive but machines and slaves, with the former “more alive” than the latter. Levi also related hearing a Buna Kapo say that the only way Jews could leave Auschwitz was “through the Chimney” of the crematorium. It is possible that the companion being addressed in “Buna” is Primo Levi himself, recognizing what he had been reduced to. Keywords/Tags: Primo Levi, translation, Holocaust poem, Auschwitz, Buna, mud, chimney, smoke, crematorium, corpses, bodies, death, ******, starvation, gray, colorless, invisible, nameless, slave, slaves, slave labor, horror, hell
Shema (“Listen”)
by Primo Levi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You who live secure
in your comfortable homes,
who return each evening to find
warm food and a hearty welcome ...

Consider: is this a “man”
who slogs through mud,
who has never known peace,
who fights for scraps of bread,
who lives at another man's whim,
who at his "yes" or his "no" lies dead.

Consider: is this a “woman”
shorn bald and bereft of a name
because she lacks the strength to remember,
her eyes as void and her womb as frigid
as a winter frog's?

Consider that such horrors have indeed been!

I commend these words to you.
Engrave them in your hearts
when you lounge in your beds
and again when you rise,
when you venture outside.

Rehearse them to your children,
or may your houses softly crumble
and disease render you equally as humble
so that even your offspring avert their eyes.

Primo Michele Levi (1919-1987) was an Italian Jewish chemist, writer and Holocaust survivor. He was the author of two novels and several collections of short stories, essays, and poems, but is best known for If This Is a Man, his account of the year he spent as a prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration camp in ****-occupied Poland. It has been described as one of the best books by one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. His unique work The Periodic Table was shortlisted as one of the greatest scientific books ever written, by the Royal Institution of Great Britain. Levi's autobiographical book about his liberation from Auschwitz, The Truce, became a movie with the same name in 1997. Keywords: Holocaust, poem, Italian, translation, man, mud, woman, bald, nameless, houses, homes, bread, eyes, womb, empty, void, frigid, lifeless, horror, horrors, hearts, write, etch, engrave, inscribe, children, offspring, disease, avert, reject
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