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Three Holocaust Poems

So, towards the end of this first introductory lesson on Poetry and the Holocaust, we will present three short poems that on the surface will appear worlds apart but which in effect present one of the main issues of poetry written about the Holocaust and other traumatic events, and that is the difficulty of writing about the enormity of such human behavior.

So, towards the end of this first introductory lesson on Poetry and the Holocaust, we will present three short poems that on the surface will appear worlds apart but which in effect present one of the main issues of poetry written about the Holocaust and other traumatic events, and that is the difficulty of writing about the enormity of such human behavior.

Three Holocaust Poems

From Auschwitz and After by Charlotte Delbo (p. 138)

Today people know

have known for several years

that this dot on the map

is Auschwitz

This much they know

as for the rest

they think they know.

 

Photograph from September 11th by Wisława Szymborska (Monologue of a Dog, p. 69)

They jumped from the burning floors

one, two, a few more,

higher, lower.

 

The photograph halted them in life,

and now keeps them

above the earth toward the earth.

 

Each is still complete,

with a particular face

and blood well hidden.

 

There’s enough time

for hair to come loose,

for keys and coins

to fall from pockets.

 

They’re still within the air’s reach,

within the compass of places

that have just now opened.

 

I can do only two things for them—

describe this flight

and not add a last line.

 

Written in Pencil in the Sealed Freightcar by Dan Pagis (The Selected Poetry of Dan Pagis, p. 29)

here in this carload

i am eve

with abel my son

if you see my other son

cain son of man

tell him that i

 

[Please note that Dan Pagis wrote this poem in the original Hebrew without any punctuation, and therefore English translations of the poem usually do not use capital letters which are non-existent in Hebrew.]

The Insurmountable Challenge for Holocaust Poems

Each poem deserves individual attention, but taken together as we present them here, the reader is faced with a resounding composite statement about the inability of conveying the magnitude of massive traumas and equally, the difficulty of comprehending them.

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Poetry and the Holocaust

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