Skip main navigation


sdf sdf sdf sdf

At the heart of this lesson, we presented the writings of four people, two of whom survived and two of whom were murdered by the Nazis.

For many survivors there is a nagging question of why they survived and others didn’t. Ovadia Baruch was an Auschwitz survivor from Saloniki, Greece, whose story was filmed by Yad Vashem in a captivating video made a few years before he died (a link to the video in YouTube is included in the “Selected Bibliography” below). At the end of the video, Ovadia points to pictures of famous Greek Rabbis and poignantly asks why he survived and others more deserving than him were murdered.

So, I have chosen to conclude this lesson with the musings of one poet who in the following two verses touches on aspects of the random fate of individuals in history and for this, I turn again to Wislawa Szymborska whom we met in the first lesson. The poem is called ”Could Have” and the opening two verses below force the reader to face the vagaries of fate in human affairs.


It could have happened.

It had to happen.

It happened earlier. Later.

Nearer. Farther off.

It happened, but not to you.


You were saved because you were the first.

You were saved because you were the last.

Alone. With others.

On the right. The left.

Because it was raining. Because of the shade.

Because the day was sunny.


In the next and final lesson of the course, we will present four poems, all written after the Holocaust. The subjects lined up will deal with the hardships of the suddenness of liberation and thoughts about human behaviour and evil in the unrolling of history.


Selected Bibliography

Holocaust Poetry

  • Cytryn, Avraham, Youth Writing Behind the Walls (Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2005).
  • Kertesz, Imre, Fatelessness (New York: Vintage Books, 2004).
  • Metzger, Jackie, “Two Poets and a Dividing Wall”, in Yad Vashem’s Website, 2013.
  • Schiff, Hilda, “Introduction”, in Schiff, Hilda (ed.), Holocaust Poetry (London: Fount, 1995), pp. xiii-xxiv.
  • Volavkova, Hana (ed.), …I never saw another butterfly…: Children’s Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944 (Prague: Artia for Schocken, 1978).


Holocaust in General

  • Berenbaum, Michael and Israel Gutman (ed,), Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994).
  • Gutman, Yisrael, The Jews of Warsaw, 1939-1943: Ghetto, Underground, Revolt (Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 1982).
  • Michman, Dan, The Emergence of Jewish Ghettos During the Holocaust (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).
  • May Your Memory Be Love – the Story of Ovadia Baruch
This article is from the free online

Poetry and the Holocaust

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education