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Testimony by Dan Pagis

This activity opens with the profile of Holocaust survivor Dan Pagis: Dan Pagis was born in Bukovina, Romania in 1930 into a German speaking Jewish family. He was eleven years old when he was transported with his grandparents in a cattle car and imprisoned in labour camps for the next four years.

This activity opens with the profile of Holocaust survivor Dan Pagis: Dan Pagis was born in Bukovina, Romania in 1930 into a German speaking Jewish family. He was eleven years old when he was transported with his grandparents in a cattle car and imprisoned in labour camps for the next four years. After surviving the ordeal, he immigrated to Mandatory Palestine (known also as the Land of Israel), a couple of years before the establishment of the State of Israel, becoming an authority on medieval Jewish Literature at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and one of Israel’s prominent poets.

Although he wrote in his new adopted language Hebrew, many of his poems have been translated into English. His poem “Testimony”, was published in 1970, twenty-five years after the Holocaust, which is remarkable, in light of his difficulty in confronting the Holocaust experience and expressing aspects of this period on paper. His wife Ada Pagis attested to this difficulty in a book she wrote about her late husband where she states that he was unable to speak about his years as a young boy and teenager living in the camps. Note that the poem “Shema” by Primo Levi from the beginning of this lesson poured from his pen within the first year of his liberation, showing us that different survivors reacted very differently to the burden of their survival and liberation.

 

Testimony

No no: they definitely were

human beings: uniforms, boots.

How to explain? They were created

in the image.

 

I was a shade.

A different creator made me.

 

And he in his mercy left nothing of me that would die.

And I fled to him, rose weightless, blue,

forgiving – I would even say: apologizing –

smoke to omnipotent smoke without image or likeness.

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Poetry and the Holocaust

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