This is the week of Holocaust Remembrance. We are 70 years from the horrific events of World War 11, which we as Jews have rightly labeled the Shoah, or in English, the Holocaust. Much has been written, shared and analyzed since the trauma that left a great people decimated, reduced to a remnant---but much more needs to be said, and more importantly, never forgotten.
In the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust, many questioned whether anyone could ever grant themselves or others permission to create a poem, song or story. "Nacht Auschwitz ein gedicht zu schreiben, ist barbarisch," wrote Theodor Adorno, in 1949. "After Auschwitz it is barbaric to write poetry." Adorno's outburst made sense, and seemed consoling and just: how can a culture gone so awry justly receive literature, or any art, for that matter, based upon this outrage?
But as we now know, this initial shocked silence of survivors finally gave way to another impulse: to bear witness.
Jerzy Ficowsky, wrote in his poem "The Execution of Memory":
"I would like just to be silent,
but being silent I lie."
Though not a survivor, indeed, as a fortunate Jewish-American born during World War 11, all my life I have imagined my life had my forbears not left Europe. Today, following many dozens of poems written on the subject, and in honor of the memory of our lost people, I offer the following poem.
Song for the End of Lithuanian Jewry
Not a charm of goldfinches swirling away
not a clamour of crows in warning
not the sad voice of Kovner,
labeled the fool, urging escape
could penetrate the rays of sunset
striking the leaded glass windows
or find place upon the snowy linens,
or among the crystal wine cups
or golden candles glowing
on the Sabbath table.
No dire word dare enter the quiet after prayers,
the men somber, hushed, still rocking
with praise for the Almighty, and then
the women’s dance, their swaying steps,
their rosy children, their clean, kosher homes.
The only bittersweet this night are notes of the violin.
--Judith R. Robinson
Thank you for clicking in. xo Judy