Monday, 18 October 2010

Czerniakow’s Children

I am not a poet, but this is the best/only vehicle for me to consolidate so many thoughts and feelings brought into relief by the Yad Vashem Museum - an imposting building that is, broadly, a concrete prism - walled at one end and open the other, leading the visitor through the horrors of the Holocaust to a breathtaking view of open space over the Promised Land

I ascend Zion’s Mount with the mud of the Galilee’s Sea on my shoes
to visit the place where they are remembered.
I am a Christian man; watchful and prayerful - repentant.
‘A memory and a name’ for Czerniakow’s children
That is what is left for them – all else is lost –
all that remains are their defiled exhibits.
Our history was once their future.

Above me the sun beats, and inside my heart aches
as I dare to enter that place;
a temple to death or a monument to life?
A death carefully formed and life carelessly smashed
upon the rock of ‘purity’ and the silent echoes of the words of my forefathers.

Inside this concrete sarcophagus
We learn of the ‘lambs to the slaughter’ – of ghettos and lost hope.
So many empty brown eyes without future;
staring at us beyond pleading, for lives long since snuffed.
Starving children, broken hearts, spirits extinguished;
times of heroes and monsters, where The Book and gun collided.
In the silence of our aching hearts we hear the screams of children;
Mummy is gone and daddy too; ‘still your cries little darlings –
everything will be okay, just you see’.

For Czerniakow’s children there is no hope,
save for the release from the grasp of the oppressor;
the suffocating death grip of Hitler’s believers.
Release in life or freedom though death;
the little ones look on not knowing which.
We are onlookers, safe behind glass.
Free to leave but compelled to go on – to hear screams,
to hear silence – both of them deafening.
‘My mummy and daddy are in the smoke above Poland’
Look on if you dare, passing stranger –
Welcome to a new world long dead.

To six million lost souls, so many names unknown,
I pray for forgiveness that I still have life;
that my own brown-eyed babies know safety;
that a belief and a culture won’t murder my Love,
and my prayers won’t cause my extinction.
For six million lost souls, in all that they were,
I pray that they find peace and the face of their God
weeping for them, arms outstretched.
‘Enter this place my little ones, you are safe now;
The last door to close behind you is this.’

Adam Czerniakow was the leader of the Judenrat [Jewish Council] in the Warsaw Ghetto. Such chairmen administered the decisions and policies of the Nazis. In 1942, he took his own life rather than betray his fellow Jews.

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