Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Never Forget and Never Again.
I went to Dachau when I visited Germany with my high school German club in 2007. I can’t believe it’s been 13 years. I would like to go back and I would also like to go to Poland, to see Auschwitz. It’s tragic, but I believe that we can learn from these atrocities, as not to repeat them ever again.
I published these two poems in the last book I published, As Far As The Eyes Can See.
Scrapbook of Dachau
Photographs are worth a thousand words
within the memories they evoke:
some can leave your cheeks tear stained,
others can leaving you laughing for hours,
or might leave you with some regret
of places you never went or a lover you didn’t pursue-
whether out of fear or it didn’t seem important at the time.
As the scrapbook pages rustle and the binding creaks,
I see that not only is the pale moon a yellow
that hangs above the barracks on a cold, dark night,
or that peered out of violent flurries of snow
on the somber, quiet night that scores died in January—
despite the snow, the night sky really became black that night.
However, we choose to be creative in the blackness,
Olber’s Paradox- you’d think with all of the stars, you’d see
the trees and villages in the distance. Instead you’re alone
trying to avoid the showers; though hot water
running along my filthy back, black instead of white,
would feel amazing right now against my cold skin.
I’ve met a new friend that shares a bunk with me;
he said he’s from Poland, his accent doesn’t sound thick;
stories of the current occupations, how life is so chaotic now,
but the beauty in the Alps and the oceans that are a crystal blue,
match the day sky that is a vibrant blue.
But, storytelling is much more fun than working;
the words that bellow, the love that rings:
I’m lost in the waves of colourful wheat,
Just like their language, rhythmic and lively—
And here I stand in 2007, a cold wave hits me
as I stand in front of the barracks and imagine,
though it’s hard to imagine the lives lost in these ovens,
after being pushed out of their bunk beds, their rags;
against the beauty of the Alps and the crystal skies,
is a haunting reminder of what hate and narcissism creates.
The stories of bravery and the creativity in the bleak,
their languages come alive, rhythmic and soothing—
German wasn’t hard to learn either,
and inside a beauty that is hard to find;
most say it’s an ugly and guttural language—
they point to Hitler and how scary his speeches were.
Adolf Hitler was born on April 20, 1889
in the rolling Alps of Austria with Edelweiss littering.
Gifted artist, but a very hateful man indeed—
he first began to euthanize the chronically ill
before moving onto extermination of Jews;
they destroyed Germany, he said.
Dachau is haunted—the showers cry,
the barracks feel cold, bleak and somber—
Arbeit Macht Frei! Maybe for the lucky.
Yet, Germany is serene, quiet, and peaceful.
Medieval towns, modern cities, it has it all—
friendly people, beer halls, soccer and concerts.
These images and these landmarks serve as a reminder;
this can never happen again, it will never happen again:
as we walk past the memorials, spirits touching our hearts,
we will never forget the sacrifices and painful histories.
Walking through Dachau one cool day,
several clouds in the murky Austrian sky,
violent winds rustle our hair and begins to play
an eerily tune around the barracks
after “Arbeit Macht Frei” stops us at the gates,
nooses decorate the work camp, as well as an ax—
final remainders of history’s darkness and sadness.
Yet we walk by memorials in German, English, Arabic,
Hebrew, Norwegian, every language—to express gladness
that the lessons of the lives lost and the heroes,
do not go to waste and that we must never forget
what ignorance and hatred that lies below
can do if left uncheck! And as we walk through
the cabins and onto the watchtower, sun peaks
through April clouds, where birds begin to fly too—
why not call Dachau something like Auferstehung
as the lives lost have resurrected into new laws,
new hope, and lessons that remind us to never repeat again!
Yesterday, I sat in on a Zoom meeting with the Jewish Federation of Philadelphia about Holocaust Remembrance Day. They interviewed a Holocaust survivor and I became choked up. His story was sad, but I was so happy that he was telling it. I think all survivors, if comfortable, should share their stories.
The breakout session I signed up for was about kindness in the face of adversity. There was a Holocaust survivor in the chat and oh man, the water works. I turned my camera off because I didn’t want to become so verklempt that it would lead to more tears. She shares her story and humanity with others and she listens to others stories and humanities. Showing up and being there for others is kind.
Someone else on the chat has a grandma who survived the Holocaust and she relies on scrapbooking during this time, she loves going over old photos, old stories, and sharing them with her family. I was happy to read that because I’ve been scrapbooking like crazy during this time.
I live in a multi-faith family. My mom is an Atheist, dad is a C&E Catholic, I was Muslim for a bit, then I joined Jewish Philly to build my interfaith network. When I joined the community, I was changing my mind about Islam. I love the communities, and I’ll just be a Noahide. Co-existence is important to me and that is one way I spread kindness.