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Remembering the Holocaust
Memory is short for some people for past tragedies.
Facts can become an inconvenient truths. Claims of not knowing and denial of the truth, happen when individuals or groups devolve to ignorance, hatred, and violence. The anecdote is for more intense education and accurate teaching of history to avoid the repeat of any societal drift towards division, atrocities, and war.. Several poignant poems by a Holocaust survivor and family member are shared to personalize this tragic part of our collective history and its relevance for today.
The Holocaust was the World War II genocide of around 6 million Jews and other victims of Nazi persecution during the Holocaust era - estimated at 11 million deaths in total.
Between 1941 and 1945, in German-occupied Europe, Nazi Germany, and its collaborators systematically murdered some six million Jews in the 1941 to 1945 time period - around two-thirds of Europe's Jewish population. The mass murders and policies of ethnic cleansing and extermination were carried out in pogroms, shootings, gas chambers, and gas vans in German extermination camps, like Auschwitz, Bełżec, and Treblinka. More history...
An enlightening trip and meeting with the reality of the past
A number of years ago, I had the opportunity of visiting Israel and meeting an elderly family member, a cousin of my mother, who was a poet and Holocaust survivor. Iren Steier gave me several of her poems written in her native Hungarian. The poems captured her personal, at the time, tragic, traumatic Holocaust experience. I managed when I returned to the states, to have Irens's poems translated from the original Hungarian by a language professor. Iren Steier immigrated to Israel after World War II.
The poems were written at the time of the Nazi, German invasion of her hometown in Hungary. Iren was one of the few of her village and family that survived the Nazi concentration camps and lived to write about the ordeal and tragedy of what happened. Her poems were written - 1944 to 1945 - during her last days in her native town of Nagyvarad and as a prisoner at Auschwitz. The poems give a poignant reminder of what is the fate of a democracy that evolves into a brutal totalitarian, fascist government. Her poems of the time are shared, as Iren would have wished, to remind everyone never to forget and always to be watchful for any movement towards hatred, division, and violence.
Poems of Iren W. Steier
Nineteen Forty-Four - On the Ides of March
Gendarme boots rumble on the streets of Varad
Up, up, Hungarians - they shout - Line up
Stand behind us - to search after Jews.
Bring together, big and little,
Rich, poor, infants and mothers,
Old and young, sick and aged
No trace should remain for those who may multiply.
The bell rings - even Heaven is shaking
Jewish children run out of their homes Shema Yisrael - they shout — and the echo spreads
To thirty thousand Jews waiting for their fate.
Their homes devastated, desecrated, orphaned…
The Jew is public prey — taken prisoner by evil
Robbed, deprived, naked pariahs
Miserable orphans, bleeding from a thousand wounds.
The Hungarian does not need him anymore who fought for him,
His ancestors gave their blood for the fatherland,
Not even a hundred Marchers, passed
When Jew and Hungarian marched together.
In the great. Freedom Fight all who fell
Came in a common grave - they are still resting there
They were not asked about their origin
He was a patriot who bled for the fatherland!
Why has the world turned upset down?
Was there no Hungarian who would have resisted?
Why, whom I was a milk-sister. in the same bench of the school
Is laughing on me lashing with her whip?
Bursting into our house, benumbing our blood
He shouts: Move, Jew, we have no time for you!
Into the Ghetto! Fast! Leave everything behind!
You will not need any such things anymore!
Everything I loved, became the gendarme's prey
Memories attached trampled into the gutter
But my proud lips did not open to implore
Until he broke the picture of my parents!
Mister Gendarme! Hungarian gentleman! I implore you
Give back my mother and father!
I fell to his feet, I kissed his boots,
Finally, he kicked the picture to me.
I broke the: frame with my hand, also its glass,
I put the sacred picture into my bosom.
It became bloody when I looked on it,
I do not know, My hand or their heart was bleeding?
Let's go, Mister Officer, my feet start
My heart's pain is aching
Nest of my happiness, my little home
Will I see you again? No, no, I do not know.
My spouse, my love! Where will I find you?
The heaven or the hell will be the place I will wait for you?
My dearest brethren who were all with me,
You shared my happiness, so as my grief.
We meet again behind the ghetto walls,
Hungry, Thirsty, worried, hidden together
And all our prayer goes toward each other
That we should move hand in hand towards our aching fate.
Varad, 1944 March 10 Iren Steier
IN THE GHETTO
Where are we, mother? - asks the Jewish kid Why do I not find my little bed close to you? Why are we lying on the earth? Why do I not have a cover? Why have I to scratch my body until it bleeds?
Why don't you give me food as you did it every day, Why don't I to say as you told me every day? Why don't you sing a lullaby to me? Why are your eyes full of tears? When will you talk to me?
Where is Daddy? Who was always with us and lived only for us? Who trusted in God and was firm in hope? That no one can hunt us out of our fatherland, That brother will not execute his brother?
Where are the boys, my merry little pals? Why don't they come to us? Where are my toys? Butterfly and dragon, rainbow add sunshine, Why Jewish kid cannot get such things?
My mother's answer: Dearest child! I tear out my heart and put it in your little hand, That you shall feel its eternal throbbing, That the mother's heart will never cease!
But, my sweety, I can't answer to your questions, Because I am, too, like you, my child, only a prisoner. Evil people, murderers have gone to war against us, If a Jew: Go to the devil! - they are shouting always.
I was also thrown out of the marriage bed, Breathing out vengeance, puffing blood, They ousted father, child, old and young Into the ghetto In two-three days.
And we live here terrified In fear of death, Waiting for our fate in a new battle? It was said, we will be taken. . to unknown journey? Maybe to work! maybe to our death?
Today we get something to eat in a mess-tin, Tomorrow? We will know, where will we march? Our fate is decided because our sin Is GREAT? We are Jews! Jews! And this is true!
It seems, we were locked into a ghetto for that By the heroic Hungarians, we have been abused for that! Of course, your child's heart will never understand this, Why is the fate of the Jew so cruel?
But if you will grow up, my child, - never forget! That your people how much suffered for its G-d! And if you will find once in happiness and peace, Put up your tent there, IT SHALL BE YOUR FATHERLAND!
The holy earth of ISRAEL, where you will find peace, It waits for its all children -To give them home, to give them home!!!
Varad, May, 1944 Iren W. Steier
WAGONS AT PENTECOST
At the festival of Pentecost, soon after daybreak,
Jews in the Ghetto were horrified by a day of grief.
Depths of wagons are waiting for us - hungrily,
They will take us in sorrow and in bleeding!
The street is black, the stones are crying,
The many exiles bid farewell forever,
Everyone, like Nathan the peddler,
takes package on his shoulder, with humped body.
Some saved memory, little dress of a child,
Picture, old trash of the parents or brethren,
Ring of the spouse, that we believed it is eternal,
We took all of them into the hands of evil murderers .
Secretly putting together the package,
Everybody hopes at least, that 'this " will be left to us
And the march starts to the last journey
Loaded in the freight car - like animals!
How could endure the earth, how the Heaven that all were taken
Who built the temples and the city
Who were born here, lived and worked here,
And that they hoped, everyone is a MAN!
Ridiculed dreams, painful reality,
Everyone's hour has struck.
Fast Into the wagon! - Brother, it is urgent! The German does not hesitate if Jewish blood is needed.
They throw the Jews to the place of animals,
Into the middle of manure, into the depth of wagons,
Mother Is not needed anymore who nourished you in her womb
Who was sacred and clean as the altar in the temple.
No father, no son - who built the land
No song of children which makes everything good,
The Hell started to destruct Jewish life,
And paints the festive rose- to black.
The wagon has been closed over thousands and thousands,
Inside the suffering screamed and moaned.
Hungry, thirstily, wickedly pressed in,
The thread to life - becomes looser and looser!
Everything collapses created by man,
Prudence or taste were trampled into the gutter.
No matter whether priestess or woman of the street,
Opens the secrets of her body spreads it here everywhere.
The female whose body is alive, became an animal here,
Hopes for redemption to her last minute.
But not the many sick, sufferers, gnomes
Who are taken by the death already in the wagon.
Infant - on the breast of the mother - by hunger,
Mother - by the suffering of her child,
All will avoid the gate of the hell here,
They crying blessings escort them to G-d!!!!
Varad, June, 1944 Iren W. Steier
In a far strange country, very—very far,
Where maybe the star in the sky is even different,
Where there is no friend, not even the grass,
From where even the flying bird has no message…
A train rumbles into the hell of Polish earth,
It brings wounded, deprived prisoners.
Its door opens, and ten thousands of Jews
are driven into rows — some alive, some dead.
And thousands of Jews are coming, and fall, and fall on and on,
Their unsteady eyes are searching after life.
The prisoners whisper: — Give them your child!
Is it possible? — That you save your own life thereby!
I will not give my child! Never, never, never!
And her two embracing arms clasp it to her bosom.
So they line up, mothers with children
To the great "executioner" — with throbbing hearts.
And the spouses come — hand in hand
But not even a minute – their lives are divided.
I go to the right, he goes to the left — This is life, the other is death.
We are looking on, praying — Whose fate will be what?
Mother, father, brother — Why do I not find them?
Why do they not come with me to this journey?
My eyes stare farness — I am looking unsteadily,
Where my dearest brethren will be taken?
Mengele, the executioner, waves here and there,
Who could know that left means death?
If we had known this, we would have gone all there,
Where we will die together with our beloved ones.
And the march is on — to left — to the road of grief,
Their dearest lives were taken to them...to the gas death!
Where its leprous stomach devoured them continuously.
And drank blood amply to quench its thirst.
And then, he danced, devilish dance,
And hung the clanging prisoner's chain on the living ones.
Within spiked wires, haunted by their hounds,
The "ragged army" — to the right — with eyes casting down.
Is it possible — they cried that man became such a monster?
Who G-d created for His own image?
As if our bodies were tormented by wild animals,
German filth covered them ' Hallejuah of bandits!
Our naked bodies, to please the soldiers,
Shivering, shuddering, were served to them.
Under their derisive laughter, our hair cut down,
We were deprived by them of every female sign!
Baldheaded, naked, hungry pariahs,
Finally thrown to the barack, to rest!
Blocksperre! — they shout — and the door closes,
And the many thousand Jewish prisoners flatten to the mud.
The flock, warming each other, huddling together,
Who knows, where the morning will find us?
The night is long and dark, the Lager does not sleep,
Because the cry of millions is being heard from the farness.
It is dawning, and we are being hauled out to the Lager,
Three' o'clock at dawn, everybody shall be at the Appel.
Our bodies are lacerated by icy, stormy wind,
Our souls are tormented by a thousand pains.
The Germans are coming — they are whispering — And he shouts like an animal,
Even all the prisoners are standing in a tight line.
As thousand and thousand statues, they are waiting benumbed
He strikes with his whip — Who will be the target?
And the hours pass away, we are standing stoned,
Until the flock comes again into the barracks.
We get our wish—wash, not even for a swine,
From stained, dirty vessel — for a number of Heftlings.
We became sick, full of wounds, fallen,
To the pleasure of the German, our number is decreasing day after day,
On the side of the barracks, then the light of the dawn,
Are counting, how many were executed by the deadly monster!
If the number is less, the German adds to it,
The problem will be sold at the Appel without hesitation,
And the dead are taken...escorted by the living,
To the hell of Auschwitz, for eternal rest.
And so you are destructed on and on, you dearest Jewish people!
Dragged to the scaffold — the chosen people!
And how long will these be allowed by Heaven and Earth?
Six million martyrs — are perhaps not enough?
And the world is sleeping? Or it imitates only?
Or its ears do not hear the six million grieve?
No friend? No Alliance? No oath? No honesty?
Murderer! Liar! Evil! This is human nature?
Damned shall be, all and all their successors,
Who wanted all these, shall be damned by G-d!!!
I damn his mother, With the curse of the mothers,
He should be devastated together with his bloody spring!
Their children — who were the most beautiful,
Shall be grasped by damned bloodhounds, like from us!
They shall be burned up alive that they should hear their cry.
Sea of flames shall cover their graves on them!
C Lager, Auschwitz. Iren W. Steier
New command arrived in the hell of Auschwitz, To work! Who still exists alive! Their number ratifying, our body rumpled, But we must produce weapons in the German factory.
The pariahs led out and selected Are waiting for their fate, shuddering, afraid. The hangmen are coming! To number humans, Why are they afraid? Perhaps they will be stolen?
The team stands in a row — the labor starts, The large needle splutters, scratches our flesh, Jews are numbered, like cattle, They may take it to the road of their lives,
Every prick of the needle on their suffering faces, Is the abusing of man as animals. Not the wound is aching, not the dropping of our blood, But the trampling of the Jewish people into the mud.
But the lash is whipping, no time for sorrow, Again, into wagons, they are taking us to work. The large train is rumbling, crying, rattling,
Leaving Auschwitz — into a new direction.
After a long journey, at dawn, The door opens on the wagon of the prisoners. Imaginationtion or dream? Much sunshine! Gardens, houses, men and beautiful horizon
A small ray of hope flashes in our hearts, After the hell, perhaps not a suffering is waiting for us? But our hope, our wish fastly vanished, When the German personnel appeared.
At the edge of the town Gorlitz is a barracks Which is designed for us, we will be locked in there. We are starting our work after an appeal at dawn, Escorted by German hangmen and hounds.
In the beautiful city, in the middle of' our road, Put on the pillory like murderers, Everything that we feel, is a thrust in our hearts, We are bleeding of a thousand wounds every day.
Is it possible that men live in these houses? Mothers, fathers, loving children, too? And they have cups, glasses, forks, and knives? They wash themselves with soap and are using combs?
Curtains on the windows, flowers in their gardens? And their lives are the same as was, so merry? And are they able to eat, drink, laugh, dance? Or "barking of the dogs" will not be heard there?
Will the time come when the small reminder As a heavenly miracle, returns to their homes? And there will be enough power for the great showdown? To put murderers, bandits to the gallows?
The factory is far, but we arrive, New pain torments, we are bleeding inside. Because we have to produce killing weapons to the Germans To Kill the lives of our brethren!?
If the sentinel would not stand here armed, The gun of the Germans wouldn't be here, none would be alive!
So, when he turns his head away for a minute, The work done is put into our pockets.
And when I can run out, at the end of my work, And can throw them to the depth of the channel, My life, the painful and frail, Was not in vain because with every disappeared bullet — I saved life!
Gorlitz (working Lager) Tattooed number: A—13113. Iren W. Steier 1944…45.
The dawn light spreads... It is whispered secretly That the days of the German our somewhere numbered! The end is approaching for the big Massacre, In case Our Saviors will not come very late...
The French say: the German is already destroyed, The Russians: you will see our soldiers are coming! These stimulating words are like Manna from Heaven, We ask it a thousand times and listen to it that way.
Every noise which is heard from near or far Is tough as voices from the song of Freedom! Believe! Trust! Not everything is lost. Our brothers are coming to destroy Hitler!
The sorrow forged every oppressed into a Unity, Every nation and every miserable, Because we suffered together, the pain of pains, The way of our bleeding Souls from a thousand wounds!
Our hearts are throbbing together! Perhaps we go home? But our feet come to a stop! Can we go home? What do we have there that was our Fatherland? If there are no embracing arms that are waiting for us?
If there is no mother who could press us to her heart, No father who would lead us on the road of Our Lives, No Brethren, no friends - only the army of enemies, Why Fatherland sounds as a sanctity on our lips?
Because when we were children, our teacher said, That where you were born - that is your Fatherland, Your native tongue will be your living guide By which you may learn all science!
But the good teacher has forgotten That disasters were different from that of Mohacs That Jews were persecuted for two thousand years, We did he not narrate about it at the history lesson?
Perhaps we should press the wheels of our Fortune, We would have not allowed to shed our blood in vain! If he had learned before the battle That only a Jew can have such a bad fate!
And if you had told us that we, too will have a Fatherland Where every brother will find a home, We would have trampled all who stood up against us Into the mud!!!
Gorlitz, April 1943 - Tattoo number: a - 13113 Iren w. Steier
It is important to remember the lessons of history so we all can be proactive to avoid the tragedies of the past. It is essential to be aware and vigilant of dangerous trends in our society, as the increase in division, hatred, and violence, as seen recently with a rise in antisemitism, and attacks against minority groups.
Thank you for your interest and review of this article. You are welcome to make comments below.
Ron Parks MD
Evil in Control - Holocaust --- first featured image above: ©Kalhh@pixabay.com