Holocaust Memorial Day 2015

 

Yesterday marked the seventieth year since Auschwitz was liberated. Amazingly, there are people who deny such places were ever anything more than ‘harmless’ labour camps. But, there are still those among us who remember the truth, the reality, the horror of it all. It is vital that their experiences – bought at such a high price – should be recognised, remembered and passed on.

 

I wrote the following poem as my first commission as Cheshire Poet Laureate and read it at a big memorial gathering in January 2008 at Ellesmere Port Civic Hall. I was invited to read it again in 2011 for a similar occasion held at Keele University. A lady came up to me after the Keele event and requested a copy of it for herself. She was a holocaust surviver.

 

ISHMAEL, JACOB, RACHAEL AND ANNA . . .

 

Ishmael, Jacob, Rachael and Anna,

Joseph, Miriam, take back your names.

By cyanide, rifle or strung from a scaffold,

By disease or starvation, you died just the same.

 

They brought you by train, huddled and herded,

Truck-full by truck-full, galloped and whipped;

Skittish and squealing, prodded, curse-worded,

Tethered, shorn, branded and stripped.

 

They beat you and took your young from your caring,

Weighed-up and yoked you and put you to work,

Or culled you for slaughter, wild-eyed and flaring,

Piled carcass on carcass to rot on the dirt.

 

Ash from the chimneys falls like snowflakes,

Clogging throats, blinding eyes.

Gas chamber doors slam on new intakes,

And emptied of angels loom Auschwitz’s skies.

 

Ishmael, Jacob, Rachael and Anna,

Joseph, Miriam, take back your names.

If your deaths are to be worth living,

Never must we kneel to tyrants again.

 

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