Undoubtedly one of the worst, most catastrophic events in modern history, the Holocaust was the deliberate, systematic degradation and ultimate elimination of over 6 million Jews and 10 million lives.  The ultimate target were Jews but anyone not of “Aryan” with a Christian, heterosexual lifestyle was at risk.  Gypsies, homosexuals, Soviets and thousands of other individuals experienced the worst form of racism I have ever known about.  The thing was, they weren’t just killed.  No, they were tortured.  Doctors preformed mind-numbing, breathtakingly horrific and unspeakable “experiments” on twins and on the disabled.  People were forced to search the cavities of their dead loved ones’ bodies for jewelry or gold.  Babies were killed and then their deaths were laughed about.  Rabbis were routinely humiliated and forced to burn their most sacred religious artifacts and Torahs.  Their beards, which were highly symbolic, were cut or used to mop up the blood of the congregants.  The gas chambers never stopped burning.  And if you sit in front of a survivor and watch him talk, you will notice how their speech falters and their bodies tense, how their eyes darken and words fail them when they try to describe life inside Auschwitz.  To this day, there is a marked feel on the grounds of that camp that speaks its own story while mounds of hair and shoes personalize the numbing statistics.  If your nightmares can dream it, it probably happened in Germany, or one of the occupied  countries, in the 1930s and 40s to people who had done nothing wrong and were completely blameless.

Despite the overwhelming horror of this period, miracles existed.  Survivors tell stories of how beloved family photos passed Nazis as though invisible.  Many survivors swear they should have died.  A woman became pregnant and went undetected her entire pregnancy, then gave birth to a baby girl in Auschwitz on the day of liberation, thereby sparing both their lives.  And it also helped a little girl named Tiffini who lived in another countries, decades later.  I used to comfort myself to sleep by promising myself that if they could get through the Holocaust, then I could survive my life.  You can read a letter to the Holocaust survivor I wrote here.  

These poems were written in remembrance of and in honor of the Holocaust survivors and victims, and in gratitude that their stories offered me a way to cling to hope.  These poems were all written during my 10th grade and remain completely unedited, so they retain the thought track, the grammar and the ideas of the young Tiffini.

MR.  BEAR

I grab Mr. Bear

Risking another tear

Together, we hide

In their lorry, we don’t want to ride

Mr. Bear sees my yellow star

That marked symbol they know from afar

Mr. Bear is a Jew too

Mama sewed him a yellow star’s hue

Now, we watch them drag

My mother and beat those who behind us lag

I cried tears anew

Mr. Bear cried too.

I hugged him close

Burying my head in his furry nose

He brought me such peace

Let me hope the terror would cease

I needed stitches

Mr. Bear had some new glitches

We traveled through hate

Given no choice but to survive our fate

Everyone else left me

But Mr. Bear didn’t, you see

We went to a camp one night

Mr. Bear somehow passed a guard’s light

Like mine, his eyes saw the flames

And the many lives they claimed

I told him when I was scared

He was the only one who cared

I showed him my tears

Their painful words reached his ears

Me and Mr. Bear were best friends

And to that, the Germans didn’t put an end

Fifty six years later now

And we’re both still here, I don’t know how

Though our hearts tore

We lived through Hitler’s war

Torn, dirty and old

Mr. Bear’s still a joy to hold

With him are memories of the past

But now we have a future at last.

IN REMEMBRANCE

I once lived in a town

And had a favorite gown

I used to laugh

And take warm baths

But that was then

That was way back when

We were free

When we were let be

Now I live in a cold cell

And have nothing good to tell

Now water is a mask

For a poisonous gas

Yesterday I buried my sister

And was beaten a new blister

They care not for I have a star

As a Jew, it is a blemish, a mar.

Beaten and scared, this is me.

So why can I not flee

Is death really my fate

And if so, who set this date?

There is a chimney and smoke

We know this is not a joke

Why are we all to die

Why ignored is our cry?

Soldiers number my arm

Think I’m from an alien farm

Who really are we

Are we too vile for the Creator to see?

No one sheds any tears

And we don’t speak of our fear

For if no one cares if I fell

Do I deserve this hell?

Will this never end?

Will ever matter without my friend?

I badly shake

For a bullet at me is faked

Of my sister, I think

But her death doesn’t make me blink

Do I envy her dying

For no longer in the cold is she lying

If this is a test

I’m not the best

If I ever thought I was strong

I know now I was wrong

Yet even as I stew

I hold onto my heritage as a Jew

And I continue to listen

For the rescue mission.

THE GERMAN AND THE JEW

The German and the Jew

Walking in darkness’ hue

Side by side

Fighting the pain inside

They see the long rows

From where so much pain arose

They still see the smoke

Can feel hope being choked

The German and the Jew

Intense pain and fear, they knew

50 years later, standing together

Ironic that calm now is the weather

Abuse, lies and death

In this place stole joy’s breath

Neither can forget

The past they regret

The German and the Jew

So much anger blew

One lose his brother and child

The other was taught to be wild

Now at Auschwitz they stand

Knowing terror came from a hand

Lives were changed, dreams were broken

Innocents believed lies spoken

Now as the German and the Jew

Remember the boy getting a tattoo:

his number his only meaning in their eyes

50 years later, he still lives

This place, this extermination camp

Seethes still with memories limp

And one is to blame

For the other’s senseless shame

Here now stands the German and the Jew

Knowing the past may be over but not through

So they stand side by side

Each wanting to, from the pain, hide

Now they each have a choice

They can stay silent or they can voice

The confusion, doubt, anger and fear

That have been the source of many a tear

The German and the Jew

Between them many feelings flew

But now they just stand in awe

In Auschwitz, where pain is still raw

If they leave here in anger

Steep will be the danger

But the lines have been clearly drawn

And all innocence gone

The German and the Jew

Stand against time’s hue

Then silently one holds out his hand

And for love’s sake, they stand.

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