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									First They Came for the Jews
by Martin Niemöller

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

The most famous Holocaust poem of all time, "First They Came for the Jews," was written by Martin Niemöller, a
Lutheran pastor and theologian who was born in Germany in 1892. At one time a supporter of Hitler’s policies, he
eventually came to oppose the Nazis and as a result was arrested and confined to the Sachsenhausen and Dachau
concentration camps from 1938 to 1945. After narrowly avoiding execution, he was liberated by the Allies in 1945.
Niemöller was not a Holocaust denier, nor did he deny his own personal guilt. After Niemöller's former cellmate Leo
Stein was released from Sachsenhausen, he wrote an article about Niemöller for The National Jewish Monthly in 1941.
Stein said that when he asked Niemöller why he had ever supported the Nazi Party, Niemöller replied: "I find myself
wondering about that too. I wonder about it as much as I regret it. Still, it is true that Hitler betrayed me. I had an
audience with him, as a representative of the Protestant Church, shortly before he became Chancellor, in 1932. Hitler
promised me, on his word of honor, to protect the Church and not to issue any anti-Church laws. He also agreed not to
allow pogroms against the Jews, assuring me as follows: 'There will be restrictions against the Jews, but there will be no
ghettos, no pogroms, in Germany.' I really believed, given the widespread anti-Semitism in Germany, at that time—that
Jews should avoid aspiring to Government positions or seats in the Reichstag. There were many Jews, especially among
the Zionists, who took a similar stand. Hitler's assurance satisfied me at the time. On the other hand, I hated the growing
atheistic movement, which was fostered and promoted by the Social Democrats and the Communists. Their hostility
toward the Church made me pin my hopes on Hitler for a while. I am paying for that mistake now; and not me alone, but
thousands of other persons like me." After the war, Niemöller was one of the initiators of the Stuttgart Declaration of
Guilt, which acknowledged that German churches had not done enough to resist the Nazis. Niemöller also became an
ardent pacifist and campaigner for nuclear disarmament. His meeting with North Vietnam's communist ruler Ho Chi
Minh at the height of the Vietnam War caused an uproar. In 1961 he became president of the World Council of
Churches. He was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize in 1966. He died at Wiesbaden in 1984.
Do not stand at my grave and weep
by Mary Elizabeth Frye

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star-shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

"Do not stand at my grave and weep" is a Holocaust poem and elegy with a very interesting genesis, written in 1932 by
Mary Elizabeth Frye (1905-2004). Although the origin of the poem was disputed for some time, Mary Frye's authorship
was confirmed in 1998 after research by Abigail Van Buren, the newspaper columnist better known as "Dear Abby." The
version below was published by The Times and The Sunday Times in Frye's obituary on November 5, 2004: Mary Frye
wrote the poem in 1932. As far as we know, she had never written any poetry before, but the plight of a young German
Jewish woman, Margaret Schwarzkopf, who was staying with her and her husband at the time, inspired the poem.
Margaret Schwarzkopf had been concerned about her mother, who was ill in Germany, but she had been warned not to
return because of increasing anti-Semitic unrest that was erupting into what became known as the Holocaust. When her
mother died, the heartbroken young woman told Frye that she never had the chance to “stand by my mother’s grave
and shed a tear”. Frye found herself composing a piece of verse on a brown paper shopping bag. Later she said that the
words “just came to her” and expressed what she felt about life and death.
Postcard 1
by Miklós Radnóti
written August 30, 1944
translated by Michael R. Burch

Out of Bulgaria, the great wild roar of the artillery thunders,
resounds on the mountain ridges, rebounds, then ebbs into silence
while here men, beasts, wagons and imagination all steadily increase;
the road whinnies and bucks, neighing; the maned sky gallops;
and you are eternally with me, love, constant amid all the chaos,
glowing within my conscience — incandescent, intense.
Somewhere within me, dear, you abide forever —
still, motionless, mute, like an angel stunned to silence by death
or a beetle hiding in the heart of a rotting tree.

Miklós Radnóti [1909-1944], a Hungarian Jew and fierce anti-fascist, is perhaps the greatest of the Holocaust poets. He
was born in Budapest in 1909. In 1930, at the age of 21, he published his first collection of poems, Pogány köszönto
(Pagan Salute). His next book, Újmódi pásztorok éneke (Modern Shepherd's Song) was confiscated on grounds of
"indecency," earning him a light jail sentence. In 1931 he spent two months in Paris, where he visited the "Exposition
coloniale" and began translating African poems and folk tales into Hungarian. In 1934 he obtained his Ph.D. in Hungarian
literature. The following year he married Fanni (Fifi) Gyarmati; they settled in Budapest. His book Járkálj csa, halálraítélt!
(Walk On, Condemned!) won the prestigious Baumgarten Prize in 1937. Also in 1937 he wrote his Cartes Postales
(Postcards from France), which were precurors to his darker images of war, Razglednicas (Picture Postcards). During
World War II, Radnóti published translations of Virgil, Rimbaud, Mallarmé, Eluard, Apollinare and Blaise Cendras in
Orpheus nyomában. From 1940 on, he was forced to serve on forced labor battalions, at times arming and disarming
explosives on the Ukrainian front. In 1944 he was deported to a compulsory labor camp near Bor, Yugoslavia. As the
Nazis retreated from the approaching Russian army, the Bor concentration camp was evacuated and its internees were
led on a forced march through Yugoslavia and Hungary. During what became his death march, Radnóti recorded poetic
images of what he saw and experienced. After writing his fourth and final "Postcard," Radnóti was badly beaten by a
soldier annoyed by his scribblings. Soon thereafter, the weakened poet was shot to death, on November 9, 1944, along
with 21 other prisoners who unable to walk. Their mass grave was exhumed after the war and Radnóti's poems were
found on his body by his wife, inscribed in pencil in a small Serbian exercise book. Radnóti's posthumous collection,
Tajtékos ég (Clouded Sky, or Foaming Sky) contains odes to his wife, letters, poetic fragments and his final Postcards.
Unlike his murderers, Miklós Radnóti never lost his humanity, and his empathy continues to live on through his work.
Postcard 2
by Miklós Radnóti
written October 6, 1944 near Crvenka, Serbia
translated by Michael R. Burch

A few miles away they're incinerating
the haystacks and the houses,
while squatting here on the fringe of this pleasant meadow,
the shell-shocked peasants quietly smoke their pipes.
Now, here, stepping into this still pond, the little shepherd girl
sets the silver water a-ripple
while, leaning over to drink, her flocculent sheep
seem to swim like drifting clouds.

Postcard 3
by Miklós Radnóti
written October 24, 1944 near Mohács, Hungary
translated by Michael R. Burch

The oxen dribble bloody spittle;
the men pass blood in their piss.
Our stinking regiment halts, a horde of perspiring savages,
adding our aroma to death's repulsive stench.

Postcard 4
by Miklós Radnóti
his final poem, written October 31, 1944 near Szentkirályszabadja, Hungary
translated by Michael R. Burch

I toppled beside him — his body already taut,
tight as a string just before it snaps,
shot in the back of the head.
"This is how you’ll end too; just lie quietly here,"
I whispered to myself, patience blossoming from dread.
"Der springt noch auf," the voice above me jeered;
I could only dimly hear
through the congealing blood slowly sealing my ear.

Translator's note: "Der springt noch auf" means something like "That one is still twitching."

It seems the fourth and final Postcard poem above was the last poem written by Miklós Radnóti. Here are some
additional biographic notes, provided by two of his translators, Peter Czipott and John Ridland: "In a small cross-ruled
notebook, procured during his labor in Bor, Serbia, he continued to write poems. As the Allies approached the mine
where he was interned, he and his brigade were led on a forced march toward northwest Hungary. Laborers who
straggled—from illness, injury or exhaustion—were shot by the roadside and buried in mass graves. Number 4 of the
"Razglednicak" poems was written on October 31, the day that Radnóti's friend, the violinist Miklós Lovsi, suffered that
fate. It is the last poem Radnóti wrote. On November 9, 1944, near the village of Abda, he too was shot on the roadside
by guards who were anxious to reach their camp by nightfall. Buried in a mass grave, his body was exhumed over a year
later, and the coroner's report mentions finding the "Bor Notebook" in the back pocket of his trousers. Radnóti had
made fair copies of all but five poems while in Bor, and those had been smuggled out by a survivor. When his widow
Fanni received the notebook, most of the poems had been rendered illegible, saturated by the liquids of decaying flesh.
However, the only poems not smuggled out—the four Razglednicas and one other—happened to be the only ones still
decipherable in their entirety in the notebook. In late summer 1937, Radnóti had made his second visit to France,
accompanied by Fanni. Although this was a year before Kristallnacht, Hitler's move into Czechoslovakia, and the first
discriminatory "Jewish Law" in Hungary, there was plenty of "terrible news" in the papers, as mentioned in "Place de
Notre Dame": the Spanish Civil War, the Japanese invasion of China, and of course the increasing threats from Hitler's
Germany. Nevertheless, most of these poems, at least on the surface, are innocent snapshots that justify their French
title, referring to picture postcards such as tourists mail home. Radnóti was likely alluding ironically to this earlier set
with his final four poems, which have the Serbian word for postcard—in a Hungarian plural form—as their title. Reading
the two sets together darkens the tones of the five earlier poems, and makes the later four all the more poignant."

As Camille Martin wrote, "These last poems, written under the pressure of the most degrading and desperate
circumstances imaginable, unfurl visions of delicate pastoral beauty next to images of extreme degradation and wild,
filthy despair. They give voice to the last vestiges of hope, as Radnóti fantasizes being home once more with his beloved
Fanny, as well as to the grim premonition of his own fate. This impossibly stark contrast blossoms into paradox:
Radnóti’s poetry embraces humanity and inhumanity with an urgent desire to bear witness to both. Yet even at the
moment when he is most certain of his imminent death, he never abandons the condensed and intricate language of his
poetry. And pushed to the limits of human endurance and sanity, he never loses his capacity for empathy."
The Burning of the Books
by Bertolt Brecht
translated by Michael R. Burch

When the Regime
commanded the unlawful books to be burned,
teams of dull oxen hauled huge cartloads to the bonfires.

Then a banished writer, one of the best,
scanning the list of excommunicated texts,
became enraged: he’d been excluded!

He rushed to his desk, full of contemptuous wrath,
to write fierce letters to the morons in power —
Burn me! he wrote with his blazing pen —
Haven’t I always reported the truth?
Now here you are, treating me like a liar!
Burn me!

Bertolt Brecht [1898-1956] was a German poet, playwright and theater director. He fled Germany in 1933, when Hitler
rose to power. A number of Brecht's poems were written from the perspective of a man who sees his country becoming
increasingly fascist, xenophobic and militaristic. The first poem below is an English translation of a poem written by
Brecht in German about the book burnings of the Nazis, which were orchestrated by propaganda-meister Joseph
Goebbels. The Nazis burned the books of writers they considered "decadent" and "un-German," including those of
Thomas Mann, Ernest Hemingway and even Helen Keller. Also among the books burned were those of the great
German-Jewish poet Heinrich Heine, who in his 1820-1821 play Almansor accurately predicted, “Dort, wo man Bücher
verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen." ("Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.")

								
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