Why would anyone dig up the graves of those atrocities when they have fasted from that horror
since Uris meticulously detailed Mengele’s sexual experiments on children in QB VII?
I threw that book against the wall and read no more about those monsters,
saw no more films, not even Schindler’s List,
though a commercial later revealed the red coat that will always haunt me.
One man, just one man, unsung hero,
removed my fingers from the eyes of my mind to look again at Buchenwald.
Buchenwald: where 56,000 people died.
more than American soldiers killed in Viet Nam.
Buchenwald: all those attempts to architect the cells of Hell.
Those were real—tiny, bare, infested—not Dante’s circles.
Death spaces for Jews, Poles, Slavs, mentally ill, physically disabled, gypsies, Free Masons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Communists, political prisoners, gays, sexual slaves,
Outdoors: Vernichtung durch Arbeit—“worked to death,”
and screams of pain in the “singing forest” when those men—strappado
Oh, I cannot write what they did to them,
and Gernick Schuss, 1,000 Russians shot in the back of the neck, and the
One man, just one man. What can one man do?
He can tell a lie. He can tell a lie of mercy.
Like Shiphrah and Puah who lied to save baby Moses.
The headquarters at Buchenwald was dark on that rainy day.
The Nazi command had fled. They knew the Allies were closing in.
The phone rang.
How many times?
How many times did that phone ring?
What if no one were there?
But, he was.
A hand reached out.
The hand of one German man
who had the presence to tell the guttural lie of mercy.
Command told him: “We will blow up the entire camp,
raze the rooms,
destroy the 1,300 prisoners left,”
including Elie Wiesel,
Elie Wiesel, whose luminous Jewish humanity gave lie to deranged Nazi fantasies.
The unsung (I sing of him now!) spoke:
“We’ve already destroyed it! It’s done!”
(Oh, Sweet Lie!)
“The prisoners are blown up.
The evidence is destroyed.
We covered up what we did.”
(as if the blanket of history could ever be pulled over that bed of horror).
The solution was simple, more brief than my imagination.
No reason to complicate mercy.
The Commander answered: “Okay, ‘In ordnung.’ Okay.”
In a few hours, the camp was liberated,
Weisel saved with the others,
the Nazi command tricked.
The name of the one man unknown forever.
The result of one act can change everything.
Originally published in the Crows on a Line, C-U Poetry Group Anthology