That Which Changes Everything
For Ryszard Dąbrowski…
– 1936 photograph of the younger brother of my maternal Grandmother: Dr. Alicja Burakowska – decorated in 1984 along with her husband Marian Burakowski by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nation. Ryszard Dąbrowski was a Polish resistance fighter – member of the AK (Polish Home Army “Armia Krajowa”) murdered by the NAZI’s at Auschwitz-Oświęcim for Polish Resistance Activity.
The maw… of all the world’s gaping like a raw sore
…for if there are defining objects in the world…
Give us then oh Lord thy long absent blessings more…
Those things that change everything, sweep away the old…
Those parts of the world we understand not at all
And I’m poor and sorrowful, I don’t understand
What reason is there for Auschwitz… let’s take a stroll…
…down to Mengele’s office, take his surgeon’s hand…
For I have seen pain in the eyes of love’s recall
A darkening of clouds at dawn, mid-sentence, halt
Sand through the hourglass behind the heart’s dream-wall
A lightning flash of spasmodic wound doused with salt
You think I’m too far removed? That feelings sublime―
―on this should be left to the deeply affected
But verily I tell you it’s for me a prime
A personal matter, deep thought inflected
I’d sing to you Ryszard Dąbrowski across time
Across the split of the apparent horizon
To bridge the memory and the world changing crime
But alas Death is a good gatekeeper at dawn
For memory lives in us, a pulse of the dead
Each anniversary a heartbeat to remind—
―that the past is drank in wine and broken in bread
That truth is the love of hope, absent, un-designed
And all we’re left is with the victim’s echoed names
My Grandmother never stopped crying for you, tears
Shed at odd moments from mostly dry eyes, flames—
―of those ovens where the evidence met guilt’s fears
If there is a Hell, was Mengele given fair trial?
Was he afforded an advocatus diaboli?
Did they have for him a whole Pendaflex file?
With each experiment numbered by each folly?
And then the end came, with photographers and scribes
To document the maw as it was void of flesh
Just some skin and bones, and hollow eyes, the old tribes—
―have been eliminated, we share this space fresh
January 27, 2014
Raul Hilberg’s 1961 seminal work The Destruction of the European Jews (revised in 1985) estimated that the number of Jewish victims killed at Auschwitz-Oświęcim to be at a maximum of 1,000,000 (so, 1/6th of the Jewish victims of the NAZIs) and Gerald Reitlinger’s in his 1968 book The Final Solution estimated the number killed at 800,000 to 900,000 – for Jewish victims alone (not counting non-Jews).
In 1983, French scholar George Wellers was one of the first to use German/NAZI data on deportations to estimate the number killed at Auschwitz-Oświęcim, arriving at a figure of 1,471,595 dead, including 1.35 million Jews and 86,675 for non-Jewish Poles.
Franciszek Piper’s larger study used timetables of train arrivals combined with deportation records to calculate at least 960,000 Jewish deaths and at least 1.1 million total deaths,a figure adopted as official by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in the 1990s.
However Franciszek Piper also stated that a figure of as many as 1.5 million deaths (total) was quite possible.
By nation, the greatest number of Auschwitz’s Jewish victims were from Hungary, accounting for 438,000 deaths, followed by Polish Jews (300,000 deaths), French (69,000), Dutch (60,000), and Greek (55,000).
Fewer than one percent of Soviet Jews murdered in the Holocaust were killed in Auschwitz, as German forces had already been driven from Russia when the killing at Auschwitz reached its peak in 1944. Approximately 1 in 6 Jews killed in the Holocaust died at the camp.
The next largest group of victims were non-Jewish Poles, who accounted for 70,000 to 75,000 deaths. Twenty-one thousand Roma and Sinti were killed, along with 15,000 Soviet POWs and 10,000 to 15,000 peoples of other nations. Around 400 Jehovah’s Witnesses were imprisoned at Auschwitz, at least 152 of whom died.
Auschwitz-Oświęcim is a portmanteau name: the German name for the town of Oświęcim where the death camp was built is Auschwitz. Auschwitz-Birkenau is a more common Western designation for the camp.