That Which Changes Everything

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For  Ryszard  Dąbrowski…

rd

–  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.

I
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…

The discovery of fire, circle’s invention
The computer, the atomic bomb, printing press
What can we do when mankind needs intervention?
Is it not self-flagellate more, think that much less?

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

II
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

“He was twenty three when the war began…” she said
You can do the math then, compute probable age
Death is a dwelling devoid of a well made bed
Hate is better left for those who still have some rage

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

III
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

A Polish Catholic and Ancient Jewish torn open—
―infernal lattice work the union to enmesh—
―peoples ordained to be deemed subhuman—
―and exterminated like rats infesting the Creche.

January    27,  2014

***

Death toll

Notes:
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.

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