We live in dangerous times. And the past century was just as dangerous, convulsed in several wars, two of them world wars, spanning the globe, but especially focused in Europe. Of these, World War II was especially perverted as the Nazis of Germany aimed at creating a pure, Aryan “master race,” and to do so by killing all the Jews. And with Germany’s self-proclaimed efficiency, they created a network of death and labor camps, complete with everything needed to capture, transport and exterminate six million Jews. This is what the Nazis called the “Final Solution” (as of 1942), and would become known by the Jews as “the Holocaust.” Millions of people of all nationalities and beliefs were murdered by the fascists, but the “Holocaust” is the name especially referring to the mass slaughter of the Jews, like a burnt offering.
Today, almost eighty years after the anti-Semitism of the 1930’s and 1940’s took off in Germany, people are forgetting about the Holocaust, some even denying that it ever happened. At a recent poetry reading, as I was reading a Holocaust poem, I was heckled by a group of young people who yelled that it never happened, and even if it did, “who cares?” I continued to read to the end, and knew, in a way I never had as deeply, the need to remember, not just here in the United States, but the world over.
And hence, “Every Day I Will Remember.” The collection of poems is in two parts: the first is about the actual carrying out of the Holocaust; the second about the relocated survivors’ lives and those of the first generation of children born to them. The poems are built around my family who, except for my mother and her mother, were wiped out; my mother and grandmother came eventually to the United States as DPs (Displaced Persons). Other poems come from stories I read and heard from other survivors and their families.
As expected, much of this is dark, especially in Part 1, but there are rays of light; after all, it took not only luck, but strength, courage, faith, and hope to survive. Part 2, after the war, has more light, but it too has dark moments. Yet, by book’s end, there is joy: God preserved us. We must continue to remember, stand strong and united, and even in the face of tragedy, “live, life, live” (from the poem, “Rejoice”). Praise God. Remember. Shalom.
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