Saturday, March 17, 2012

Guest poet: Carol Ellis - "Demjanjuk at 81"

In today's news (from NPR): "Convicted Nazi Camp Guard John Demjanjuk Dies"

"John Demjanjuk, the retired U.S. autoworker convicted of being a guard at in an infamous Nazi death camp, died Saturday at the age of 91. Demjanjuk died a free man in a nursing home in southern Germany, where he had been released pending his appeal." [A German judge had sentenced him to five years in prison.]

"Convicted in May on 28,060 counts of being an accessory to murder [at the Treblinka concentration camp], Demjanjuk was the central figure in one of the longest running legal cases against an alleged Nazi war criminal. ..." 

Carol wrote the following poem about ten years ago:
Demjanjuk at 81

He is old now, and steeped in
deception so many years
he may not recall the children
who walked in quietly
or the mother who cried out.
Perhaps he was good with
the machine itself, the gas chamber
and its need for repair –
he learned to build cars
at the auto plant in Cleveland,
he lived a buried life.
Maybe he walked the streets
near my house that year of deep snow,
or caught summer fireflies in a jar.
Years of ordinary pleasure
and despair, hot tea with milk
and the touch of a cigarette on dry lips,
smoke drawn in deep on a break
from work, the relief of silence
when the plant is closed,
the child grown, the stories told.
No-one believed it could be him,
the good father who went along.
He worked beside us, he lived
close by, he remembered, or did he,
the struggle to push in one more child
and shut the door.

[Photo: The Treblinka II memorial in northeastern Poland. The 17,000 symbolic tombstones represent shtetls (villages), towns and countries from which victims were deported to Treblinka. Treblinka was the deadliest concentration camp in the Nazi system, with 850,000 victims.]

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