Day and Night and Day

By Lisa Paulick

I was only a boy following orders, plodding along sure of nothing

Arbeit Macht Frei, the silver sky offered no comfort

And in the ground that was pulp we struggled

As the deceptive reality into which we were thrown

To say it was Hades is not a lie

The stench a mixture of German tobacco, human excrement and still burning corpses

Words lodged in my throat like a bullet

It was our General who assured them

Don’t be afraid, you’re safe now

Some of the children showed us their numbers

My legs were jelly, wobbly as a newborn colt’s

What help could I provide when men bring to light what they seek in the dark

And try to burn evidence of their actions freezing hatred into history

Liberation, you are free, I saw them as though underwater

I forced myself to concentrate on the details

The General wanted everything to the last ripped off swastika documented

Pyramids of corpses, shoes, clothing and hair

The ones that were left behind and now free

Some holding on to each other, some crawling to us

Sick, starving, frail and fractured

Branded with numbers and stripes

Drifting in and out of consciousness

They didn’t know what to do and neither

Did we, now that their identities were being returned to them

Some stayed there on the ground daring to hope

I tried to keep my eyes on the tank

Eventually they all went with us

One way or another

And for those final moments

Before we left Buchenwald

I asked myself

Who really wins any war?

Why do men play God?

But no one can kill

The dream of men

To be men again.

Even after it was shot at, stripped,

Damaged and burned,

Yet it still existed, here, in spite of itself.

 

 

This is one of four poems by Lisa Paulick featured in the gallery, honouring those that were lost, and survivors who had to make unimaginable choices. Lisa has read several books on the history of the Holocaust and the liberation of the camps and attended a survivors gathering four years ago in New York City.

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