Tuesday, January 27, 2015

70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz

On January 27, 1945, the Russian army came upon Auschwitz and its various camps and subcamps. To commemorate this date, Charles Fishman offers these remarks and his poem "Eastern Europe after the War." 

After WWII was over and the camps were “liberated,” thousands of starved and brutalized survivors died; hundreds of thousands more were kept in holding pens that we’ve learned to refer to as DP camps because so many displaced inmates of the concentration and death camps had no place to go and were often too weak and sick to travel or to be permitted entry to the handful of countries that were inclined to offer them shelter.

From that darkest of times to our own unsettled and still broken one, many have asked where God was during the Holocaust. I’ve heard observant Jews and Christians say that God almost always answers our prayers, but that sometimes He says No. When I hear assertions like this one, I always want to ask why God’s answer was No! when so many believers prayed for their loved ones to live. As I see it, this is the key question that people of faith must ask their clergy and teachers. To this day, I’ve never received an answer that satisfied my mind or heart.

“Eastern Europe After the War” grew out of these thoughts and feelings.

Eastern Europe after the War

Wisps of memory     ragged dips in the grass

A few years earlier, millions died in sub-zero
temperature      Stripped to their underwear,

they were whipped    beaten with fists
and rifle butts    their infants ripped

from their arms      Their prayers to God
changed nothing      Shot in the neck,

they were kicked    into ditch after ditch    
Those still living clutched at prayer shawls  

or thrice-blessed amulets    but their words  
their tears    called down no power    

Their deaths did not alter the sky, which continues
to shelter their murderers      The earth

that churned for days afterward has yielded nothing  
but fragments      Years swept by, blurring

the landscape    though, on occasion, something
in humanity    twitched      A list of the names

of the missing    slipped from official fingers  
and drifted into history      In Eastern Europe,

not a stitch was mended      The gash

in the abandoned universe    could not be healed   


  1. wow i went to one of those camps and let me tell you it was one of the most haunting experiences i've ever had to face, i came back thankful for being an american, and that i don't have to hide and be afraid of who i am as a person, God has given us the free will to be who we wish to be and even though we are inside some tragic circumstances we have to look to him for trust and the hope that he will get us through our trials that we all have to go through.

  2. All the best in your good work!

    We are a group of aspiring writers who have succeeded in publishing a series of holocaust-themed books online.

    This has been a very helpful blog for our writing project. Thanks so much!

    We are interested in raising awareness about the International Holocaust Remembrance Day (27th Jan 2018).

    Can you please help? :)

    1. Manisha, drop me a line jzguzlowski@gmail.com Happy to help.

    2. Manisha, I share John's interest in helping you and your group in drawing attention to the existence and significance of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Please send me information about your group and its goals. Charles: carolus@optimum.net / www.charlesfishman.com.