STEVEN BERKOFF UNPUBLISHED

 

A Memorial to the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on the Sixtieth Anniversary, April 19th, 1943

 


 Uprising

Warsaw, Poland, nineteen forty-three,
April the nineteenth… just to be precise,
When Jewish rebels spewed into the street
Their hatred for the murdering Nazi lice.

The few machine guns they had costly bought
Chatted their deadly song into the brutes
Who screeching, fled, leaving many a corpse…
’How could they do this to us, they’re only Jews!’

Just lice, vermin, scum, untouchables,
So preached philosophers of the Nazi race,
While yelling in dissonant, German, guttural tones,
’Heil Hitler!’ and shoved their arm up by their face.

How could the German nation salute this beast?
A nation that spawned Beethoven, Goethe, Bach,
They heard his racists’ filth, got on their knees
And cried out ‘Mein Führer’ from their deepest hearts.

German or Nazi, ah now, that’s the rub.
The Nazi mask conceals the inner man,
Those murderers were not Germans, no, not us!
The ‘Nazis’ did it… Decent Germans ran!

The nation loved him with one mighty mouth,
He built the motorways, made people work,
In Bierkeller or in the Kaffeehaus,
Hitler was sung while dirty yids were cursed.

Their rotten books were piled high in a pyre,
The thoughts of man confused their addled brains,
They hurled their words into a giant fire
All over Europe spread the Nazi stain.

And now the tidal scum reached Poland’s shores,
Two million Hebrews lived in harmony,
Amongst the Polish Christians, obeyed the law,
Built theatres, wrote books and played in symphonies.

The poorer lived and worked, sweated and bred,
Some lived in ghettoes, such as they were called,
Four hundred thousand yids faced certain death
As bricklayers built the Warsaw Ghetto’s walls.

Warsaw was the capitol of the Jewish world,
Zionists and Bundists, capitalists and socialists,
Doctors and surgeons, carpenters and dentists,
Teachers and tailors, hear the warning bell!

And so we wait to hear from the Nazi thugs,
September first in thirty-nine they came…
Jackboots, and helmets like dead cold skulls,
In one week they stood at the Warsaw gates.

How they bombed Warsaw day and fearful night,
In twenty bloody corpse-filled days it fell,
A mere fifty thousand dead, man, wife and child,
And thus began the first glimpse inside hell.

The German Nazis carry their hell within,
Transporting their filth to where they set their feet,
Their breath was acid, they farted poison gas,
Their sweat dissolved the plants, on blood they feast.

And now they sniff the warmer Jewish blood…
Bloodhounds well-trained by their master, the maddest Hun,
Salivate as they sink their yellow teeth
Into a Semite throat, the chosen ones.

Chosen to be Treblinka’s honoured guests,
Sixty miles away the ovens burn,
The chimneys daily pour their filthy smoke,
And belch from gorging too much kosher flesh.

Their heads were shorn, why waste the precious stuff,
It fills a mattress, cushion, swells a chair,
You may be sitting on Sarah’s precious curls,
So don’t be sentimental, it’s only hair!

But first you work, you lazy parasites!
Forced labour for your kindly Nazi hosts,
Long hours, no pay, we’ll squeeze the greasy kikes,
For those too old, we’ll turn them into ghosts.

For once, Moishe will taste some honest graft,
You can’t exploit the Aryan or the goy,
But ‘cause we know the Shylock race is smart…
You’ll run the entire ghetto for us… Jew boy!

          1940

And now a ring was formed around its throat
On November sixteenth, the ghetto sealed,
Four hundred thousand souls were swiftly crushed
As the weaker died, their space was quickly filled.

From every town and village the race was torn,
Leaving behind the memories of long years,
Mothers, husbands, young wives with child unborn
Were crushed into the ghetto with their tears.

Rumours of deportations now are rife,
It’s mid July in nineteen forty-two,
Czerniakow, the ghetto’s leader, commits suicide,
He cannot get the Nazi quota filled.

Pity those poor Catholics caught in the net,
Who long ago shed off their Hebrew kin,
But Nuremberg laws did say the smell persists
Of their ancient brother’s loathsome skin.

But now the Nazi machine is well in place,
It’s time now folks to say the last farewell,
Drag your suitcases to the Umschlagplatz
And take a one-way ticket, first class to Hell!

Treblinka, your foul name will never fade,
But shall outlast the very universe,
While cities, empires and dynasties decay,
Your name will be an everlasting curse.

But drag your rubbish to the Umschlagplatz
To make believe you’ll need your precious clothes,
A change of underwear, spare shoes and reading glass,
’Excuse me, here, you’ll not need those.’


First, ‘Transports’ take the orphans, they’re no use,
Can’t make them work in factories and mines,
Their teacher Janusz Korczak knew the truth,
But held their hands until the end of time!
          (He held their hands until the end of time!)

First, take the old and weakest, they’re no use,
You have no papers? Then you’re next, my friend.
It’s just a formality since the Nazi brutes
Have busy ovens, whose hunger never ends.

The canisters of gas they dropped within,
And watched the writhing bodies scream and gasp,
Clawing their way into a human pyramid,
The nearest to the top, they died the last.
          (Breathe deeply, children, and soon it will be past.)

‘Fight back!’ survivors cried, ‘What’s wrong with us?
Jewish resistance, that will never be.
When four hundred thousand were alive
We marched to death with neat efficiency!’

But now with only fifty thousand left
There was determination to ‘resist’…
Three hundred and fifty thousand souls wiped out
Within three months by those who deal in death.

July until September, forty-two,
Civilisation ceases to exist
As transport after transport turned the Jews
Into crushed bones in rancid smoking pits.

A great achievement for the master race,
Which got the tardy trains to run on time,
Inflation cured and euthanasia
For retards and the homosexual swine.

But most of all, you German Nazi dogs,
You did the utter indescribable,
Murdered children, yes even God was shocked,
While your wives ate Sacher Torte and read the Bible.

So now, oh yes, oh now we will begin,
For now, yes now, this truly is the last,
The last time we will pack our suitcases,
And like dumb cattle, walk to railway cars.

No more, no more, the vulture’s drunk enough,
An ocean of blood won’t slake the monster’s thirst,
So now resist those filthy vampire bats,
Our slogan: We will die like humans first!
          (We will die like humans first!)

Fighting, striking, attacking the Nazi curse,
Mordecai will lead the rebel troops,
A Joshua has risen from the earth,
But first we kill those compromising Jews!

To save their frightened skins they aid the beasts.
Such scum has no continuance on this earth,
We must stamp out this vermin with our feet,
Even if we share the self same blood?

These Judases who’d sell their brothers’ flesh,
They swooned into the devil’s wretched arms,
Descendants of great Moses who then smashed
The tablets, seeing them lick the golden calf.

On January ninth, nineteen forty-three,
Nazi chief Himmler visits the ghetto,
Desiring an opportunity to gloat
At dying remnants and thin walking shadows.

Crawling along the bloodstained ghetto walls,
Freezing on the heartless naked streets,
Just fifty thousand humans left to kill,
’I want eight thousand more to go this week.’

Himmler might be ordering sausages,
But living human sausages at that…
Snap your fingers for Herr Ober… ‘Ja,’
’Acht tausend Juden, bitte…’ but no fat!

But Mordecai Anielewicz, rebel lord,
Said, ‘No one goes… This is no more,
No more, no more, and now this is the law.’
The empty streets were silent when the Nazis came.

Yes, suddenly the rebel guns barked out…
And shattered ancient myths of Nazi might,
They fled like screaming chickens, shitting pants,
Jawohl! The Nazi cowards were put to flight.

Jawohl, jawohl, jawohl, ja fucking wohl!
Brave heroes you are, defenceless girls you rape…
What guts, to drag old women from their homes,
So brave to tear a mother from her babe!

So now eat, homemade steel, pig swine and cry…
How dare the Yiddish bastards dare not die…
How dare they, dare they, dare they, dare they try…
To live like human beings, refuse to die?!

The rebels’ action lasted just three days…
But now the end is marked, our days are short,
But the rebels’ armed resistance is here to stay,
Outnumbered, that’s the way, we always fought.

The weeks they passed, the deportations ceased,
The coward Nazis licked their wounds and watched,
For once the ghetto rebels rejoiced with glee,
For German blood now stained its ancient streets!

The rebels’ fighting organisation watched,
And waited eighty-seven days, alert.
Himmler allowed three days to clear the ‘rot’…
It took a month and Nazis tasted dirt.

April the nineteenth, the Jews’ Passover feast,
When death passed over the Israelite slaves,
The blood of the lamb on the doorposts was a sign,
For God’s dark angel, who would pass them by.

So on this night we celebrate the flight,
And eat unleavened bread flavoured with tears,
Remembering the time when mothers gathered mites,
And walked into the desert for forty years.

So on this night we must remember this,
April nineteenth in nineteen forty-three,
The uprising began and rebel fists
Threw hand grenades and slew the enemy!

When Jewish fists were clenched, clenched hard and tight,
Not held up in the air like frightened slaves
Gathered up and marching, a mournful sight,
As listlessly they stumbled to their graves.

But not tonight, not this night, never more.
Now, set this down into the holy scroll,
April nineteenth in nineteen forty-three,
And remember it with heart and soul!

It first began on January eighteen,
We heard the Nazi orchestra begin,
Shouts and gunfire, and trucks and screams,
As Nazis ordered… ‘Get out in the streets!’

‘Get out! Get out! Be at the assembly point,
A bullet in your head if you don’t speed,
I’ll bash you black and blue until your joints
Are broken, cracked, and then I’ll watch you bleed…’

But Mordecai Anielewicz prepared,
A dozen fighters pistol’d up and brave,
They planned to join the frightened marching herd,
Who tramped down solemn streets like abject slaves.

They had their guns concealed and at a cue,
They stepped out of the line of stumbling Jews,
And turned their weapons on their charming hosts,
Their orders… ‘Take the German nearest you!’

The Nazis for the first time were attacked,
Inside the ghetto, their favourite slaughterhouse!
The victims ran, dissolved into the cracks.
The cat was swallowed by the tiny mouse.

Oh joy, oh God, what wonders do we see,
The S.S. killed and wounded, others fled
Leaving their caps and weapons as they flee,
Alas, there were so many rebels dead.

Let’s praise dear Yitzhak Zuckerman and his small group,
Fighting with much courage in Zamenhov Street,
The Nazis burst in hungry for those Jews,
Now rats would celebrate the German feast!

The Jewish fighting organisation, so named,
They sprang out from the shadows, just appeared,
They freed those being led to the deathly trains,
Knowing their time was short, they had no fear.

The Nazis whined with fury, sick with rage,
And seized the old, the weak and those infirm,
Not face the strong, the young, they were afraid,
Alas, six thousand more were dragged away.

Mass slaughter of the innocent on that fourth day,
In the ghetto’s bloody streets one thousand souls
Were murdered for their gall and so they paid
For not trotting respectfully to their graves!

The January action left the S.S. dazed,
The ghetto now was quiet, not a face,
The Germans hesitate, how could these slaves
Dare to attack the devil’s master race?

The devil stunk inside his loathsome hide,
The Jew’s example might inspire the Poles,
As news of the resistance spread far and wide,
The Nazis cogitated, there was a lull.

Now the cautious ones in jubilation cheered.
Who once believed resistance would tighten the knot
Of the hangman’s noose that sits around their throat,
They wracked themselves ‘tween doubt and new found hope.

And what a sad success it really was,
Symbolic, a gobspit in the Nazi eye,
Although we scratched the loathsome Hitler beast,
We could not stop those led away to die.

Yet we were mistaken, there was no plan
To exterminate the ghetto to the last man…
Slave labour was still needed by the Hun,
’More uniforms!’ as Nazis died in tons…

But the Warsaw ghetto now must be destroyed,
Erased from off old Poland’s scar-lined face,
For the Nazis were afraid Der Untermensch,
Would persuade the Polish criminals to be brave.

‘Oh no!’ the German factory owner shrieked,
Since Yiddish blood was turned to German gold,
’We must not lose the labour that’s so cheap,
The Wehrmacht must be fed and product sold!’

There was a bitter conflict for Jew flesh,
The ovens of Treblinka must be filled,
But the Wehrmacht needs the labour, needs their sweat,
But the S.S. orders are ‘Take out and kill!’

Five thousand heads a day were put on trains,
From Warsaw to Treblinka, ran on time,
The factories of death through sun and rain,
Producing nothing but an everlasting stain.

A stain that never ever can be erased,
Though centuries will heap their heavy years,
The rancid smell will always dribble through,
Treblinka soil is sodden with blood and tears.

But now in conflict are the wretched Huns,
For their efficiency in killing Jews,
Depleted factory workers making guns,
’Our soldiers die without their killing tools!’

          TRANSFER

Friedrich Wilhelm Krüger, S.S. general:
’There are advantages and disadvantages,
’Though Himmler wishes all the Jews expelled,
They are the best mechanics and we pay no wages!

‘The lazy Poles cannot do the job as well,
The Reichführer Himmler must then change his mind
Before we consign Yiddish scum to Hell,
Suck out the fruit and throw away the rind.’

Walter Többens, factory owner begs,
’Please, Jews, come to our lovely new location,
Leave the ghetto with its criminal dregs,
We’ll teach your children, learn a new vocation.’

But inexplicably, the Jews did doubt
The promises of the German entrepreneur…
Of thirty-six hundred workers, thirty turned out…
The rebels had warned them, ‘Do not volunteer!’

Shelters, tunnels and cellars were fortified,
The smell of resistance electrified the air,
The destruction of the Ghetto was in sight,
This time they’d fight like tigers in their lair.

Furiously they dug their holes at night,
A warren of bunkers deep beneath the earth,
Their work was done with skill for the heart was light,
We would see the Jewish rebellion’s birth!

Everything was thought of, nothing rushed…
Even sanitary arrangements made,
There must be water and fresh air, food stuff.
Our experts even wired electric cables.

The siege may last for ever, so we need
Doctors, medicines, bandages and yes, cyanide.
And now there was a bunker for us all,
And so we wait, barbarians, make your strike!

The ghetto was a city that was split,
Houses above the ground, tunnels below,
An army of worker ants, they daily teemed,
The Nazis prepared to make their final blow.

          PAST

Now we few were the last, the very last,
Three hundred thousand others turned to smoke,
And this is just from Warsaw, the die was cast
To crush us in one final brutal stroke.

Between July and September forty-two,
The Nazis siphoned up the pliant Jews
’Out of your house, right now, or you’ll be shot!
Juden, move! Take your belongings, take your rot!

‘Take your stinking children, take your bags,
You must have a number, move faster, scum,
March in line! You skeletons in rags,
Faster! March! You shit, move quicker, run!

‘We have whips and bayonets for you…
Some will be selected, ja! the special few,
They’ll be allowed to be our slaves, you Jews
Have all the luck, let’s see if it’s you!

‘March along the line, no permit, no?
Then head off to the Umschlagplatz… Go!…Go!
What’s that under your coat, a baby’s cry?
A bayonet thrust will save the kid a ride!’

So some did work and some did swiftly die,
And from Treblinka they flew to paradise,
Yet some escaped and lived to tell their tale,
David Nowodworski describes Hell:

‘Even at death’s door the Nazis schemed,
To make believe you have a future life,
”Go to the bathhouse, shower and get cleaned,
We will rid you of your crawling lice.”’

Met at the station by a welcoming crew,
Alsatian dogs and guns and stinging whips,
So kind of you to greet your fellow Jews,
Our brethren police were executing Yids!

They saw their brethren, dressed in uniform,
Fulfil their roles with added zeal,
Your Jewish brother sheds his brother’s gore?
The S.S. forced them, kill or you’ll be killed.

‘If you do not give us five heads a day,
The quota in the ghetto, never fail,
Your wives and children will make up your pay.’
The tears of angels fell like heavy hail.

But now this is the last, the very last…
The ghetto fighters now were unified,
The final struggle will shortly come to pass,
And Nazis too will join the funeral pyre.

We wait, we wait, so patiently for the time,
Why can’t those German Nazis leave us alone?
Always ordering with their shrieking tones,
They want to strip our flesh right to the bone.

It is their cause, the maniacs’ contract,
It focuses their minds beyond themselves,
Their vacant souls become a tomb for rats,
And scapegoats make the Nazi bums feel swell.

The enemy must decide the final date,
Which marks for all of us the end of time,
A thousand years in Poland we have made
Our home, and now upon our corpses Fritz will dine.

We did all the things that people like to do,
Sat in cafés and argued about Karl Marx,
Went to the movies, held each other’s hands,
Walked on Sunday, fed ducks in the park.

Now huddled in bunkers we talked and analysed,
Ate our basic food, black bread and jam,
Sometimes some soup, a blessing to have rice,
But priority, to arm each precious man.

Of fighting groups there now were twenty-two,
The Dror, Hashomer Hatzaír and the Bund,
The Communists had four trained fighting troops,
Akiva, Godonia, Po’alei and Hazion.

The Ghetto was divided in three states,
The central, where the wretched poor exist,
The workshop area, home for all the slaves,
The brushmakers for the human two-pronged sticks.

Mordecai Anielewicz rules the central state,
Entrenched like Joshua, waiting for his time,
Israel Kanal had eight brave fighting squads,
Commander Yitzhak Zuckerman had nine.

What can we do but fight with heart and soul,
What military experience have we, none?
No hand to hand battles in the street or squares,
Their crushing force will blow us to kingdom come.

What chance against these well-fed, well-armed thugs,
Who leave their warm barracks to kill thin Jews?
At night they shave and shower off our blood,
While we sip slowly on our watery stew.

But like gazelles we’ll leap from roof to roof,
From many places surprise the sleeping beast,
From alleyways and crevices we’ll shoot,
Wait until they follow, then let your bullets feast!

Sometimes in darkened alley we’ll appear,
Or else behind a broken chimney pot,
And then our sweet grenades will swiftly tear
Their hearts out, and then we’ll see them drop.

There is no plan for withdrawal, none,
Since this is where we fight and where we die.
’We want to save the honour of mankind,
And rip out of their throats the wicked lie.

That never did we fight back, defend ourselves,
Like frightened sleepwalkers we marched to die,
But now brave friends we fought, and fought back well,
While others gaped, their limp hands by their sides.

Landings, alcoves, basements, corners, roofs,
From all directions fire and never cease,
Ration your precious bullets, only shoot
When you can see the eye of the Nazi beast!

          Passover

April nineteenth, nineteen forty-three,
We celebrate Passover, even here,
But tonight be vigilant, do not sleep,
For Pharaoh will rise again, beware!

But then did Moses have the ear of God,
And did he not come forth with miracles?
So we pray this night, ‘Strike with thy rod,
Do not be deaf to the cries of Israel!’

‘The Germans are coming this night, prepare defence,
Now listen to your standing orders, Jews,
”Jan – Warsaw” is the magic word, good friends,
The password for this night and God save you.’

Get down into the bunkers, block the streets!
Use everything to halt the Nazis’ path!
Old furniture in doorways, cupboards, seats!
Your wardrobe, tables, chests and broken glass!

Marek Edelman, commander, the Ghetto’s brushmaking section,
Reports: ‘Information reached them at two A.M.
The Germans are advancing, prepare for action,
Tonight we fight, take your positions, men!’

Oberführer von Sammern-Frankenegg,
Was not expecting too much opposition,
’Ja, a little maybe, from these dregs,
The Yids don’t fight, it’s not their disposition.’

Yet Himmler had small confidence in him,
So sent his S.S. general Jürgen Stroop…
Against uprisings Stroop knew how to win,
There was no depth to which he would not stoop.

His murder expedition was to earn
The Nazi devil the Iron Cross first class,
Awarded by Field Marshall General Keital
For valour against the helpless human dross.

Two thousand German soldiers, fighting fit,
Machine guns numbering one hundred and thirty-five,
A cannon, flame throwers, thirteen heavy guns,
Twelve hundred rifles and three armoured cars.

Ukrainians and camp guards to go in first,
To take the bullets if they start to fly,
No, this action will not take too long,
We’ll smoke them out and, ja, we’ll watch them die.

The Jewish fighting force was just in name,
Of military training barely none,
Seven-fifty young combatants and brave,
Desperate to fight and each man had a gun.

Revolvers of various calibres and makes,
Ammunition, ten to fifteen rounds…
Four hand grenades for each, mostly handmade,
And Molotov cocktails make a lovely sound.

A couple of machine guns that they earned
In the January rebellion when they slew
Some Nazis, now their spouting mouths would turn
Upon the enemy when once they spat on Jews.

April the nineteenth at four A.M. they came,
Entering the ghetto’s now deserted streets,
The fighters in the bunkers did await
The growing sound of Nazis’ marching feet.

It sounds like thousands, marching without end!
A march of death and we would die like flies,
They moved as if to war they’re being sent,
How weak we felt against this armoured tide.

But others had a different point of view,
Tuvia Borzykowski recorded this:
’At six A.M. the siege surrounded us few,
We had them in our sights, we could not miss!

‘We did not wait for them to slaughter us,
From each and every post we showered them
With hails of bullets, hand grenades and bombs,
Our homemade efforts fell with great aplomb!’

Exploded as they should, we were relieved,
The Warsaw Ghetto’s uprising has begun!
Their wounded and their dead lay in the streets,
We scurried out and swiftly took their guns.

Oh, how they fled, the frightened Nazi scum,
No longer marching in neat, pompous ranks,
But scattered into groups, to walls they clung,
Or hid like frightened beasts behind their tanks.

Like fruit being tossed from heavy-laden branches
Whose limbs swung back and forth in heaving winds,
So hand grenades were hurled from every vantage,
And death pursued them in the screaming din.

The German Nazis were amazed and stunned,
’Juden haben waffen! Juden haben waffen!’ they shout,
The Jews have arms! And how they swiftly run,
And bloody Nazi corpses lay round about.

I, Haim Frymer, stationed at the corner of Zamenhof,
Stood on the balcony, my Mauser cocked,
I fired upon the smoking, shrill compost
Of yelling Nazis, burning tanks and dust.

The air was full of wails and wounded screams,
The Nazi killers were totally unprepared,
This was beyond our wildest, wildest dreams,
Now from Jews the Krauts were running scared!

Diving for cover, pissing in their pants,
They turned around and ran, withdrew,
Then from a house in Muranowski Street,
A rebel flag arose in white and blue.

Not just once the Germans fled but twice!
Mordecai Anielewicz in his journal wrote,
For forty minutes one company faced their might,
The second for six hours stayed at their post.

Nearby, our German ‘Schmeisser’ fiercely barked,
Our submarine gun that was costly bought,
No sweeter music filled our pounding hearts,
Like Joshua’s warriors, our survivors fought.

Please God, come to our aid and fill our cup,
As when the sacred oil on Chanukah
Burned brightly for eight days and then eight nights,
Until the enemy was put to flight.

But now the Polish underground must rise,
Strike! my friends, and give us your support,
Our strength is limited, you must see our plight,
We must not say, that all alone we fought.

Don’t watch us from your windows and your doors,
Admiring from a distance as we die…
But cast yourselves among us, help destroy
The enemy, while chaos and confusion fly.

Anielewicz wrote to Yitzhak Zuckerman,
Our representative on the Aryan side,
’We need grenades, explosives, machine guns,’
But the desperately needed weapons never arrived.

Zuckerman begged the Polish underground,
’The time, my friends, is swiftly running out,’
They answered, ‘Wait until the Russians strike
The Nazis, that’s the time to stage a rout.’

The Nazis in disorder and in shame
Withdrew their badly wounded and their dead,
Screaming accusations, who’s to blame?
The S.S. General Stroop becomes their head.

A Nazi tank burst into furious flames.
Two armoured cars by our homemade grenades,
Were halted in their tracks, their driver slain,
Twelve dead and many wounded, God blessed this day!

Oh, how the Nazis whined and how they blamed…
Von Sammern’s soldiers simply ran away,
Jawohl, the military defeat would be a stain
Upon the proud and mighty S.S. name!

Von Sammern was dismissed, Stroop took command,
He would show Himmler how to kill the pests,
With heavy arms he would destroy the yids,
Then watch them die inside their burning nests.

And so they hoped, but this was not to be,
Not yet a while as fighters returned fire,
But the rebels’ bullets sadly could not now reach
The Nazis and their stronger fighting power.

But still they fought, machine guns now were used
By comrades fighting in the central Ghetto,
Again the Nazi raiders were confused,
As bullets round the burning buildings echo’d.

The Nazis slowly moved just step by step,
Penetrating houses, climbing stairs,
Seeking out the killers in their nest,
But when they found it the birds had disappeared.

Swiftly charging, through attics, underground,
Hiding in bunkers, in the sewage tunnels’ stew,
Leaping, darting, swiftly while bullets pound,
Refilling rifles and shooting as they flew.

The Nazis were inflamed, their violence grew,
They scoured the sewers, found five hundred Jews,
These were unarmed and helpless and with children too,
They wanted many thousands more but ‘Ach! They’ll do!’

As there were not enough to cram the train,
More practical to shoot them on the spot,
Or torch their stinking hovels, burn them alive,
There were no limits on Earth to German wrath.

As if we were in medieval times,
When Jews were burnt in London and in York,
Accused of killing little Christian babes,
Stretching the innocent to make them talk.

Confess to crimes that were insane, obscene,
So they could free themselves of heavy debts,
The Jews were money lenders to the king…
So why not slaughter those bloodsucking pests?

          Twentieth April, nineteen forty-three,

A strange calm fell upon the streets that night,
The ghettos’ creatures wandered out and spoke
Of such wondrous and amazing sights,
The day the Nazi murderers were smote!

This day will surely mark the end of time,
And from this day the seeds will then be sown,
Fed with the martyrs’ blood, upon this day
We’ll reap the fruit that we can call our own.

The morning came again as German plagues
Advanced and stormed those houses, bearing flags,
Machine guns and light cannon sprayed
Their venom and rebel leader Leon Rodal fell.

But factory owner Többens squealed, ‘Please wait,
And save our valuable machinery,’
He begged the General Stroop to relocate
The assets to a safer territory.

‘Then, turn the ghetto into one mass grave!’
Stroop thought this was far more sensible.
’We’ll kill the terrorists, some scum we’ll save,
To be slaves in our vital industry.’

Three German officers at three P.M.,
White handkerchiefs attached to their lapels,
Called for ceasefire, just an interim,
To persuade shop-workers, come and make a deal.

‘Deportation’s really not so bad,
Your lives you’ll save, your families’ as well,
These terrorists are criminals, raving mad,
Trust us, you can believe the lies we tell!’

In spite of this fine offer, few came out,
It seems the Jews could not believe the Hun,
Arbeit macht frei is what they always spout,
But after work? Treblinka’s not much fun.

So Stroop begins, the ancient ghettos fall,
And centuries of history will turn to dust,
Blowing up the soul of the Hebrew nation,
Since mass murder is not quite enough.

The Warsaw Daily, the city’s underground sheet,
Reported the events amid some pride,
’The war of despair continues in the streets,
Through overwhelming courage, Nazis died.

‘Yesterday the Germans celebrated
The day when Satan’s evil spawn came forth,
The monster Hitler was born on such a day,
On such a day don’t celebrate, but mourn!

‘This could be a day for amnesty,
A ritual seen throughout the enlightened world,
When heads of state on birthdays decide to free
Some poor souls from their prison’d misery.

‘But here mass slaughter is the birthday treat,
To honour Hitler with this unique gift,
Dead women and children for your special feast,
And thousands rotting in mass graves and pits.

‘This heroic struggle has no chance,
The Nazi hangmen are a hundredfold,
More stronger as each day the hordes advance,
We must salute the Jewish guts and soul.’

The Daily Warsaw reports on what it sees,
’In two wars in many battles have I been,
But none as deeply moving as yesterday,
As rebels fought on through stinking smoke and flames.’

Facing field cannon and anti-armour fire,
They throw their precious homemade hand grenades,
The enemy actually turn back and retire,
As from rooftops, rattling machine guns spray!

Appeals were posted yesterday on the streets,
On houses bordering the ghetto walls.
’Poles, please help! Alone do not let us fall!
Long live free Poland… Free Poland for all!’

The Germans shouted through their megaphones,
’Appear, six-thirty at the Umschlagplatz!’
Of course dear Nazis we’re as mad as you,
The Nazis waited but no guests turned up.

These women are heroines, stalwart, fierce and mean,
Pouring sulphuric acid on the enemy,
Setting their trucks on fire with gasoline,
An army of Deborahs via villainy!

You know this is the second Jewish war,
The first was pitted against the Roman might,
We need a Josephus Flavius to describe
The horrors taking place, such moving sights.

The Jewish war writ down by Josephus
Lives on throughout two thousand bitter years,
Capturing with his pen the very pulse
Of Jerusalem before it sank in tears.

A Jew bearing an automatic rifle
Is wounded, next moment, a woman is by his side,
Takes over his weapon like a blushing bride,
Swiftly refills the rifle and bullets fly!

Tanks have been destroyed and prisoners taken,
Can you believe that this has come to pass?
The prisoners sweat in fear, their faces ashen,
They released the soldiers but held the S.S. fast.

The city was amazed, astounded, drunk
With joy to see their enemy well kicked
By Yids right up its Nazi arse, it hurt
The bastards, how it made Herr Himmler sick!

It did not fade the second day, no way,
That’s what the Nazis hoped - fat chance, - like this
Was just a one-off, just a last display,
Before we humbly raise our hands and walk away.
          No way!

The campaign now encompassed every ghetto Jew,
The enemy realised this and moved more tanks,
Eliezer Geller waited with his group,
At Leszno Street and warmly gave them thanks!

A tank was hit and then began to burn,
Into the houses the Nazi forces burst,
Enraged and mad to taste the rebels’ blood,
They hacked and shot till they had quenched their thirst.

But now, as if in solidarity,
A Polish rebel group did try to mine
The ghetto wall to let escaping Jews
Get through, but they were hampered by a line…

Of curious spectators, staring bug-eyed,
Like this was just a piece of theatre,
While most in Warsaw continued with their lives,
Went shopping, sat in cafés and sympathised…

They watched from windows, rooftops, what a show!
As deep inside the walls a nation died,
A wretched drama was unfolding slow,
But from their blood a new race will arise!

The Nazi units caught five hundred Jews…
Those fit for work would stay alive – for now,
The rest would go to fill the transport queue
For ‘Canada’, slang word for ‘gas chamber’, to you.

Oh, how bravely they fought that second day,
Jacob Rakower – Jewish porter broke through,
The siege with ten men to the other side
Carrying Commander Leon Rodal, who sadly died.

Oh, strongly fight, oh you most valiant few,
But when the battle’s clearly lost, don’t die,
Escape and save yourselves, flee to the woods!
Some did but were betrayed by Polish spies.

But on day four the battle plan had changed,
The fighting had been conducted from fixed posts,
Now they used positions as a base,
From which to leap and then dissolve.

Like hornets we will launch surprise attacks
With smaller mobile groups to pounce and catch
The bastards when they smoke a fag or crap,
Then fly as bullets whistle past our backs.

The bunkers wind like snakes into the earth,
Weaving, twisting, linking the fighters chain,
Providing outlets to the sewer’s dirt,
Our sanctuary, where we nurse our sick and maimed.

Now the purveyors of death, the S.S. troops,
Decide with fire that they should burn us out,
The stinking smoke of hell became our day,
And tongues of flame scorched up the sky at night.

We have no burning desire to be burned alive,
The Nazis lit infernos on every side,
The only chance we have, take one long breath
And run, run, run, escape with all your might!

Tracing through the raging, dancing flames
The fighting units file out one by one,
From passageway to passageway and house to house,
To the central ghetto we must run!

There was a narrow opening in the wall,
But guarded by Ukrainians and armoured police,
Our shoes were wrapped in rags to dull their fall,
Oh miracle, we make it to the street!

Now a shout, and then a light snaps on,
Romanowicz blinds it with a well-aimed shot,
The units make it, not losing anyone,
We greet our comrades, whispering ‘Thank God’.

          Evacuation
Többens, factory owner, gives guarantee,
’The workshop workers are safe, don’t join the mob!
It’s true we’re safe, they need our industry,
Why die in glory, when in time, we may be free?’

Többens grins hard, ‘Your permit makes you safe,
That means you’re vital for the war machine,
Those without permits will of course be shot,
Come to the Umschlagplatz, Arbeit macht frei!’

Five thousand workers duly assembled there,
We have some concentration camps to choose,
Majdanek, Auschwitz, Mauthausen, Buchenwald,
Which one do you think will have the better view?

But now the S.S. had complete control,
The factory owners had lost their cherished prize,
The workers would be daily worked and flogged,
And at the end, death marches for exercise.

The fourth day of this fierce unequal struggle,
The Nazis now strengthened their vicious grip,
Flame throwers scorched the hideouts of the rebels,
They jumped from windows and fell like broken twigs.

Whole families sometimes wrapped themselves in sheets,
Tied strongly, they descend the burning pyre,
But in the shadows, the emissaries from hell,
Were waiting to fulfil their heart’s desire.

Yet the rebel fighters defend the older Jews,
Huddled together in their stinking bunkers,
In Milna Street, the desperate hundred flew
Into their saviour arms, rescued from hunters.

The bunkers now were useless, choked with smoke,
As hundreds, thousands, sought a place to hide,
Wandering desperately in the sleepless night,
With their few possessions by their side.

          Breath

Daniel Anielewicz wrote these words so stark:
’Most of us will die sooner or later,
In bunkers thousands are hiding in the dark,
No air or water, surviving just on hate.

The bunkers became like ovens, roasting flesh,
The houses above burnt down to their foundations,
And searing hell-like heat spread everywhere,
No window, light or water, no salvation.

‘I sweat and think of nothing but fresh air,
How simple pleasures become the most divine,
We sit with open mouths within our mine,
Even a candle’s tongue we cannot spare.

‘We cannot talk, we cannot breathe or eat,
The food supplies are rotted by the mould,
Which ruins the bread and destroys our precious meat,
They say it’ll cool down soon, I don’t think so.

‘Two days ago this house burnt to the ground,
Yet the heat increases every single hour,
We lie there, silent ears alert for sounds,
Of Nazis poking, while beneath we cower.

‘Near naked now but now, nobody cares,
Oh God, some water, please, and a little breeze,
Let’s dream of walking in the fresh spring air,
And sitting in cafés and drinking teas…

‘Some wretch went crazy, dehydrated, insane,
Crawled to the entrance, moved the hidden cover,
Gulped down the air just like it was champagne,
This could be our suicide, my brother.’

The entire ghetto now was set ablaze,
Oh, how much more, how much more can we take?
Thousands near physical and mental collapse,
We are deserted even by the rats!

When a bunker was by chance discovered,
And the Nazis shout out to surrender,
We say farewell to our friends and lovers
And give the swines some bullets to remember.

          Death

April twenty-third, the uprising’s fifth day,
General Stroop, convinced the end’s in sight,
Mission must be accomplished by sixteen hundred hours.
But the Jews won’t surrender, those parasites!

Still hiding in bunkers, in the sewers’ shit,
Crawling through broken pipes, sleeping in pits,
Hiding under corpses for the cemetery,
Oh life, how desperately we cling to thee…

April twenty-fifth, it was the seventh day,
’Set fire to the bunkers! Roast them alive!
Blow the damn things up, force them from their sties,
Break! Smash! Kill! Burn! Yes! This is our way!’

Sixteen hundred and ninety Jews captured today,
Two hundred and seventy-four shot, others died in the flames,
Till sundown the Nazis worked with utmost zeal,
Mein Gott! They really earn their bloody pay!

          April 26th

For days we rot in darkness, thirst and heat,
Hearing only sounds above our heads
Of Nazi shouts and heavy stamping feet,
We cannot move, and slowly wait for death.

We sit and dream of mothers, brothers, girls,
Of life before this nightmare came,
Before the raging sickness of the world
Descended upon us, turning all insane.

If only we had just some minutes more,
We know the Russian army would be here…
They’d sink their teeth into these beasts,
These aliens from another sphere.

Not human beings but something dead and cold,
Vicious, unfeeling, lacking any soul,
Barbarians, stupid, such a Philistine breed,
Why, in Germany, did the devil drop his seed?!

Not yet, not yet, we are not dead, not yet,
From blown-up bunkers we’re too weak to crawl,
So shoot us in our pleasant unmarked graves,
We cannot even stand, but we can pray.

Like Midas, Stroop counts his killed and captured prey,
Now nearly thirty thousand and many more today,
Some throw themselves from windows, shouting out their curse,
’I shit on Hitler, you bastard!’ then their skulls burst.

          Mila Five

Scene of bitter struggle at Mila Five,
Germans surround the house, demand we leave,
No answer, so they bomb the house to flames,
The devils wish to see us burned alive.

Germans on one side, the other a sea of flames,
We dash into the courtyard, our fighters gather there,
’Please God, they’ll find a way, these young and brave,
Please listen to us carefully, don’t despair…’

The only solution, must dash through the flames,
While shooting at the enemy, okay?
’We’ll go first’… The bullets flew like rain,
We reached the other side, the Nazis didn’t stay!

Unwilling to do combat, the Krauts had fled.
They dare not fight, with those who would risk all!
Flames licked our heads as through the flames we dashed,
Singed faces, hair and clothes, we’re through the wall!

          Leszno.

Six ten A.M. with tanks taking the lead,
The hearty singing of soldiers march along,
Accompanied by a band can you believe,
Puffed with pride they strut to the military song.

But from Leszno Street another song was heard,
The beat of Molotov cocktails and grenades,
Now the soldiers danced to a different tune,
As Germans fell, they waltzed into their graves!

          Survivor Felix Olar verifies:

‘We sent a hail of bullets and grenades,
The street echo’d with shouts and shrieks and moans,
Our side fought in every possible way,
The girls replaced grenades we threw like stones.

‘Like stones upon a riverbank we’d play,
”See who can hit that distant bottle first”,
That’s how we used to waste a summer’s day,
By throwing stones, but now the Nazis cursed!

‘Brave girls, they showed no fear, they looked so calm,
Ready to die honourably on the spot,
They came and went, no sound, no tears,
Their soothing presence was to us a balm.’

Young rebel fighter, Dorka Goldkorn writes,
’I was in the Smocza sector at the time,
We jumped for joy, we saw the tank in flames,
The most beautiful moment of our lives!

From a window, two men and a woman lean,
Dishevelled, faces blackened, their clothes on fire,
Laughing Germans photograph the ‘scene’,
The victims hurl themselves to Earth, and slowly expire.

No-one offers assistance to quench the flames,
Just the mocking laughter of spectators,
The smell of blood intoxicates their brains,
Sated at last, they march off singing, elated.

          Mordecai Anielewicz to the Aryan side

Have you sent food packages? (Read: weapons)
Don’t forget our eggs, (homemade grenades)
The kids would love some candy (send some bullets)
And don’t forget salami (we need revolvers).

Michalek, alias Henjek Kleinweiss,
Ghetto product and abandoned child,
He lived by selling lemonade in the street,
A soul spawned in the slums and running wild.

Joined the rebels, courageous, intelligent and agile,
Quickly mastered the use of arms, his skills
Were needed, escort a woman to the other side,
But they were captured to be deported or killed.

Shrewd Michalek told the officers, ‘Hey, wait,
I know about some bunkers right nearby,
You want to make a deal, I’ll give you Jews,’
His captors followed eagerly the lie.

On entering a passageway he pounced,
With lightning speed he snatched the Nazi’s gun,
And shot him swiftly dead… and then he flew.
The other Nazis were amazed and stunned.

Before they could recover, Michalek reappears,
Slays two more Germans and then speeds off again,
Michalek’s cunning cost the Germans dear,
In battle the young hero met his end.

          Ghettograd!

April the twenty-seventh: it’s now nine days!
The Jewish fighting organisation survives,
As one limb dies, new branches take their place,
It strikes the enemy each and every way.

Partisan tactics comrades, not just defence,
We hunt the hunters now and make our kill,
The Polish people clap and are impressed,
We need your help, my friends, not just good will.

They like to call the ghetto ‘Ghettograd’,
In honour of the famous Russian siege,
But they had armies racing to their help,
Who helps us as we helplessly bleed?!

No supporters from the outside world
To rescue the dying Ghetto, only words,
People in England and the U.S. cannot see,
For if you did, your eyes would not believe.

Such horrible crimes beyond your comprehension,
Yes, people are dying in this filthy war,
But not like this, against wild beasts of prey,
Whose poisoned minds obey no moral law!

Yes, you have armies, brave soldiers who die,
But we here die in different ways,
Unarmed women and children burned alive,
By laughing hyenas, relishing the slain.

The ghetto must not vanish without a trace,
For all that is courageous would vanish too,
The smoke clouds over the ghetto are a disgrace,
If all you can do is watch and sit and wait!

‘Poles, stop informing on the Warsaw Jews!
Put an end to this practice which defiles our name,
Stop handing them over to our enemy!
Christians, remember, Christ did not die in vain!’

Wladyslaw Sikorski, the Polish leader writes,
’The greatest crime in history is taking place,
Assist the tortured Jews, much as you can,
I beg you, show our friends a human face.’

Lest they believe the entire world had died,
For who can watch this crime and not shout out,
’Stop your criminal act of genocide,
You are less than humans, less than dogs!’

Stop it! You race of murderers, Satan’s spawn,
Stop it! For you will never again be a nation,
Stop it! Your children will wish never to have been born,
Than admit ‘My parents were of that generation!’

‘I’m sorry, we sympathise, not much we can do,
Collaboration is impossible, I’m afraid,
We have to choose the right moment to move,
Not be driven by emotion on the day.’

‘We watch from our balconies, a frightful sight!
Yes, we do eat, not a shortage of food,
Those thunderous echoes keep us awake at night.
But we must keep silent or they’ll come for us too!’

          The wall has two sides

‘Wherever there is a war come the hyenas,
Sniffing to exploit the helpless Jew,
Our pathetic friends who are in hiding,
These evil ones are fortunately the few.’

The Polish race is moral, upright and Christian,
Charitable and decent in their lives,
But others in the Polish police are vicious,
Corrupt, they merge themselves with Nazi slime.

Sunday, April twenty-fifth was Eastertime,
Holidaymakers dress in gay attire,
The carousel turned and Polish spirits were light,
As a loathsome pall rose in the Warsaw sky.

There were hawkers of sweets and even cigarettes,
And music filled the square and cannon boomed,
Such a beautiful Sunday, flowers in girls’ hair,
As burning victims painfully expired.

Behind the wall the carousel is heard,
A child is cradled in her mother’s arms,
Do you ask, dear mother, why you are in hell,
While other children are dancing free from harm?

Stiffening corpses scattered in the broken streets,
Stared at by Ukrainian volunteers,
Stockings torn, shoes still on your feet,
You might be resting, dreaming away your fears.

Who knew your name? You led a full life once,
You had a purse with house keys and small change,
Bought cat food, and made delicious potato cakes,
Put plasters on your daughter when she fell.

Who knew your name? You led a full life once,
Laughed at Charlie Chaplin, wasn’t he funny?
Stared in shop windows, Fridays washed your hair,
And picnicked by the river on a Sunday.

Who knew your name? You led a full life once,
The breakfast cooked and ready at eight A.M.,
Sat and cut the cloth, lapels so finely stitched,
Returned at six and did homework for the kids.

Who knew your name? You led a full life once,
Each night your pretty daughter practised scales,
You got on buses, wrote letters to aunts,
Each Friday morning bought a chicken without fail.

‘Stand the bunker captives against a wall,
Reveal where other bunkers are, you Jews.
A bullet through your head or clemency,
You choose, they gave us many bunkers more.

‘Okay, Jew, speak in Yiddish to your friends,
Tell them be smart and leave now in one mass,
Or else we’ll blow the bunker to little shreds,
No answer? What about a taste of gas?

‘Oh, watch them stagger out, sick, choking, blind…
My God, like smoking out some dirty rats,
You should have come out, Jews, when we were kind,
Now drag your carcass to the Umschlagplatz.’

‘A splendid catch today’, the general writes,
Each day of course he keeps detailed reports,
Sixteen hundred and fifty-five Jews were caught,
One hundred and ten shot, the rest… Transport!

          May First

The stupid Yids won’t leave without brute force,
So now we bomb the bloody sewage canals,
One fifty Jews escaped to the Aryan side,
Shot on the spot by police, with hunters’ eyes.

May the third, the fight continues on,
Five hundred soldiers purge and search the ruins,
Each day our numbers are reduced as we succumb
To bombs, explosives, guard dogs and gas fumes.

We leave our burrows with its air so foul,
We stumble blinded by the sudden light,
We hear jackbooted soldiers shouting, ‘Raus! Raus!’
We see the broken streets, our eyes are down.

We cannot lift our heads to see…
We collapse outside the bunkers wearily,
A woman gently holds her husband’s face,
We now must wait for what will be our fate.

May third, thirty Franciskanska Street,
Seventeen-year-old Shanan Lent was killed,
At twenty-three, Zippora Lehrer fell,
And half the Jewish fighters’ blood was spilled.

          Mila Eighteen

A new sanctuary is found, Mila Eighteen,
Three hundred hunted Jews found haven there,
A well constructed bunker made by thieves,
This was the criminals’ and smugglers’ lair.

Now rebel commanders, Zionists, communists too,
Link up with gangsters and society’s rogues,
Since blood links us to every single Jew,
Now all are allies ‘gainst the common foe.

The bunker was enormous, three long blocks,
Dug deep into the earth like mythic beasts,
Lived there with creatures of the underworld,
But now we hear the tread of Nazi feet.

Always scrabbling in the burning embers,
Digging out starved or lifeless, dying Jews,
Why can’t you maniacs leave us now in peace?
Go fight your losing war instead, leave us our few!

Shmuel Asher was the king of Mila Eighteen,
From the bowels of the earth he rules,
Smuggling bread and liquor through the sewers’ lanes,
’Your subjects would go through fire and water for you.’

They were our guides by day and smoking night,
Like supple cats they’d crawl and jump the ruins,
So we could keep an eye on the German might,
Who from our hate are not so quite immune.

Not any more, we pick and choose to strike,
We scratch the gruesome monster here and there,
Had we a sharpened, deep and long steel knife,
We’d cut its jugular inside its lair.

Alas, on May the eighth the Nazis came,
’Everyone outside!’ the familiar shriek,
As they surrounded the bunker, Mila Eighteen,
The rogues obeyed, but the fighters clenched their teeth.

The Germans injected gas, threw hand grenades,
The fighters gasping, still returned the fire,
Soon the rebels began to suffocate,
’Is it not better to die when we desire?’

‘Let us give our lives back to our Lord,
Believe me, this is the noblest way to go.
By our own hands, than falling into theirs,
We fought a brave fight,’ they answered, ‘Let it be so.’

Let it be so and yes, let it be so,
As in Masada so it shall be here,
Each one took the gun for their own head,
Mila Eighteen became a memorial for the dead.

Thus ended the lives of a brave heroic group
Of courage, determination without fear,
Who inspired the Ghetto Jews to strike, rebel,
We will remember you till the end of years.

The lights are going out all over Europe,
Soon there will be darkness, cold and death,
Wherever these Barbarians tread, the hope
For humanity is sucked out with its breath.

But still, even now the battle does not end,
As bunkers are destroyed, we hide in holes,
As holes blown up in sewers, so the dregs
Of humankind still dare to live and hope.

Hope that the world outside must see this crime,
Beyond all crimes in bloodstained human history,
Beyond imagination, beyond belief,
To rip an ancient race from off the earth.

Non-combatants, civilians, women, children,
Innocent, unprepared, old people, sick…
Pregnant women and even babes in arms
Snatched from their nursing mother’s teats.

May the twelfth, thirty more bunkers found.
Six hundred sixty-three more wretched Jews,
Sent to Treblinka where time always stops,
But those who couldn’t make the train were shot.

May sixteenth, to celebrate the end
Of this victorious and murdering spree,
Stroop blows up the ancient synagogue
To emulate his Roman ancestry.

When Romans destroyed Jerusalem’s holy temple,
For that the seeds of their downfall were sown,
Stroop too will have his monument in time,
A dangling corpse, at the end of the gallow’s rope!

Shmuel Zygelbojm, an activist -
Exiled in London, friends nearly all dead,
Each day he cried for western action,
To the American military he passionately begs…

          ‘Save the Warsaw Jews!’ ‘We don’t have time!’

Each day, each minute, another person dies,
Each word I speak, another life is shed,
Each breath I take they suck a human life,
Each heartbeat stops another’s heartbeat dead.

‘To save the Jews, we really don’t have time,
You see the allied war machine is set,
I know the principle is really fine,
But our plans are made, we cannot change the text.’

Zygelbojm knew the ghetto was dying fast,
So he chose to die a fighter with his friends,
On May thirteenth, before the British parliament,
He set himself alight and said, ‘Amen’.

‘For these evil acts the blame does lie
On all mankind who turned their face away,
No real effort was made to stop this crime…
A hand extended would have saved much pain.

‘I cannot be silent for my murdered race,
With their weapons in their hands my dear friends fell,
I cannot die with them I am sad to say,
But throw my ashes please, in their mass grave.’

The accountant Scroop takes up his month’s account,
Seven thousand Jews were wiped out on the spot,
Six thousand nine hundred transported to Treblinka,
A handsome profit for a tiny loss.

Six hundred thirty-one bunkers were destroyed,
And that filthy ghetto burnt to the ground,
Even the synagogue exists no more,
But anyway, they’d have no customers now!

But the ghetto’s light has not been quite snuffed out,
Something’s moving in the broken earth,
The heart still beats and creatures stir at night,
No German dares enter until the morning light.

As if the Golem has awoken here,
The monster created by the Jews of Prague
To take revenge against the enemy,
And protect the old community from harm.

Stirrings in the tunnels of the earth,
The blood pours through, the heart still beats,
The hands still clench, the mouth still eats,
The eyes still see, the head still thinks.

Hundreds are still left alive who fight,
Taut faces, sucked-in cheeks, half-crazed,
The ghetto now belongs to us,
We still have plenty of those hand grenades.

          May 26th
Survivor Arieh Neiberg’s diary says,
’Women and children were lying in pools of blood,
We stare at the tangle of arms and legs,
Just minutes earlier these were living flesh.

‘We stand in grief, cannot hold back our tears,
A corpse begins to move, to come to life,
A child no more than seven, blindfolded, cries,
”Jews, please find us water, have no fear…”

‘Another child she gathers up from off the ground,
Also alive, not even wounded, maybe five,
They quench their thirst, the words they tumble out,
”I’m Irka Rubenstein, she’s Halinka Eisenstadt.”

‘The Germans took us from the bunker,
”Take off your clothes,” they said, a search was made,
All afternoon we stood there, cold and naked,
By night we would be killed unless we betray…

‘Our families in the bunkers, we were afraid,
So someone volunteered, was led away,
The rest of us were killed and then we fell
Upon the ground, and there I lay quite still.

‘“When you hear the shooting,” my mother said,
”Fall quickly on the ground and do not move.”
I tried not to breathe when I was kicked,
So they’d believe that I was really dead.

‘Then they left and marched off loudly singing,
My mother’s body protected me from them,
Since her warm blood on top of me was flowing,
And so she saved me even in her death.

‘By chance I stepped on Halinka’s little foot,
It moved! I felt her pulse, the heart still beats!
We heard some voices, the killers returned I thought,
We lay there frozen, for the guns retort.

‘But then we heard your voices in our tongue,
Oh what relief, it’s safe, these men have gone,
My mother’s dead, I kissed her cheek goodbye,
Why do they do these things, please, tell me, why?’

          June

We cannot do the things that people do,
We cannot wash our clothes or brush our teeth,
We cannot shave our beards or cut our hair,
We cannot walk and breathe the sweet fresh air.

We cannot make some tea or boil an egg,
We cannot eat some fruit or even bread,
We cannot sleep inside a warm, soft bed,
We cannot call a friend, our friends are dead!

One day decided to collect the rain,
Put out a series of broken pots to claim
The precious fall of heaven’s liquid silk,
We’d never know again thirst’s awful pain!

          September 25th, 1943

Of forty-five that made our special group,
Just four remained alive or only just,
Starvation bloats poor Zamsz’s lovely wife,
Shorshan prays each day to God, he must.

‘There’s nothing else inside his life but faith,
My body’s swelling too, let’s go to the wall!
Let’s go to the Polish side, escape we must,
And if we fail, a bullet will solve all.’

          Bricks, April 19th, 1944

And now thousands of Polish working men
Collect the bricks each day, millions of them,
Brick by brick they shift and heave and sweat,
And cart our world away in trucks!

Bricks, bricks, millions of ancient bricks…
Bricks that were our silent bedroom walls,
Bricks that heard our lovemaking and cries,
Bricks that carry the memories of our lives.

Twenty-two and a half million bricks!
Thus the Ghetto exists now in the mind,
Or reconfigured to another place,
In houses, office blocks or factories.

Put your ear to that piece of grimy brick,
That nice extension to your garden wall,
Just as the sea whispers to you in shells,
Do you hear the sobbing cries from Hell?

But now the shreds and shards of Jewish life
That still somehow exist, a shattered urn,
We must escape into the Polish side,
Can we put the splinters back again?

Eliezer Geller made good his bold flight,
Along with all his desperate brave comrades,
The fighter Aaron Carmi also made
The tunnel journey to the Aryan side.

‘We made a plan, informed our Polish allies,
One by one we squirmed the tunnel’s length,
Then helped each other ascend into the night,
We expected Polish rebels, well-armed men…

‘A truck to take us to the forest,
Oh, smell that air and feed our starving guts!
But surfacing into the misty night,
We found not a bloody soul in sight!’

So back and forth and always back and forth
The fighters went, the guide returned to fetch
Remaining Jews who crawled through the sewer’s stench,
Dreaming of life after living so long with death.

So tiring, dangerous and difficult to find,
The tunnel rose and fell, split up, which way?
One tunnel leads out to the outer world,
The others, ancient sewers lead to dismay.

Alas, too late the rescue mission starts,
A day too late for Mila Eighteen’s guests,
For they themselves had made their peace with God,
But we must save the fighters that are left.

So now again within the stifling tunnel,
More desperate bodies clawed and groped their way,
But now the sun is rising, informer’s eyes
Are watching, hoping to nail some Jews this day!

At last the rebels found the tunnel’s end,
Breathed deep, replaced the cover on the wound,
A Polish passer-by would see black faces,
Emerging like demons from the bowels of Hell.

But now the realisation struck them hard,
That fifteen people had been left behind,
Go back, go back, too late, the German guard
Now eagerly watched, and just bided his time.

Watched for the lid to move just like
A hungry cat will stalk the mouse’s hole,
Waiting with sharpened claws to make its strike,
Alas, no one survived, no, not a soul.

So from Warsaw’s four hundred thousand Jews,
Twenty thousand are still alive and hiding,
Honourable Poles help and risk their lives,
God blesses you for every soul surviving…

Joseph Goebbels was indeed amazed,
’These ghetto Jews rebelled, with arms attacked!
Even issue daily military bulletins!
This emphasises what you can expect…

‘From Jews when they have weapons in their hands.
God knows,’ he said, ‘how they obtained these arms.’
Thus spoke the ‘voice’ of the Nazi nation’s man,
For ‘God’ did know only too well the plan.

As God would see the serpent’s wagging tongue,
Stilled two years hence with all his rotten seed,
Poisoned by his own venom, the crippled beast
Was torched, but even fire resisted the doubtful feast.

The Warsaw governor, Dr Ludwig Fischer,
How came he by that doctorate we ask?
Did he tear it from a suckling babe,
Or rip it from the stomach of an ape?

How can a Nazi dog bear such a title
When preaching murder, violence and hate?
Inspiring the Polish population to kill
Any Jew they see who has escaped.

Obergruppenführer Dr Kaltenbrunner,
In Krakow May thirty-first, nineteen forty-three,
Asks, ‘Why this preoccupation with the Jews?
The foreign press believe that Nazis stink!

‘Is this a noble attribute you think,
That the German nation is seen as cruel,
Killing innocent people because they think
In a different way to us in school?’

But the ghetto’s uprising uprose the hearts
And minds of men and women everywhere,
Survivors, prisoners, those in concentration camps,
In east and west became one fighting band.

Treblinka next, the German slaughterhouse,
The factory of death, its proudest mark,
Run with grim Deutschland efficiency,
The gas chambers, your bloodstained coat of arms!

But now inspired, Jews rose against their killers,
Destroyed the camp, and wrecked their damned machines,
No more the image of the passive Jew,
Now the transformation shall begin, anew!

No more, no more the passive pious one…
Since evil breeds where it can feel no fear,
And preys on those who turn the other cheek,
So die a hero’s death, not of the meek!

Resist, always resist, defend your lives,
For there will always be insane regimes,
Where morality and justice fly,
And murder ensures a place in paradise.

For all those who fell, the many millions dead,
For all those brutally slaughtered in cold blood,
The heroes who tragically died so we may live,
We bless your souls, and each hair on your heads.

We bless you with everything we have,
Our tears, our blood, our prayers, our hearts,
For you showed us the way to be a human,
Brave, courageous, honourable and ever a part…

Of history’s great legends, when the few
Did stand firm as a rock, cower no more,
So Warsaw heroes rest in blessed peace,
Your stars shine bright for ever and for ever more!

When the war was over, nobody could recognise even one street in the ghetto, but a hole was indeed found where Mila 18 once stood; they took a great black stone and placed it in the space where there was once the house. In three languages was written: Here on May 8th, 1943, Mordecai Anielewicz, commander of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, together with dozens of his fighters fell in the campaign against the Nazi enemy. He was 24.


Copyright © 2003 Steven Berkoff

 

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