The HyperTexts

Ber Horvitz: Holocaust Poet

compiled and edited by Michael R. Burch, an editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry

I have not been able to learn anything about definitive about Ber Horvitz. I must assume that he perished during the Holocaust and that we can only know him through the poems he left us, below. If this is the case, then it is truly an honor for me to translate his poems and help make his voice heard, because it's a good one, and a strong one.



Der Himmel
"The Heavens"
by Ber Horvitz
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

These skies
are leaden, heavy, gray ...
I long for a pair
of deep blue eyes.

The birds have fled
far overseas;
tomorrow I’ll migrate too,
I said ...

These gloomy autumn days
it rains and rains.
Woe to the bird
Who remains ...

This is powerful little poem, laden with irony. In the first stanza the poet longs for a pair of "deep blue eyes" because the Nazis prized Aryan features and despised Jews, who typically have darker hair, skin and eyes. Therefore, blue eyes are identified with a blue sky, and both are contrasted with darker, less "colorful" eyes and skies.

In the second stanza, the birds able to migrate have all fled. The poet "promises" to migrate too, but realizes this is unlikely if not impossible.

In the third stanza, the poet suggests a personal plight similar to that of a bird who failed to migrate before bad weather makes migration impossible.

The poem's title is also ironic, as "Der Himmel" can mean both "the sky" and "the heavens." Where was God during the Holocaust, the poet seems to be asking, ironically.



Doctorn
"Doctors"
by Ber Horvitz
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Early this morning I bandaged
the lilac tree outside my house;
I took thin branches that had broken away
and patched their wounds with clay.

My mother stood there watering
her window-level flower bed;
The morning sun, quite motherly,
kissed us both on our heads!

What a joy, my child, to heal!
Finished doctoring, or not?
The eggs are nicely poached
And the milk's a-boil in the pot.



Broit
“Bread”
by Ber Horvitz
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Night. Exhaustion. Heavy stillness. Why?
On the hard uncomfortable floor the exhausted people lie.

Flung everywhere, scattered over the broken theater floor,
the exhausted people sleep. Night. Late. Too tired to snore.

At midnight a little boy cries wildly into the gloom:
"Mommy, I’m afraid! Let’s go home!”

His mother, reawakened into this frightful palace,
presses her frightened child even closer to her breast …

"If you cry, I’ll leave you here, all alone!
A little boy must sleep ... now this is our new home.”

Night. Exhaustion. Heavy stillness all around,
exhausted people sleeping on the hard ground.



"My Lament"
by Ber Horvitz
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Nothingness enveloped me
as tender green toadstools
are enveloped by snow
with its thick, heavy prayer shawl …
After that, nothing could hurt me …

The HyperTexts