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"Auschwitz Rose" and other Holocaust Poems by Michael R. Burch

Michael R. Burch is an American editor, translator and publisher of Holocaust poetry. The "Auschwitz Rose" painting immediately below is by Mary Rae. Burch describes the painting's genesis as follows: "The Rose came to me in a vision, and Mary Rae helped bring her to life. In my vision the Rose floated in the air, suspended before the dismal gray Auschwitz death camp. Thornless, she symbolizes women and children who are defenseless unless we choose to protect them. (The poems on this page can be distributed freely, as long as Michael R. Burch's name appears with his poems; Mary Rae should be credited if the image is copied or used in any way. Please do not use the poem or image for commercial purposes, respecting the sacredness of the subject. We welcome the use of the material on this page in Holocaust studies, classes, discussions, articles, memorials and remembrances.) 



Auschwitz Rose
by Michael R. Burch

There is a Rose at Auschwitz, in the briar,
a rose like Sharon's, lovely as her name.
The world forgot her, and is not the same.
I still love her and enlist this sacred fire
to keep her memory exalted flame
unmolested by the thistles and the nettles.

On Auschwitz now the reddening sunset settles!
They sleep alike—diminutive and tall,
the innocent, the "surgeons."
                                            Sleeping, all.

Red oxides of her blood, bright crimson petals,
if accidents of coloration, gall
my heart no less.
                          Amid thick weeds and muck
there lies a rose man's crackling lightning struck:
the only Rose I ever longed to pluck.
Soon I'll bed there and bid the world "Good Luck."

If you are a student, teacher, educator, peace activist or just someone who cares and wants to help, please read How Can We End Holocausts, Ethnic Cleansing and Genocide Forever? then do what you can to make the world a safer, happier place for children of all races and creeds.

Frail Envelope of Flesh
by Michael R. Burch


for the mothers and children of the Holocaust

Frail envelope of flesh,
lying cold on the surgeon’s table
with anguished eyes
like your mother’s eyes
and a heartbeat weak, unstable ...

Frail crucible of dust,
brief flower come to this—
your tiny hand
in your mother’s hand
for a last bewildered kiss ...

Brief mayfly of a child,
to live two artless years!
Now your mother’s lips
seal up your lips
from the Deluge of her tears ...

When we consider man's inhumanity to man, few images are as stark as that of Nazi "surgeons" conducting horrific experiments on innocent children.

Holocaust Children Skeletons Emaciated

Something
by Michael R. Burch

for the children of the Holocaust

Something inescapable is lost—
lost like a pale vapor curling up into shafts of moonlight,
vanishing in a gust of wind toward an expanse of stars
immeasurable and void.

Something uncapturable is gone—
gone with the spent leaves and illuminations of autumn,
scattered into a haze with the faint rustle of parched grass
and remembrance.

Something unforgettable is past—
blown from a glimmer into nothingness, or less,
and finality has swept into a corner where it lies
in dust and cobwebs and silence.

Holocaust Child Skeleton

Epitaph for a Child of the Nakba ("Catastrophe")
by Michael R. Burch

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

Pfennig Postcard, Wrong Address

by Michael R. Burch

We saw their pictures:
tortured out of our imaginations
like golems.

We could not believe
in their frail extremities
or their gaunt faces,

pallid as our disbelief.
They are not
with us now ...

We have:
huddled them
into the backroomsofconscience,

consigned them
to the ovensofsilence,

buried them in the mass graves
of circumstancesbeyondourcontrol.

We have
so little left
of them

now
to remind us ...

Holocaust Mass Graves

Speechless
by Ko Un
translated by
Michael R. Burch

At Auschwitz
piles of glasses
mountains of shoes
returning, we stared out different windows.

Postcard 1
by Miklós Radnóti

translated by Michael R. Burch

Out of Bulgaria, the great wild roar of the artillery thunders,
resounds on the mountain ridges, rebounds, then ebbs into silence
while here men, beasts, wagons and imagination all steadily increase;
the road whinnies and bucks, neighing; the maned sky gallops;
and you are eternally with me, love, amid all the chaos,
glowing within my conscience — incandescent, intense.
Somewhere within me, dear, you abide forever —
still, motionless, silent, like an angel stunned to complacence by death
or an insect inhabiting the heart of a rotting tree.

Author's Note: In my opinion, Miklós Radnóti, a Jewish-Hungarian poet, was the greatest of the Holocaust poets. He called his final poems "postcards." They were written on his death march and were later discovered in his coat pocket by his wife. She found his body lying in a mass grave. His poetic postcards are stark warnings of the very real dangers created by racism, tribalism and ultra-nationalism.

The little boy with his hands up: Holocaust

Survivors
by Michael R. Burch

In truth, we do not feel the horror
of the survivors,
but what passes for horror:

a shiver of “empathy.”

We too are “survivors,”
if to survive is to snap back
from the sight of death

like a turtle retracting its neck.

Holocaust Children

Cleansings

by Michael R. Burch

Walk here among the walking scepters. Learn
inhuman patience. Flesh can only cleave
to bone this tightly if their hearts believe
that God is good, and never mind the Urn.

A lentil and a bean might plump their skin
with mothers’ bounteous, soft-dimpled fat
(and call it “health”), might quickly build again
the muscles of dead menfolk. Dream, like that,

and call it courage. Cry, and be deceived,
and so endure.  Or burn, made wholly pure.
One’s prayer is answered,
                                         “god” thus unbelieved.

No holy pyre thisdeath’s hissing chamber.
Two thousand years agoa starlit manger,
weird Herod’s cries for vengeance on the meek,
the children slaughtered. Fear, when angels speak,

the prophesies of man.
                                  Do what you "can,"
not what you must, or should.
                                             They call you “good,”

dead eyes devoid of tears; how shall they speak
except in blankness? Fear, then, how they weep.
Escape the gentle clutching stickfolk. Creep
away in shame to retch and flush away

your vomit from their ashes. Learn to pray.

German Nazi Soldier Shooting Jews

Postcard 4
by Miklós Radnóti
translated by Michael R. Burch

I fell beside him — his body taut,
tight as a string just before it snaps,
shot in the back of the head.
"This is how you’ll end too; just lie quietly here,"
I whispered to myself, patience blossoming into death.
"Der springt noch auf," the voice above me said
through caked mud and blood congealing in my ear.

"Der springt noch auf" means something like "That one is still jumping."

Author's Notes
by Michael R. Burch


What was the genesis, the root cause of the Holocaust? The Holocaust became possible when Nazi Germany denied Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, homosexuals and other human beings the protection of fair laws and courts. All too often the victims were completely innocent women and children, even babies. If German courts had upheld the rights of all people, the Holocaust could never have taken place. Thus the way to keep such things from ever happening again is simple (which does not mean "easy"): the world needs to require every nation to establish equal rights, fair laws and fair courts for all human beings, without exception.

Allowing exceptions to this simple rule invariably leads to terrible misery, suffering and premature unjust deaths. Another name for premature unjust deaths is "murder." White settlers once stripped Native Americans of their human rights and dignity, and soon innocent women and children were walking the Trail of Tears, and dying. White slaveowners once stripped African Americans of their human rights and dignity, and not only did black slaves suffer abomination upon abomination, but it took a terrible Civil War followed by a century of Jim Crow laws, kangaroo courts and public lynchings before the United States finally began to embrace its avowed creed of all men being created equal. Very similar things happened to Australian aborigines and South African blacks, among others. Again, each premature unjust death was a murder. If we add all the horrors together, untold millions of people were murdered. Those murders could have been prevented by fair laws and fair courts.

These problems are only corrected when nations finally abandon racism (I call it the "chosen few sin-drome") and establish equal rights, fair laws and fair courts for everyone. Unfortunately, this is a lesson Israel needs to learn and take to heart today, because Israel's racist laws and courts have led to escalating violence on both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. A Palestinian baby should notmust notbe born with inferior rights to a Jewish baby. When black babies were born with inferior rights to white babies in the United States, the country was ripped apart, because multitudes of white Americans could not bear to see the misery and suffering of so many black children. Today there are many Jewish humanitarian organizations and Jewish individuals who feel the same way about the Palestinians. The existence of more than 200 Jewish organizations that oppose the abuse of Palestinians is proof positive that a terrible problem exists. Why are Jews, Americans and Internationals using their bodies as human shields, to protect Palestinian women, children and farmers in Gaza and the West Bank? The "proof is in the pudding," as the saying goes. If the children of one race need human shields to protect them from the adults of another race, and those adults are wearing military uniforms, then something is clearly wrong. Things only improved in the United States when employees of the government stopped persecuting minorities and started protecting them.

It's time for all Jews of good conscience, all Americans of good conscience, and all the people of the world to confront the simple facts: government-sanctioned racism, unjust laws and unjust courts will always lead to racial violence. Since 1776 human beings have been rightly unwilling to be stripped of their self-evident human rights, and the Palestinians have every reason to demand equal rights for themselves. I am an editor, translator and publisher of Holocaust poetry, not an anti-Semite. I believe in protecting all women and children, and not harming any of them unjustly. I have studied History and have listened to the Witnesses who endured the horrors of the Holocaust, and they tell me that every human being must be protected by fair laws and courts. If it was wrong for the Nazis to strip Jews of their human rights during the Shoah (Hebrew for "Catastrophe"), then it is wrong for Israel to strip Palestinians of their human rights during the Nakba (Arabic for "Catastrophe"). The Shoah is fortunately over; the Nakba unfortunately continues. We must all say "Never again!" to all such atrocities, and never allow a child to be born bereft of equal rights and the protections of fair laws and courts.

For an expanded bio, circum vitae and career timeline of the translator, please click here: Michael R. Burch Expanded Bio.

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