Ft. Lauderdale, Fl USA
( I've been asked to repost this by a friend. )
The old man sat across the table right against the wall.
He didn't smile or say too much of anything at all.
His beer glass, several times refilled, his only company,
And eyes were squeezed shut like a man who didn't want to see.
As time went on, the more it touched my curiosity
To see this old man sitting there who didn't want to see
Till finally I approached him, and with my youthful air
Said, "Speak, man! Grief is easier to handle when it's shared."
"Begone, my son," he gently said. "You cannot share my pain;
You cannot share the memories I keep within my brain;
You cannot share my tragedy nor change our history.
Begone, I say, you cannot use a tired old man like me."
His words did not deter me, though. In fact, I was amazed
To hear his words of tragedy so eloquently phrased.
I signalled to the barman and he filled his cup with ale;
"Speak, man, ", I smiled, "and share with me this grim and ghastly tale."
Very well," he lifted up his glass, "I have just returned
From a visit to a place I knew where men and women burned.
You've asked me so I'll tell you and raise my glass and drink a
Toast to a place we hated most - The one they call Treblinka."
Although he looked straight at me, I felt I was not there
As the old man's mind raced backward and stopped at who-knows-where?
His stare became quite vacant; He pronounced his words with care,
And I knew he was recalling those words he muttered there.
"The country air was beautiful", the old man's voice was gay.
"A warm breeze touched my wrinkled cheek and slowly danced away.
The railroad tracks, deserted now, shone brightly in the light
And flowers blooming in the hills gave color to the sight."
"Looking at this tranquil scene, who could ever think a
Place with such a pretty name as the one they call Treblinka
Could hold the place in history that it possesses now
With Majdanek, Sobibor, Belsec and Birkenau?"
"The odor of the railroad cars they loaded us into
Has lingered in my mind since that July of Forty-two.
Two hundred screaming bodies, all bewildered .... mystified,
Gasped for breath and prayed for air and, fearfully, we cried."
"My wife and I were gathered up and forced into that train,
Trying to keep our wits about in a whole world gone insane.
She put her arms around me and she tried hard not to cry,
The only look upon her face was one that questioned - why?"
"We should have known!" the old man cried. "The answer came too late;
We should have known on Kristalnacht Of nineteen thirty-eight!.
When shops and synagogues were burned we should have sensed the doom
That Europe was being turned into a monstrous Jewish tomb."
"The railroad ties passed quickly as we left our world behind
And memories from days gone came slowly into mind.
Pieces of a puzzle were now falling into place,
Filling out a picture that would shock the human race."
"The Kinderfachabteilungen! Could we have been so blind?
Grafeneck! Hartheim! Hadamar! And, finally, Sonnenstein!
Nitsche! Aktion Reinhardt! and Tiergartenstrasse Four
Set off an anger burning, raging to our very core!"
"But we did nothing in return for we could not believe
A fanatical race of madmen could continue to deceive
The entire world. So we stayed calm and patiently stood by
While, in the meantime, Jewish men and Jewish women died."
"We arrived there late next morning, the twenty-fourth day of July.
Our clothes were torn, our muscles ached, our throats were parched and dry;
And as we looked between the cracks at that little station,
No one suspected we had reached our final destination."
"We were prodded out with rifle butts and forced into the square.
'Men to the right! Women left! Children over there!'
Screams and shouting filled the air; My head reeled with each yell
And I felt I'd been transported to the very depths of Hell!"
"My wife was torn from out my grasp!I tried to get her back
But my arms were pulled behind me by some Nazi maniac.
I saw her lips call out my name as she was dragged away-
A sight, my son, I will remember 'til my dying day."
"We were herded into barracks and they forced us to believe
That, instead of dying aimlessly, we were given a reprieve.
GANZ NACKT! SCHUHE ZUSAMMEN BINDEN! Strip! Shoes together tied!
GELD UND DOKUMENTE MITNEHMEN! Oh, how they must have laughed inside!"
"One guard called,'Are there carpenters? Can anyone read a plan?'
And though I'd never touched a nail, I screamed out, 'Yes! I can!
Thus I was left behind while others were led out through the door
Never to be seen or heard from- never, evermore."
"Those of us behind were forced to gather all the clothes,
Put the shirts and pants and shoes and such in separated rows;
Clothes which had, just hours before, been on the backs of men
Backs which had stood straight and -proud, but never would again."
"After that the trains increased to eight or nine a day;
Thousands came and were undressed and quickly led away.
We stood there waiting, eyes closed tight as they filed out the door,
Then scurried quickly as we could to do our ghastly chore."
"As we saw the victims' faces, so arrogant and proud,
We wanted to scream the truth to them.We wanted to shout out loud,
'Rebel, you fools! For only Death lies just beyond that door!'
But we stood mute so we could live perhaps just one day more."
"At night the place wherein we slept was full of cries and moans,
All of us together yet each one so alone,
Trying to keep a spark of hope in our otherwise futile lives
And we'd learned now what had happened to our families and wives."
"Beyond that door of no return there was a narrow lane
Where men were lined in rows of five and forced to run in vain.
The path stopped at the showers where all were forced inside,
And, seconds after entering, six million people died."
"The showers! After thirty years my flesh still crawls inside
When I think about the evil way so many people died.
Six million prayers for miracles that their lives would be spared.
Six million bodies lying in a common grave they shared."
"The Jewish SONDERKOMMANDOS were forced to carry them out side
And heap them into lime pits where they placed them side by side.
Thousands upon thousands in their final resting place -
All because of a madman who despised the Jewish race."
"It was done with cruel efficiency and in such cold-bloodedness
That I slept nights in a cold, cold sweat and I really must confess
One could almost marvel at the simplicity of their plan.
The final ultimatum-man's inhumanity to man."
At those last words he held the mug and drank till it was dry;
Tiny teardrops glistened from the corner of his eye.
The bar was strictly quiet now and all eyes in the place
Were riveted directly on the old man's wrinkled face.
"Days to weeks; weeks to months," the old man's voice went on.
"Spring to summer, then to fall - a wink and they were gone.
The trains kept coming, hour by hour. Was there to be no end?
Tens of thousands, endlessly. It sickened me, my friend."
"You're kind to listen to the ramblings of a weary man,
But I could speak forever of that village of the damned.
I could speak until my lungs gave out, until my voice was gruff;
I could speak till I could speak no more and still not say enough!"
Toward the beginning of Forty-three, The Nazis changed their minds.
Facing defeat, they tried to erase the sins they left behind.
The trains were coming less and less, the graves were overturned,
The bodies placed on giant roasts, and guiltily, were burned."
"Day and night the fanatics worked with fires kept burning bright,
Sending smoke in giant clouds to fill the Polish night.
Like lepers they labored furiously to burn away their sores,
But the guilt and blood spilled on their hands would remain forevermore."
"Those of us remaining there could see the end in sight,
And after weeks of planning, one historic August night --
After years of seeing torture, death, brutality and rape,
We overpowered the 'master race' and made good our escape."
"I know you may not quite believe these words I am relating,
And think instead, this poor old man must be exaggerating,
But, if you still don't grasp my words, then here's a thought for you-
Millions of Jews entered five Polish camps - the survivors were 82."
"Yes, I went back there just last week to where those years were spent,
And instead of camps or buildings there now stands a monument.
Thousands and thousands of granite slabs lie buried in the ground
Representing each victim's nationality and town."
"The size of each slab represents the number of lives that were lost,
Massacred unmercifully in the Nazi holocaust,
And one great slab in the center dwarfs the others by its side
Representing Warsaw, from which three hundred thousand died."
"I stood there on that platform until a fog came rolling by,
And with the giant clouds above me, covering the Polish sky,
A curious thought came to me and it sparked my imagination.
As I watched the clouds and heavy fog, I felt the strange sensationÖ."
"That they were the smoke from all the fires where the Jewish had been burned,
And frantic to let the whole world know, they constantly returned
Crying out their message to The Earth and every member;
They travel the world, whispering 'Remember the Jews! Remember!'
With those last words the old man smiled. He quietly stood up,
And with a toast held toward the sky, he drained his final cup,
Leaving us there, mesmerized by the story we had heard.
He bowed and slipped into the night without another word.
Many years have passed now since I heard the old man's tale;
I tried to find him everywhere but searched to no avail.
The years have been quite good to me--I've lead a pleasant life;
My businesses have prospered and I have a lovely wife.
I live a life of relative ease with a great variety
Of labor-saving gadgets in this computer society.
Surely in this great day and age it couldn't happen and never will.
The thought of it seems quite absurd. Impossible! Yet stillÖÖ.....
Every now and then I find I'm thinking of him yet,
As I see the white smoke rising skyward from my cigarette;
His wrinkled face comes into mind and haunts my memory,
And I think about the little man who didn't want to see.
Or sitting at my fireplace in my cozy living room --
Mind at ease and peaceful with no doubts or thoughts of gloom--
I see the smoke rise up from each and every dying ember,
And the old man's words come back to me, "Remember the Jews. Remember!"