Thursday, April 7, 2011

Holocaust Poem of the Day: A New Daily Routine

“Our circle of friends is slowly getting smaller. Your former teacher Mr. Neufeld died; he committed suicide. In recent weeks he looked so terrible, you would scarcely have recognized him… Oh, if only things would change soon!” – Hertha Feiner

Absent of a single school bell rung,
the monotony of seasons passed
without a change in her routine.
Every morning, Hertha had to
convince herself to walk to work.

In the morning sun’s yellow-orange
bleach she would pass road signs to
a city she no longer knew – an alien city.

The wind chime hung still
in the clinging August air.
Buildings lay in piles
like large ant hills.
Dust swirled from cracks in a jar
cradled in the rubble.

Just before the crest
of afternoon hours,
Hertha abandoned her new job
so she could try to recapture
the feeling she used to have
as she watched her students
in the school yard after lunch.

This, too, was shattered
into fragmented memory
when Hertha saw a rigid
man on the creased concrete.

His liquid light wove a web
across the sidewalk, his body
lay inert, silent at pedestrian feet.
The congealed pool reflected
the solar furnace, its fire burning
this image of extinguished life
into Hertha’s swollen eyes.

Hertha realized— her only daily
decisions were hope and despair.

Seated at her desk, she
continued to emboss her
assigned pages of the Nazi script.

Her new life had her sentencing
her students to the permanence
of SS lists— she saw
her daughter’s faces
in each name she typed.

Lamps and candles slowly began
to glow as dusk arrested day.

Not an hour had passed before
the veiled sky fell. Falling
through ashen clouds,
the rain was no longer pure.

The polluted rain pierced
the charcoal night
that writhed in silent pain.
The soot stained drops
erased nothing but the future.

About Hertha Feiner

Hertha Feiner was a divorced (from a gentile) mother of two daughters, Inge and Marion. She was a teacher in a Jewish day school in Berlin before the Nazi’s came to power and taught until she was forced to work elsewhere (she was later assigned by the SS to type the deportation lists). Feiner’s passion was teaching her students but her love was for her daughters whom she had sent to boarding school in Gland, Switzerland (Les Reyons) to save them from the Nazi’s inevitable atrocities. Hertha wrote to her daughters as frequently as she could – many of these letters were collected in the book Before Deportation: Letters from a Mother to Her Daughters: January 1939 – December 1942 (Northwestern University Press: Evanston (IL), 1999). Feiner committed suicide while on a train making its way to Auschwitz.

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