Sunday, April 3, 2011

Holocaust Poem of the Day: Transition

“I am firmly convinced that you would behave quite differently toward me if you knew exactly what the situation here is. I am often very sad and depressed; your letters would be the best remedy for lifting my spirits, but I wait in vain.” – Hertha Feiner

Hertha felt the earth exhale as
Pearl peered from below
her black hair and asked,
“Ms. Feiner, why does God hate us?
Why does God want us to die?”

Feiner was furious— pierced
with obsidian sorrow and
hatred of ones who programmed
Pearl’s life and had shaped
the little girl’s doubts of God.
She never knew propaganda
could have this effect.

Hertha broadly inhaled settling
chalk dust and composed
her quivering voice,
“God wants you to taste every
moment and let it linger
on your tongue. Your kaddish
will not be recited until
years after I have passed.”

A cynical grin seized the young
girl’s porcelain cheeks.

Before her students were set free
for the day, Hertha whispered
to the class from below
her hidden tears,
“That is the only lesson
I wish you would never abandon.
Never forget what I have just said.”

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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