Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Holocaust Poem of the Day: The Dead Elders

“The damp stench of dead bodies and a cloud of stifling, biting smoke surged out toward us.” – Filip Müller

Wilting under the Sunday snow,
Filip choked on the dry gray –
his parched lungs longed
to feel humidity in the heat.

Filip had been burning evidence
for a week when “the secret” was
exposed to his skin. The elders
were the only ones refreshed
by the gray and pink flesh – seniority
determined by their time at Auschwitz.

Anyone over a year old was
considered close to death – only
ten elders indulged in the secret.
By the time Filip reached
six months old he held a place of
honor as a well established elder.

Filip would grasp the handle and,
with a quick twist and pull,
expose the boiling body within.
Despite the gagging stench,
the humidity of blood, muscle, and fat
moistened their eyes, lips, and lungs.

This was the only way they knew how
a crematoria worker could give back,
give life, give comfort, to his fellow
workers and inmates and family.

About Filip Müller

Deported from Sered, Czechoslovakia, Filip Muller (#29236) worked for three years as a prisoner in the “Sonderkommando” in the gas chambers and crematoria of Auschwitz. Every day he saw the flames extinguished of many, now forgotten, candles. Frequently writing notes about his experiences, Müller spent years after his liberation trying to educate all those who would listen to his account but he did not compile and publish his testimony until 1970 under the title Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chambers (Ivan R. Dee, Publishers: Chicago (IL), 1979). Müller has lived in Western Europe since 1969.

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