poem ‘Welcome to Auschwitz’Benny Royston
The New Zealand war poet, Mike Subrizky, visited Auschwitz and wrote this moving poem about his experiences.
Bristol HMD steering group member Eva Fielding-Jackson wrote to Mike asking permission to use it and appears at the bottom of this page interpreting it in British Sign Language (BSL).
WELCOME TO AUSCHWITZ
“Welcome to Auschwitz.” The survivor said.
A paradox really, he’s a Christian and his name is Stanislaus.
I step down from the bus and blink into the kaleidoscope
of a dappled morning sunlight. Nothing has changed!
It is all still there! Just like the photographs taken by the Home Army.
No bodies, but the awful presence of death,
enormous death, 10 kilometres of death.
Auschwitz 1 – A Slave Labour Camp
Auschwitz 2 – A Death Camp
Auschwitz 3 – A Chemical/Munitions Factory
Death envelopes me, engulfs me, enters my body
through my eyes, mouth and ears
whilst in the hedge-grove a song bird warbles;
Perhaps a blackbird or maybe a thrush.
I am afraid and the hyper-vigilance of the soldier returns.
I want my rifle, bayonet and combat gear.
“Jesus protect me.” I whisper
I stand beside Ada Steiner – Auschwitz No. 67082,
she is from Haifa and the blue wound on her forearm
is clearly visible. For her this is no visit,
she is returning to the nightmares of her childhood.
Stanislaus also bears the blue wound;
they nod and greet each other children who survived.
One a Jew and one a Christian.
“My dear Comrades!
I could not eliminate all lice
And Jews in one year.
But in the course of time,
And if you help me,
This end will be attained.”
So said Hans Frank,
Nazi Governor General of Poland.
Auschwitz, 10 kilometres of death;
A true monument to German Efficiency!
The gravel crunches beneath my feet
as we walk between the electric wires
and enter the gate – the sign reads
“Work Will Set You Free”
Another bloody paradox.
And all the while Stanislaus calls the numbers
eighty thousand Russians starved here.
Thirty thousand Poles; gassed mostly.
Two hundred and fifty thousand gypsies,
many thousands of political prisoners, mainly German.
And 2.5 million Jews.
“Zyklon B” at its very best.
January 27, 1945, and Liberation.
7000 starving inmates remain,
836,525 items of women’s clothing,
348,820 items of men’s clothing,
43,525 pairs of shoes, 460 artificial limbs,
7 tons of human hair and so he continues.
I see the mountain of children’s shoes,
and leave the warehouse as the tears begin to flow.
In the sunlight once more, I walk down the avenue
past the work-party gallows, towards the gas chamber
and the sole, remaining crematoria.
I hear the sound of gravel (and bone fragments) crunching underfoot,
and the warble of the songbirds nesting in the hedge-grove.
I will wash away the taste of death tonight
with a bottle of good Zubrowka vodka, and sing.
But I shall never forget this day,
or this place, or the murder that happened here. NEVER!
©Copyright 1988 by Mike Subritzky