Thursday, August 07, 2014

Poetry Friday: Holocaust Museum

I have been reading the news out of Iraq and Syria and despairing, learning of another genocide ignored by the world.  This time the victims are Christians and other religious minorities.  There have been Christians worshiping in Mosul, site of the Biblical Nineveh, for 1800 years, but now there are none left.  Other cities are equally empty of Christians, Yazidis, Turkmen. 

We say, "Never again," about the Holocaust, the one with a capital H, but how many small h holocausts have there been since then, that we seem unable to prevent or stop once they are in process, or do anything about except weep uselessly? 

I found a poem about a visit to the Holocaust Museum.  There are three people in the party, and one of them, a Jewish man originally from Warsaw, is blind.  It is a narrative poem, with the punchline in the last stanza, so be sure to click over and keep reading. 

Holocaust Museum

By Jane Shore
We filed through the exhibits,
Charlotte and I taking turns
reading captions to Andy.
Herded into a freight elevator,
we rode to the top floor,
to the beginning of the War

where we were on our own,
descending floor by floor,
year by year, into history
growing darker, ceilings
lowering, aisles narrowing
to tunnels like the progress

of Andy’s vision over the years.
In Warsaw, his family owned
Maximillian’s Fur Salon
like a little Bergdorf Goodman’s,
doorman and French elevator,
furs draped on the Persian carpet,

over the blue velvet Empire chairs.


Mary Lee said...

Punchline, as in punch in the gut. I share your despair over the situation in Iraq/Syria. How can we let this happen again?

Tabatha said...

Yes, it is horrifying what has happened to religious minorities in Iraq/Syria, and it does remind me of the past.

I went to the Holocaust Museum as a chaperone with a school field trip. I was hoping I wouldn't embarrass my daughter so I was really trying to keep it together. It was the drawings by children that finally did me in.

It's a great poem, that winds around like the museum itself does. I got side-tracked, though. I had always been taught never to pet service animals, and I went to look up whether I was taught correctly!

Irene Latham said...

Man's inhumanity to man. So many things in life are beyond understanding. I have two Holocaust books currently in my listening queue. xo

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this, Ruth. It reminded me of a quote I return to often from Rabbi Nachman of Breslov: "Gevalt! Never despair. It is forbidden to give up hope."

Linda B said...

I've been to the museum twice, once with my students. It was good to be with them, to help them see the evidence that it had happened, to begin to know they could look for other injustices and not stay quiet. I saw in the news this am that the US has dropped food and water to those on Mt. Sinjar. I hope that the situation can become better in the coming days. The news is not good. Thank you for reminding us that there is more to mourn than just the past, Ruth.

Holly Mueller said...

Thank you for reminding us of the past and alerting us to the present. When I went to the Holocaust Museum, I, too, didn't cry until the shoes display. So heartbreaking!

Donna Smith said...

That was just an incredible poem. I know that I could not make it through without breaking down. It is difficult even to think about, but we must never forget.


Heidi Mordhorst said...

Hello, Ruth. How did you come across this, this short-story-travelogue-dispassionate-detailed-wrench-of-we-are-such-slow-learners? How can we put it before the eyes and hearts of the people who have powers?

Thank you.

Violet N. said...

Thanks, Ruth, for that poem by Jane Shore. It is so disheartening to see what's happening in these places in the world.

I recently read a book by a neurosurgeon (No Place to Hide by Major W. Lee Warren) who was active in the Iraq war - 2004-5. One thing I didn't know that so encouraged me was the fact that at the U.S. tent hospital where he worked, they made no distinction between enemy or friend when it came to treating people. In one story, a young man whose army mate was killed in an explosion ended up giving blood to the Iraqi to detonated the blast -- and knowingly; the doctor told him who needed his type of blood. The U.S. should be proud!

Joyce Ray said...

Hi, Ruth. Thank you for the poem. I have not yet visited the Holocaust Museum, but I experienced similar feelings at the Peace Museum in Hiroshima. You are so right that we must recognize all the persecutions in the world as well as remember the past horrendous ones.

GatheringBooks said...

Hi Ruth, we are on the same page right now with memories of the Holocaust. And you are right, in noting that there are so many atrocities happening right here right now that people seem so helpless to stop, as the powers-that-be vacillate and discuss and talk about ramifications and policies and all these grand things, while people die in the streets. This is a heartrending poem.

Bridget Magee said...

Profound on so many levels and so incredibly sad that history is repeating itself. Poems like this are so important - thank you for sharing it, Ruth.

Sarah SSM said...

Thank you for posting this, Ruth. I wish it didn't feel so very pertinent, so very close to home these past few weeks. It seems to be everywhere you turn. Prayers, lots of prayers for peace and for the kind of action that leads to justice and abundant life for all.