Monday, April 12, 2010

O the Chimneys

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The siren just now sounded for Holocaust Heroes and Martyrs Remembrance Day.
The shorter, blunter name we usually call this day is Yom HaShoah.

When I lived in Switzerland as a volunteer, this was the view from my window.
It is nothing more sinister than an incinerator that burns people's garbage in order to heat their water.
But there at the foot of the Jura Mountains, I discovered that my sense of the Jewish collective memory is strong and unavoidable.
I could never see the smoke and the chimney without being reminded of Nobel Prize winner Nelly Sach's poem "O the Chimneys."
Here are its opening lines:
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O die Schornsteine
Auf den sinnreich erdachten Wohnungen des Todes,
Als Israels Leib zog aufgelöst in Rauch
Durch die Luft –
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Oh those smokestacks
Above the abodes of death, so ingeniously devised,
When Israel’s body, dissolved into smoke, was drifting
Through the air--

(translated by Reinhold Grimm)
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The entire poem, in German and English, appears in the book German 20th Century Poetry.
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15 comments:

Louis la Vache said...

«Louis» understands your aversion to smokestacks. Very fitting poem for the mood of the post.

Because some members of Mme la Vache's family in China were tortured and murdered during Mao's murderous rule, both Mme la Vache and «Louis» have a very visceral and negative reaction to anything glorifying in any way Communist rule. Thus «Louis» understands your reaction to smokestacks.

Dina said...

Louis et Mme la Vache, I am sorry to hear that. Terrible.

Robin said...

Never forget. Never again.

moneythoughts said...

I agree. Never forget and never again. But, in a world of idiots, Israel must be ready to defend herself and stay strong. In the final analysis, Israel is responsible for protecting her people. No one else can be trusted to do it for them. We have over 3,000 years of history to back that up.

Hilda said...

Painful and tragic history. Yes, we must never forget. And hopefully, never repeat.

richies said...

I just recently watched the film, "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas". What a hauntingly sad film. We must never forget!

An Arkies Musings

B SQUARED said...

We will never forget! Shalom

James said...

There is a ssomber feel to this picture but I like it. I like the view and the way the smoke seems to mimic the clouds above.

Catherine said...

Dear Dina, what heartbreaking verses ! Every siren should sound everywhere people has a conscience.
My inner counscience sounds as well, today, Dina. And I try to pass the message to my children.

mypixelsblog said...

We shall never really know
What men and women did
To stay alive.

cieldequimper said...

I can think of something more sinister than burning garbage and the mere thought makes me sick.

My mother remembers both the nazi and the communist regimes. She was very young in 1945 and 15 when her family fled to the West. Therefore she never minced her words about dictatorial and extremist regimes and taught me tolerance. Thanks Mum (oh and Dad too!)

VP said...

I understand completely your aversion, but today dangers are more elusive. Soft spoken people are often more dangerous than rockets or bombs.
I agree strongly with moneythoughts!

Suzanne said...

This is a poignant reflection Dina. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Jew Wishes said...

Never forget...two words that can have intense impact.

Petrea said...

I'm glad there is a day, though it seems one day isn't enough.