six million

a tiny station &
we’re baking in the sunlight

it is this space
between departing daily
and never getting there,

hitting the road of pain,
camouflaged with gravel, dying
in steel grind of rails,

you’re bleeding–

The afternoon smells dusty
and of red geranium,
decorated rows of silence
on the window sill

we still don’t talk much
cause i know

there are no words
for losing everything.

you live
in endless nightmares,
hands shake when you
take your cup

the trains are crowded &

you vomit all the way,

cooped in like cattle,
and the yellow star,

wrapped tight around their arm
is tattooed in your eyes–

None of them returns

You’re there each night,

each night suffocating,
conscience stabbed
amidst the rattling of the rails,
a rotting rat in oily puddles,

covered with their cries,
the smell of death pulls
on your teeth and knocks you
to the ground,

you’re sinking deeper,

deeper in the dirt

until there’s nothing left

but tears and shame

It is this space
between departing daily

and your hands

still shake


Six million Jews were killed during the NS regime between 1933 – 1945 in my country, the darkest and most guilt-burdened time in German history. I know this is a sensitive topic to touch and i feel small in doing so. This poem is not an accusation in any direction but written with high respect for the jewish nation and also with compassion for those, who were there, silently suffering, terrified and too afraid to help and carrying this guilt for the rest of their life.

Mark Kerstetter put together a deep and thought-provoking Poetics prompt at dVerse Poets Pub…it goes online at 3 pm EST 

63 responses to “six million

  1. Claudia, this is stunning and I applaud your bravery in tackling such a fraught subject. No human is innocent of this. We all carry the stain of what can be done in our name. All we can do is wish to be different and mark our mistakes, not to be repeated.

    • thank you sally, i really needed a while to make up my mind if i’m really going to post it…i feel small and vulnerable in tackling such a topic, so even more thankful for your insightful and sensitive comment..and yes..never to be repeated…

  2. Claudia, such a great poem. I was moved by it…my father and his family survived the holocaust…he was a teen that saw things no one should ever see. His favorite uncle died and yet it’s amazing how he grew up to be such an amazing man with a smile on his face every single day. Thank you, Claudia for your poem and sentiment. xo.

  3. Yeah it is such a huge topic to tackle for sure. But you did it really well, just going with what was on your mind and bringing forth a great piece. Quite disturbing what us so called higher evolved on the planet are capable off.

  4. for the last 30 years, the western world had enough technical resources to feed the whole earth….and refused to do it….so every year, more than 100 millions people are dying (135 M in 2005), only by starvation. that makes 3 000 000 000 people in 30 years, because of the fact that 15% of the earth population is consuming 85% of what earth is producing.
    is anyone of these 15% able to have a moral statement (about any kind of facts), as all are waiting for the neighbor to do smthing?¨¨

  5. Good-morning! Claudia, and to your readers too!
    This poem is so touching…It touched my heart, conscience, being and the inner core Of my soul.
    Thank-you, for sharing a time in history that will never be…forgotten.

    [editor’s note: I think that your beautiful poetic words should be read after watching a film that I was “introduced” to last year entitled “Night and Fog.”
    I feel that your beautiful and strong poetic words are just as haunting and powerful as that film.]

    deedee 😦

  6. Claudia, I was so touched by this posting, and your compassion, empathy, as shown by brilliant word-handling, I DID put it up on Face Book. You are super-amazing!

    Am I correct to believe that this is the topic for today’s Sept 10 ‘poetics’?

  7. A sensitive topic I agree. At one point or another, a country has its share of death and senseless violence due to an idealogy or a leader. I still cannot watch movies or documentary about this part of our world history. The images of that full packed train herded with people, who knew they were going to die, are painful.

    I know some Germans still carry this guilt; while some have moved on. Still the lessons are fresh, and till this day, it is ironic that some nations and leaders have not benefited from the tragic experience. I applaud your bravery for writing this…should be an interesting prompt for later….

  8. A most difficult topic to address…but you have done it brilliantly…as I read it I thought also of others in the world today that have been found in mass graves…would that such crimes against humanity could end…but it does not appear that they have or will any time soon.

  9. it wasn’t long ago. it’s en event still alive in many ways. individuals and nations are still impacted emotionally from this time. people who lived during this time are still alive. it certainly is tough to talk about.

  10. Your poem so brilliantly depicts the shameful aspect of humanity. so painful, yet true and sad.

    Claudia how do you come up with these words? with these combinations that paint without a brush so deeply into our consciousness? I love your work.

  11. a chilling read claudia…between the daily departing and…lots of intense imagery and illusion…i think you handled it really well and put together a stellar and evocative piece…

  12. Some things live forever, and odd as it seems to say death can live forever, your poem is a case in point…a hard, clear look at a deep and deadly wound that our entire world is still bleeding from. Fine, brave writing, Claudia, that doesn’t shirk the hard parts.

  13. Very moving poem. The title is perfect and sets the stage for the incredible weight of the rest. It brought back the feelings I had when I read “Night” by Elie Wiesel. We may not like to think about this part of world history, but we dare not forget it. Peace, Linda

  14. Claudia, your fine and sensitive poem is an effective riposte to Adorno’s dictum that to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric. If we cannot write poetry in response to atrocities, we might was well stop breathing.

  15. I agree with SallyJ: no one is innocent, and yet I also believe we are all innocent. We carry both the light and the darkness within us – each of us – and we should feel small and vulnerable when we think about this.

    “there are no words
    for losing everything”

    Thank you, Claudia.

  16. You told the story so well. Heart-breakingly so.
    It is such a sensitive subject because even though the world knew what was happening to the Jewish peoples, everyone (at first) tried to ignore it. To sweep it under the global carpet and like an ostrich to bury their heads in the sand. The awful thing is though Claudia, everyone says “Never again” yet, look at the Bosnia/serbia/Croatia wars. I grew up in the shadow of WW2 and never thought for one minute I would see a concentration camp in my lifetime, yet right there on my TV screen daily were shots of prisoners in those camps run by Bosnian Serb people against the Croatian peoples
    We never seem to learn and history, repeats.

  17. Claudia, You poem is heart-wrenching. Yes, I agree with other comments that the world stood by and watched and did nothing. Not only Jews, but even people who wore glasses, not to leave out being gay as wll. I have met 5 people with tattoos of numbers on their forearm. The monsters that power creates is still plaguing our world. You did justice with this poem. You enlightened me on a different viewpoint of a sad part of history. Germany is not the only country with a dark history as one of the comments above pointed out. I believe the world learned a lesson and will not stand for such atrocities, yet is still occurs. Thank goodness for the young people who are standing against such regimes of late.

    Claudia, you did a wonderful job with this poem and its contents! I would point out lines that grabbed me, but then I would have to copy/paste the entire poem.

  18. Moving poem, Claudia! What imagery you’ve painted with words, heart-felt words! The verses
    “there are no words
    for losing everything”
    are extremely deep and meaningful to me

  19. A tough subject to address, Claudia, yet you handled it brilliantly. The break out of the lines at the end very much helped to emphasize the depths of darkness, as well as the struggle, as if each line were drawing breath to continue to live.

  20. after reading this, my mind says yes, a very evocative poem with gripping images… daily departing, vomiting, yellow star, tatooed, rotting rat, losing everything…
    but my heart just plain grieves at the reality of any atrocity… period.

  21. This is amazing, Claudia. You are an incredible writer.


    “it is this space
    between departing daily
    and never getting there”

    I loved your framing as you closed the poem by revisiting these words.

  22. Seriously…I don’t know if my heart will be able to withstand these reads! Brilliant, gripping write as always, Claudia, the imagery, sharp and striking. The inspiration…uggg

  23. As I considered Mark’s prompt, and began to write, thoughts of the six million — and the many millions more who died under Stalin — kept coming to mind.
    what these horrors have in common with 9/11 is the mass destruction of people in the name of ideology (I believe 9/11 was less about religion and more about ideology).

    To write this poem for this day honors the people who died in World War II and the people who died on Sept. 11. It’s a heart-tearing poem, Claudia.

  24. it is this space
    between departing daily
    and never getting there,

    This for me really sums up where your poem is so strong.. you have a remarkable capacity to find a way in for all your readers. You’ve done powerful justice to an abidingly anguishing subject and it is interesting to see this poinbt of view. Bravo.

  25. i’m glad you decided to share this, claudia. it is deeply touching, sad, and powerful. you said you feel small in tackling such a big and sensitive subject – i think we all feel small, today, or any day, when we remember the evils that can be done in the name of “good.” yet it is these heart-words, shared together in places like this, that, as mark (and tennyson) said so well over at dVerse, put form to our griefs and offer healing balm for our souls…

  26. Claudia – I wish I had something eloquent to add. Unfortunately, I do not. So I will just say this–beautiful, sad, touching–thank you.

  27. Claudia, I read your poem yesterday, and found it heart wrenching. How awful it must have been. It doesn’t bear thinking about, but we need to remember, and your stirring poem helps us to do that. These lines just hit me in the stomach ~
    ‘you’re sinking deeper,

    deeper in the dirt

    until there’s nothing left

    but tears and shame’ ~

    It amazes me how people manage to go on after something as horrendous as that. Says a lot for the human spirit that there is always hope. Your poem was beautiful and moved me to the core.

  28. Claudia I am so touched by this poem and your challenge to write such a poem. this is so heart wrenching and so sad what happened to all these people. War is never happy and always leaves behind the scares and sorrows for the ones that lost their family and friends. I am so honored to read this poem and so happy that you have chosen this to write about. I love your poem and you are a true poet to take on such a challenge. Thank you so much

  29. We see them, those who survived and the children of those who survived, and words, no matter how compassionate or earnest or felt, never seem to be enough. Your poetry captures this beautifully. How humanity’s light could be overcome by such darkness is unimaginable yet undeniably strewn in our history. May those of us who survive the heartlessness of genocide — may we always relive the memory of such suffering and hopefully learn enough not to make the same mistake again.

  30. This is a very brave piece.. I have seen the words: ‘They will not be forgotten’ used frequently today, and your poem embraces past atrocities, linking them to those more recent, which reminds me of the chains of human history. It is by coming to terms with the losses of the past that we may grow in the future.

    Thank you for these words.

  31. Some truths seem painfully impossible, and the whys are so many. this is incredibly powerful, and i appreciate you having the courage to write it. this stanza really stuck with me,

    “you live
    in endless nightmares,
    hands shake when you
    take your cup”

  32. Another great write! Very relevant for a poet to be
    screaming the truth reminders for everyone not to
    forget, but look around. You think they would be screaming.
    Esp. the media. And a famine is way worse than they think.
    Where are they? Pomp and circumstance? Speeches.

  33. This is an important and courageous poem, Claudia…and I thank you for sharing it. My heritage is German and my family with its very German name felt the guilt by association as well. As we all bear the guilt in some way for the inhumanities that are done in the name of ideology or the weakness, so we share in blindly following or accepting misguided or psychotic leaders, we are brought to a new level of awareness by the power we have in forgiving and learning lessons from the past. Somewhere there, in your beautiful country, lies the ashes of my father who died in WWII (he was a pilot and went down with his plane. And, not doubt, somewhere, perhaps, are the remains of those who were killed by the bombs from the plane he flew. May the day come when we can love instead of fight. Love to you.

  34. all of the tragic events in our history become part of our collective conscience. we are all in it together, all of it, in one way or another. your poem is a vivid reminder of this. and I don’t think you should feel small about posting it.

  35. So powerful Claudia and the topic shines how much destruction we have caused over time, this most recent memorial only another mark on our humanity. ~ Rose

  36. Dignity and compassion Claudia…that is what I felt in your tender words…you’ve offered dignity and compassion through the memories of a single witness, and there were so many, too many, too many. Thank you.

  37. Absolutely heartbreaking.

    I am chagrined that so many deny or have grown up too young to know this horrible, horrible stain on humanity.

    We must never forget and never repeat this violent cruelity on any group of people.

    Thank you for not shying away from these issues. We need never to forget.

    Lady Nyo

  38. Dearest Claudia, 

    I am touched by your words, moved by the vulnerability you shared. And the pain…

    Although the uniqueness of the Holocoust is the methodology, the organization, the “final solution” of getting rid of the Jews and handicapped, homosexuals and Gypsies (5 million none Jews were also murdered, that “fit in” those categories); but, I’m afraid that human obedience is something that has been studied a lot in some very interesting psychology studies, and it is NOT unique.

    It IS human to want to be part of a group and to accept things, take part and be obedient. Perhaps it is from a basic instinct of survival, to hunt in packs, to follow the alpha, a need for approval and  not to cause a riot.

    For several years now there are horrendous “pogroms” in Africa, just as there were in the late 19th to early 20th Century in Southern Russia.
    How are we helping the persecuted innocents in Sudan? 
    What did we, the humane enlightened world do when the Bosnians were so brutally murdered?
    Just look at kids ganging up on a weak kid in class.

    What scares me is that THAT is humanity also and we can’t pretend otherwise.

    By the way, there were also very brave people in Europe who took in Jews and protected them even though it put their whole family in jeopardy. I want to think I’d be brave and do what’s right, but we can never really know until we ourselves are in a similar situation.

    I want to end this long comment (ramble…) by thanking you again for sharing…

    (Ps. I am sorry I didn’t respond earlier. I was in the hospital for some days.)

  39. Claudia. this is an incredibly emotional topic and I’m glad you posted it…. Bravo! Sorry I’m so late, just catching up with my mail…. This is such a strong and emotional poem…. there are so many things about that era that are just mind boggling…… this is a beautiful, touching tribute to those lost 6 million souls…

  40. Hi Claudia–of course, this is a much more serious poem than my bumper sticker one. Awful to contemplate, almost impossible.