Remembering holocaust

Thursday is the 60th anniversary of the liberation of AuschwitzHolocaust Day. Not strictly Northern Ireland, but there’s a lot of material coming out at the moment that reflects the extraordinary experiences of some very ordinary folk.

Most of the things I’ve seen recently have been subscription locked, so here’s short poem by an old friend written shortly after he entered Bergen Belsen as a doctor with the British Army.

Day of Liberation
(Bergen-Belsen, May 1945)

We build our own prison walls,
but that day the doors fell open.
It was holiday time
In the death camp.

Lift him with courtesy,
this silent survivor.
Battle-dress doctors,
We took him from the truck,
put him to bed.

The moving skeleton
had crippled hands,
his skinny palms held secrets.
When I undid the joints I found
five wheat grains huddled there.
In the faces of other people
I witness my distress.

I close my eyes:
ten thousand wasted people
piled in the flesh pits.
Death of one is the death of all.
It is not the dead I pity.

Philip Whitfield