The Name

My name? Kurt Eichmann. I am the son, not the monster.
You may relax your face. I am your age
and you and I both share my father's shame.
You think you're innocent? I'm responsible
for my father's deeds just as you are for yours.
I am condemned by my inheritance,
the trains and Auschwitz. So is all humanity.
I must embrace my place and role, and bear
my name for I can rearrange the past
no more than you can change your skeleton.

He looked like me, my father. He was warm,
he loved his children, women, fun and flowers.
He obeyed in full the exterminating state
and thought in terms of tame processing quotas.
Perhaps he managed to avert his eyes
from the purpose of the national enterprise

perhaps he was, like his entire nation,
hysterically drunk with fear and hatred

or, like me, he thought he must fulfil his role
He is condemned for lacking exceptional courage.

And did he love the stench of burning flesh?
He was a man of the stopwatch, not the gun,
an author only of railway timetables, an architect
of ovens only and chimneys, a planner translating
the people's will to kill into detailed instruction,
a man of industry only doing his job.
He thus extended human experience by learning
to channel rage and passion into detachment
and patient dedication to a purpose
beyond a person's modest comprehension.

Today we know we all need exceptional courage
and all of us must answer for our souls.
I am a German and heir to Goethe's poetry,
a European, heir to the dream of Erasmus,
a Christian, heir to the faith of Jesus the Jew.
I am condemned to keep alive the name
that must confront humanity with our
capacity for suicidal detachment
as well as love. My role is to enhance
our common inclination towards survival.

Thomas Land

If you have any comments on this poem, Thomas Land would like to hear from you.

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