Two Holocaust Poems
translated from the Hungarian

Frigyes Karinthy:
Struggle for Life
Frigyes Karinthy (1887-1938), poet and satirist. According to Holocaust legends, this piece was read to a group of starved, naked and brutalized civilian captives - orthodox Jews observing strict dietary rules - to calm and comfort them before their mass execution in a gas chamber.

Let’s face it, mate, you’ve been brought down
By every law and trick, that’s clear --
The jackals have picked up your scent.
Hungry crows are circling near.

T’was not the pack to prove the stronger,
far meaner beasts have brought you there -
Will feral dogs or humble sparrows
share the feast? I do not care.

You rarely raised your fist and always
halted halfway to the blow -
Was that for goodness, fear or weakness?
Or shyness? Pride? I do not know.

Perhaps disgust. I calm down. Amen.
I do not curse. I don’t condemn.
I’d rather be consumed by vermin
than I should ever feed on them.

Dán Dalmát:
Dán Dalmát (b. 1934): Poet, journalist & librarian.

Trustworthy traveller, I urge you, tell my fellow Jews
that I’ve fulfilled the role allotted me by my age.
I was marched with frozen feet along the shores of the Don,
I was pounded by hails of rifle-butt blows in Serbia’s mountains.
My broken bones at last have merged with the sane mother earth.
A gust of wind alone reminds my folks of my ghost.
And my good name is lost. And only my guards survive.
And my killers remain in charge… even of my dust.

Thomas Land

If you have any comments on these poems, Thomas Land would like to hear them.

Snakeskin logo