An echo of Radzyn

There are countless places just like Radzyn that resonates with Transnistria and all other spaces dealing in Death for the Jewish People. There is sometimes the inexplicable that guides my hand, and as I was interrupted in what I was planning to add to my Monthly blog, I will explain. I was nearing the finish line of editing my next Blog, a piece on the Jews of Radzyn and remember, I have no faith whatsoever in anything that pertains to the mystical. I was stood in Treblinka and was drawn to a Stone, it was for the Jews of Sokoly. From where my odyssey began, I was standing in a place where their journey had ended. I was just reading from Felicia Carmelly’s Memoir and I was drawn merely by an impression that I needed to add this Katzenelson poem beforehand.

So, in order that there is further remembrances from amidst the terms of the hatred that are being presented I will offer a second piece for which Ardyn features. I had somehow waited these too many years to read the Memoir of Felicia Carmelly and had long felt cheated by her passing. As I could not now have both of her Books signed for me, it was to be my great loss and was a missed opportunity to inform her too, of my efforts on a Jewish behalf. This opportunity to meet, greet and share efforts with Felicia was now forever lost to me! However, I still felt Felicia’s voice urge me on, to recall that Memory will not allow us ever to forget, and this is indeed a repair process.

The words Felicia has always afforded us were convincing enough, though I was not ready to see the effect of a repaired memory changing history anytime soon. I have always realised that I had learned much from Felicia, all that had been Shattered across a river to the Nistria. For that, I am wholly indebted to her. For the sense of feeling that I had physically visited The Holocaust in Romania and then on and into Transnistria, I have gained such an impression all through Felicia’s work. Felicia indeed has eloquently and elegantly expressed, in her tikkun olam effort, that this was to assist a World to repair itself and be repaired after The Holocaust.

Though I see no chance of repair, as Justice will not now ever be served, Felicia engendered a hope that Jews must persist with. In the Jewish need to emerge from the utter devastation the World has not adequately recorded, we too must endeavour to offer up the sticking plaster to hold back the surge of despair still to be unlocked. I had always hoped Felicia knew I was on her side, and while coming from the opposite direction, this was in the hope we would meet in the middle building on her wish to repair the wrongs and damages done. Sadly, for me, her ability to sign both my Books of hers also concealed a wish to meet her and compliment her on her work.

This too is now lost to me, but I will always continue. I am directed to confront the gravest wrongs done to a Jewish Community which somehow adds to Felicia’s and I offer it as a part of my effort. Though this might remain a minor recompense to all 6,000,000 Jews shown no respect in life, death nor afterwards, it is no less my effort. In the beginning, I had not intended visiting Poland though Paul, a Survivor, convinced me I should do so. Having survived Belsen, Paul saw death in the camps as not too different as to how the slaughter in the Death Camps had been envisioned and intended.

What we cannot afford is to lessen the effect of any Death upon any of the Jewish People, no matter when and where it occurred. However, I definitely wanted to separate out all the spaces of Death for Jews from the specific detail of the Death Camps as factories of annihilation. The prime factor in securing for Hitler’s Final Solution the mass murder of the Jewish People, to be accomplished on an industrial, managed, and mechanised scale, were to be within these 6 standalone Death Camps he had erected in Poland. However, and wherever Hitler found the Jews they would be extinguished, though not on the resettlement transports to these 6 centres of decimation set aside for them in Poland.

So, while I was here reading from Felicia’s powerful works, and I was adding pieces of a poem to the Radzyn blog, I was recognising places I had been to in Poland, Lublin, Warsaw, Wlodawa to name but a few. I felt too that there was more in these verses that should be called forward to newer remembrance. So here I am, further borrowing from the text of words left to us, so that we too can somehow add to the memory we seek to deliver. I will fully return to the blog piece on Radzyn, knowing full well that Felicia Carmelly offered me a further route toward knowing more of what is essential in The Holocaust.

Felicia has allowed me to know more fully of the places I have not visited, but essentially have come to know through other’s experiences. Here I can connect with the travesty to face each and every Jewish Community I read of because others have landed in the midst of them. I know too that Felicia saw a concern with the contention she felt in letting some historians seek their own accusation of the Jewish survival. While it is clear to any reasonable accounting of the period, there is no need for any Jew having the need to feel any guilt for Surviving. I see only that for any Jew to have Survived, was against the intentions levelled against them.

Survival at all has afforded us a way to gain their insight and a clearer expression of the horror and terror which we can barely imagine. I would offer the Jewish Survivor what Primo Levi tells us:

“..Its not my fault if I live and breathe

And eat and drink and sleep and put on clothes.” Primo Levi.

So to use a Yiddish term, it is nebbish to assert a guilt upon a Jewish People whose intended choice did not include survival in any way, shape or form. For me, nobody dies whose memory is worth preserving and what the Survivor delivers is a memory of those who would be otherwise lost to us. Sadly of course, here is where there are countless numbers of these testimonies, and from amongst the Survivors who I did not get to know. In that, I have not met all those I have wished I had met and so where I can, I leave an indent of what I needed to state of what I would wish to have said to them.

Amongst these many lost, the female Survivor is too few and from whom we are learning from their under represented expression of the travesty itself. Female Jews, who took the brunt of the overtly perverted abuse of the Nazis and their collaborators, are too many lost without names attached to Husbands and even Family’s. Seen as the weaker half of a Jewish population, they were exploited to the full gratification of the hatred they were forced to endure. For a vast majority of these Female Jews, wholly discarded before the mantle of Nazi hierarchy, nothing could prevent nor even hide their searched out supplication before the overt power of the gaoler and executioner.

Constantly I am reminded, by those I have sought out, in order for me to learn from their experience, are the lessons of what it is I wish to know. So that I may pass the lessons along in the hope of somehow aiding the healing process, I continually search. I was doing a piece on the Jews of Radzyn and having discovered I am not alone in recognising that Radzyn is written about, is recognised and is therefore remembered, I add to their loss. Here then, with a Poem from Yizkhok Katzenelson on the Radzyner Rebbe of Radzyn, Rebbe Samuel Shlomo Leiner, I am reminded of a lesson Felicia Carmelly taught me.

In what Judaism recognises in tikkun olam, I too have sought to attempt my own form of a repairing of the World, which I suggest cynically will never happen. From the aftermath of The Holocaust I see no way this World will be repaired, for as long as antisemitism continues the exact the same hatred which devoured more than 6,000,000 Jews, the hatred will retain a strangle hold over the lessons we can ill afford not to learn. If, and there are far too many states in Europe to this day who continue to disown their own position in the wake of 6,000,000 Jews, and more, Slaughtered out of all existence, how can we even begin to suggest repair.

“..girl from Holland walled up in four walls ..who wrote about her childhood without a tomorrow ..her quiet ashes ..spread by ..wind ..her brief life held inside a crumpled notebook.” Primo Levi.

From those like Rachel Auerbach, Felicia Carmelly, Danuta Czech, Lucy Dawidowicz, Anne Frank, Etty Hillesum, Nora Levin, Miriam Novitch, Dalia Ofer, Livia Rothkirchen, Nechama Tec, Leni Yahil and Susan Zuccotti to name but a few, they are my shul of learning and without their need for any house of prayer to do so. What I have learned of that side of their god has enlightened me, opened my discourse to their influence and they have placed me in touch with their Shekhina, a feminity more brutally attacked and crushed in the midst of the great conflagration. Felicity is one who came back across the Nistria to deliver to us on the fate of a shattered Romanian Jewry and what such a term as Transnistria meant for those Jews shoved across the Dniester.

For the Goy, its clay smelted into the ash of more than 6,000,000 Jews it no longer protects, no Jew was shielded from the hatred imbibed with such ferocity that the malevolence of greed and avarice overtook humanity. So here, and within Katzenelson’s Poem, these are the sonnets of an understanding of The Holocaust that share an appreciation of the devastation which surrounds the Jewish People. There is an understanding that life will never be the same for those who might just emerge. It recognises that as I read through the pages afforded us by those like Etty, Felicia, Leni or Rachel, I have much still to learn in order to present to you, and understanding of why today there are more like me who would not have stood back.

Song of the Radzyner Dedicated to my Hana

Yizkhok Katzenelson July 1st. 1943

Part I


“..I want to sing you a hero song

Oh, don’t laugh at me brothers

and don’t wonder how a Jew

comes to sing songs of heroes?

Hero-songs… yes, like this!

So why are you afraid?

Are hero’s songs only for Gentiles ?

Only they have the right…

Gentiles theirs is the victory!

They, only they are the heroes!

They kill in war

and destroy whole worlds.

So this will be hard for me,

because a Jew has in long years

not carried a weapon

He wears spurless boots,

He brandishes no sword,

He does not learn to shoot.

And clean are his hands and pure is his heart

and clear, clear is his conscience

And if a Jew must shed blood

it is his, his own.

So I sing you the song of a hero

of a very different kind.

Vlodova! True yes Vlodova, yes

a little town like that in the Polish crown

I’ve never been there but I have indeed heard

that a town like that exists on our earth.

I’ve heard it mentioned more than once

along with other towns both blessed and cursed

towns all around, some rich and some poor

towns neglected or proud

strewn over valleys and climbing up hills,

houses of brick, of wood and of clay

no matter of what but warm as a home.

Jews with their Gentile neighbors share

one sun, one sky, one God in their hearts.

A church tower tall, and beys medresh low,

a little store empty, a beys medresh full.

and another beys medresh and another two, three,

a Rabbi, a teacher and faithful Hassidim.

The stores are deserted, the Hassidim house lively

Vlodova! One of many such towns

Vlodova! I recognize the name

but I feel as if I know all of her ways

as if I have lived there all of my days.!

Oh let me go in to Vlodova at night,

lead me there and leave me alone

I’ll walk oh with eyes closed I will walk!

And find that small Jewish street though it be narrow

A Yiddish street is yearning for Jews

She calls me: here I am! She calls without voice.

The little Yiddish street though narrow and small.

is broader than broad and bigger than big

A mother’s lap can it be too narrow? Can it be too small?

A mother’s arm can embrace all,

all the little chicks with her arms around,

she warms them close without a sound.

She winks to me from afar: come, come here.

She winks and lets fall a hot hidden tear

Oh come though my skin is folded and wrinkled,

hard is the bed and dry is the bread

she calls to me with her quiet wink,

Come dear son, comfort me and be comforted here.

Oh Vlodova, poor little town

poor and little? Oh you are not, NO!

Your cast away poor street is rich

with houses of study, with Torah, with Talmud

with questions and answers, of Rashi, and Rambam,

sweet and delicious with stories and

tales of many wise, righteous ones.

And holy the words and noble the language

that is heard in your tents

Vlodova the learned, Hassidic world!

Hassidic world! Vlodover teachers

are young, youngsters still

look, look into their faces and see their core

you look into their eyes and see their soul

the eyes are dark black, their look intense, bright.

Their faces are pale, their side burns are dark

they are sometimes hotheaded, and so warm are their hearts

Oh Vlodover Hasidim none compare with you?

the Rabbi comes out from Radzyn here to you.

The young Rabbi Sh, sh

They’re looking for the Rabbi who comes from Radzyn.

They’re looking in Vlodova, with anger they search

and while they are searching they revile him and curse.

Do not be afraid of a mad dog that barks,

but a German watch out while he curses!

The Germans break into the small prayer house

calling with wild cries for Rabbi to be there alive,

“The Holy Rabbi, you Jews must tell us where he is

”We want to shoot him, and only him”, they confide

“One Jew instead of all! Say where? Where is he?

And we’ll let you live, we’ll leave you be.”

“He’s nowhere in Radzyn the holy man”

“He is among you, here with you!”

The Jews raise their shoulders in fear

“He’s not here with us dear people;

The Rabbi is dead, he’s long gone,” they insist.

“The Rabbi is young bring him right away

and if you don’t bring him, we’ll shoot you today.”

And the people hear this terrible threat

and move out of the prayer house silently

move into the city pretending to seek

the young Rabbi who comes to them

from Radzyn. Oh God!

Time passed and the Rabbi was seen here

and how different the sky was as the sun appeared

the earth became happy and turned to green

The Rabbi, the Rabbi is here from Radzyn!

Breezes blew freely, happily, awake

birds peeped and sang out from the roof without fear

tweet tweeting with joy

the Rabbi, the Rabbi, the Rabbi is here!

Long may he live he lives in this house!

Oh little birds don’t let this secret out!

Oh little light breezes, don’t make a sound

Little green grass blades grow and then wilt.

Sun high in the sky don’t shine so bright!

Until the feared hour of threat has passed

we must all hold the secret fast.

Oh let it be secret, let heaven forbid

let not one syllable tell he’s been hid.

No wink of an eye, no movement of hand,

look mute to yourselves and blank as a wall.

Vlodova knows how, she can keep a secret

But where can this great mercy be hidden?

It drifts in the streets, it speaks and it calls

One hears it, one sees it adrift in the air

It pours into eyes like a radiant beam

It penetrates down into everyone’s heart

It pours itself deep within and without

a holy bright light, splendid, sublime

Vlodova the city and the light of Radzyn!

The honey is tasty and where is the bee?

Can the Shekhina be resting  and God not have been there?

If light begins falling from the dawn sky

can it be that no golden sun is nearby?

Great joy floats together paired with great fear.

It seems what is not known is somehow known here.

It’s known as clear as the dawn appears

The Rabbi, the Rabbi, the Rabbi is here

Do let him live he is still so young

at thirty he’s pure as a child of a year

A year old was Saul when promised to be King

But when it came to pass he was thirty

and pure as a babe.

As it was with our King so with the Rabbi

His eyes like doves, his head full of dew

he came to Vlodova and not by himself.

Vlodova can sense it from end to end.

It senses its ancestors Moses and Aaron

holy forebears from long ago

from a never forgotten past time.

His father, may he rest in peace and grandfather too,

his prayer shawl woven with your heavens’ blue thread

trails him like the sunlight

and encircles the entire city.

Now everyone knows, big and small

they are silent, to each other say nothing at all.

Little birds tweet and peep all kinds of things

but not of the Rabbi -they don’t peep or sing

and winds blow around in and out of the streets

but take care to control their owns sounds

They know a lot but are not sure

what can be said and what not.

Meanwhile the Rabbi has lived quietly

with them in Vlodova for almost two years

no one in Vlodova knows about that

only birds, wind, sun and the Jews

They’re all happy for it and mute in their joy

they bless each other and are quietly blessed

and all are blessed by the Rabbi and his ways

living among them for almost two years

the Rabbi who defends Vlodova as if

he had lived there all of his days.

All quietly praise his name

which is known and not known by anyone

and all live in the grace of his merits.

Two years are past almost two

Radzyn has suffered great misfortune

and Vlodova, she has had good fortune.

The Rabbi’s among you for almost two years

Poland is demolished, ruined and laid waste.

The evil enemy robs, shoots and kills

The raids have hit hard in Vlodova

The Poles have been punished and Jews even more

The more innocent one is, the more certain his death,

and so great is the need and poverty deep.

At home one is fearful, afraid to be there

One hides in closets and cells wherever one can

from day into night, from early ’til late.

We are wakened from sleep and flung from our beds

Who dares move in the street will never come back!

He dies his death there what luck!

And black are the nights and still blacker the days

and tragedy and terror are one and the same

But Vlodova has a weak comfort:

let the Rabbi live to watch over them.

He stands watch. Oh what can a Rabbi prevent, overlook?

A holy man, what can he do when robbers capture and rule

How can he help us, the holy man of Radzyn?

We are trapped, bound tight in a spider’s dark web.

She has woven us stuck and locked in the dark

Oh Rabbi how does it help us that you keep watch?

What good does it do that you raise your arms high

to the high heavens so far away?

They are as locked there for us just as locked here on earth…

Your lip Rabbi trembles, your eyes full of tears

you pray hard for us great man?

Is there any way that we can be saved?

Do you not know the suffering? Do you not see the poverty?

the old people murdered, the young people killed?

We all are condemned to death by our foes

no one knows who dies tomorrow, or who dies today

You guard with great love and great your desire

but how does it help that you watch over us?

How does it help us that you stand watch and pray?

We are now just a few who once were so many,

We remain now as though we never were here

And God, our God as if he would not see

As if He never heard and He never knew

How empty the streets, the houses deserted

One sees no old person, one hears not one child

The wind tears through open doors

they open themselves and close themselves too

Where are they, the Jews? Oh don’t ask me where?

The doors open up by themselves

No one is at home and crying is heard!

One hears the crying and sees no tears

Tears that are hidden pierce even more

who cries in the Jewish home day and night?

When everyone there has been killed!

The wind is crying does not want to be there

these are cries of wild wind that rip in and out

rip with wild haste out and in

from street into houses and houses to street

Oh Rabbi, you stand guard it is of no use!

My street is orphaned, my home is destroyed

Here one sees no one old, one sees no one young

Out on to roads they have sent me blinded!

They’ve sent me naked out into the street,

shot in the market place, poisoned with gas

into forests and fields far away I’ve been led

packed into wagons, then set ablaze,

squeezed in tight like close cabbage heads,

sealed, set aflame and then choked until death,

old ones and young ones all go together

Hey, make way! The death train rides!

And if there’s a station, the train will run past

It goes on without stopping through fields, rushing fast

No one steps down and no one steps up.

Where do you go cattle cars?

Say where you go? To death, to mass death

without trial, without law

without law, without judge

Who is knocking? Who knocks?

Is it the train? Or Jews in the train?

The Rabbi, he stands awake and he guards

quiet his gaze, and sure are his steps

He is so young and strong as a giant

and faithful and pious as can be!

Oh Rabbi you are not at peace, I know

you have broken out in cold sweat

You are not so sure, no you are not!

Why do you look around with every few steps?

And young though you are you are not so young and strong

your forehead is wrinkled and bent is your neck

If your father and grandfather, both of them great

came out of their graves to stand beside you

Oh young little Rabbi, you are older than they!

Your grandfather wove the holy prayer shawl

Your father did he ever live, see or imagine

that which his son on this strange earth has seen?

A shudder goes through our bodies so cold.

Oh young, so young Rabbi and already so old!

Oh holy Rabbi, you stand quiet and watch

But you are not calm! You act as if you are

very calm and so sure. But you are not certain

no longer sure. And you are no longer

young and no longer strong.

You lift up your eyes and your hands to the heights

you still believe. To whom do you lift your hands?

Wring them in sorrow and beat, beat your loins!

Tear your hair out of your head in despair:

and let your tear filled eyes look down

Oh devout Rabbi you no longer believe!

Do not show the heavens your hot tears

Don’t open for Him your broken heart

And show instead your faith, your pain

Pray no more in silence be mute

Oh devout Radzyner, you’re no longer devout!

You still love your Heavenly Father, you do

In your goodness forgive him, do forgive him,

He sees the death of his people

and is as helpless and powerless as you

He stands guard say who would -if not he

would stand in the dark night by the ruins

of the broken shul? If not he who but he

the Radzyner has the strength to stand open-eyed

to see the downfall? The shul goes under

Who sees it? He sees oh Rabbi save yourself!

Save yourself on a board

A little board, just look, can swim over to you

grab on to the board, swim and don’t ask where to

The wish though wild, without way and path

will surely lead you to shore somewhere

So sit yourself on the board and run away, run

wherever you land you will be welcome

They will hide you just as holy Torah is hidden

O Rabbi you are older and holier still!

You are like the Torah and you’re still something more

the Torah is immense. A Jew is still more

Oh don’t stand Radzyner, don’t stand by the ruin.

I stand. yes I stand. did someone laugh here

Who was it who said that I stand guard

who laughs at the Radzyner Rabbi? Oh who?

Who laughs and quietly sheds a tear?

It is laughter mixed with cries

the Radzyner alone, the Rabbi himself

it was he who laughed, laughed at his fate.

A hidden Jew at this place stands guard

and while hidden still makes fists with his hands

he would have pulled a sword from its scabbard

in hiding here he would pay back the Germans, the wicked ones.

He balls his fists and gnashes his teeth

Who laughs here and cries? The Rabbi alone

He reminds himself hidden: I stand by the ruin

I stand here and guard and he smiled

Here I stand guard, here’s where I watch?

The Rabbi! Then the Rabbi did laugh!

And lets fall a hot tear there oh woe is me!

To stand like this so helpless to be!

News comes from Lublin

from there to here and here to there

news that makes you turn cold and makes you turn hot

that falls like thunder and cuts like lightning

Lublin! The crown city the mother city

the old one, the faithful, the Jewish home

the city of the Jew, of the old printing press

Every gemara sends us regards,

the spirit of Noah reaches out wide

the old one, the Torah is Lublin renewed

The old one, the Torah, new in her dress

Lublin sends you a bride to be kissed!

Lublin gazes at Sinai and

sends old celebrations into new print.

Lublin! Oh the news that arrives

to the Rabbi. What can be done?

What to begin to do? The news comes

that Lublin is ravaged!

The Rabbi lifts his arms skyward

then wrings his hands.

Lublin, the old Jewish holy city

Lublin she is doomed oh God save us!

News comes freezes your blood

What can be done? He doesn’t know what.

the Rabbi stands in a corner and hears

what is happening to Jewish Lublin

What has been done to its Jews his worst fears

He smiles the Rabbi, still he smiles.

The smile is bitter. The tears are salt

They drip and drop, he is not aware

tears escape to his brow, from brow

to his cheek, and cheek to his beard.

He stands frozen stiff in his place and

suddenly the Rabbi cries out through his tears

Father in Heaven I don’t stand alone

We stand here we two standing guard here

You too look to Lublin from afar but you too

are hidden as I am here you look on

just like me and you cannot do anything

for your people

I do not watch here alone between the walls

You too and the Rabbi wrings his hands.

Father of All, what do we do? he asks

and looks around in doubt and in fear

Why does he raise his head up and look up to Him

He too is hidden here with him He too

wrings his hands in his grief

the Rabbi again looks around and

jumps up and grasps his head It is

because of me, for me you are here! He

watches over me, to save me you are here?

Oh dear God, great God and he runs to

open the door: Out! Go to Lublin!

Lublin needs you more more who

am I compared to a group! A whole community

of Jews is far more worthy. Go Go

help your Jews and save them!

You drive me away? Do I imagine that?

Or does Rabbi hear His voice loud and clear

you drive me

I drive you, I drive you yes yes!

To Lublin to Lublin! I don’t need you here

Obey Moyshe Rabenu’s request, obey

Dear God go save your people!

Radzyner! You are wrong not enough

that you drive the God of your people to battle,

I can be in many places with you here

and in Lublin there with them and

help in all places – I can yes I can

I’ll do it

But the Radzyner he must not see

He need not see so far away

You drive me out you have no time

you stand on hot coals and burn

you do and make whatever you can if you can

and rave if you cannot

You are my holy my very good Jew!

You yell at me and stamp with your foot

and drive me out of your place

I will take it with love as do you

and like you I find in comfort in trouble

Don’t beg me, command me I love your command

you are for plain Jews and I here, here I am

for the future that is yet to be I am for Radzyn!

Part II

Radzyn! What of Radzyn? And Fshiskha and Ger?

Little towns in Poland, no longer are there!

And the Rabbis? One cannot deny Holy Jews!

A holy Jew is one Jew and no more

and one Jew may be big, or may be small

and no one comes to stand with Jews much at all!

Ten Jews for a minyan! And more are a tribe!

And for twelve tribes a sea will split in two!

And God Blessed be He comes down to them

and God gives them a Torah and Tablets Two

leads them through the desert and gives them a land.

They blow the rams horns and cause walls to come down

and sanctified are when they come into the town

They do not touch a thing, all is for God!

Only one Jew. And one alone sins.

He may be big. He may small but is one!

He may be strong or he may be weak.

Blessed may Jews be many of them!

Radzyn! What of Radzyn? Yes I really was

a Rabbi in the town of Radzyn

My tribe like the town is both old and fresh.

In the house of my father I led his table!

My grandfather’s talles I pulled its blue thread

I would have kept pulling that light bright thread too

But that was not what I wanted to do

Radzyn had become too small for me

not what I wanted, not what I longed for.

Oh little Radzyn is not really small

so many Hassidim God knows, not small at all.

Radzyn had a fine reputation for years

people came by train, by cart from everywhere.

They came to Radzyn from all over the globe

Hassidim no lack of Jews.

Dear Hassidim and loyal too

So what could be more an ordinary Jew is more

many Hassidim though great in number

Jews we are all here at once!

Radzyn! What Radzyn Warsaw! She! She!

The Rabbi tightened his lips and whistled quietly.

Warsaw! It is she that I want!

The Rabbi catches himself ashamed in case

someone heard no matter

Warsaw like Rachel and Leah a city

he compared her to the ancestors who had Jews in their bellies!

In her they float and ruminate.

Jews in hats of all kinds no matter

no difference as long as a Jew. They

may not be observant or they may be

observant but Jews the Rabbi looks around

a Jew half converted is still a Jew

So that’s what I want

Half a Jew weighs more than a whole Gentile

A whole Gentile is generally not whole

A whole Goy is not whole for he’s missing the half,

the suffering and broken part

He’s missing a sorrowing heart…

When he is in a dark mood does he care?

does he think of the Jew full of worry

at the fair?

He harnesses his horse and rides off in a hurry.

The Goy lacks great disaster. God send me disaster

For after a disaster comes joy. The Goy

did not slave in Egypt and was not freed

He doesn’t carry a heavy yoke, burn bricks

knead clay. He lifts not his eyes longing for home

though sweet is the dying for His great name.

A goy doesn’t know or want to know that.

He was not driven out of his homeland in shame

his conquered wrecked land

He did not go into exile in shame

and does not suffer injustice from strangers

He lacks troubles; suffering

a half of a Jew therefore carries more weight.

A goy weak are his thoughts, strong his language,

weak in his thinking but moves easily about.

Strong in expression and light in mood

Did you see him at the fair?

He sits on the straw covered wagon secure

And Jews encircle him and shout,

but he doesn’t give value for what they paid out.

and all pay him and make him rich.

This one pays him one coin and that one two

for hay on the wagon, a fowl in the cage

for potatoes in a sack a Jew loves

to buy things, he’s ready to pay.

But the goy’s not always a salesman and he’ll

take the pay but keep the hay

Still it’s good that he does not talk with his hands without end.

He might kill a person in the heat of a row

with an axe in his hand

and still not be found guilty you wonder how?

Because he doesn’t talk with his hands like a Jew.

Lucky is he who is experienced and proves he’s a goy

for he does not wave his hands in the air.

A whole goy is not whole

He is like his cloister so big and so mighty, a giant.

He is like his cloister arrogant and proud

hard as its gates and stiff as its wood.

They carry a cross of gold on their breast.

Decorated outside and empty within

dark inside and polished without.

The goy is like his cloister not whole

out of him comes the voice of a stranger

and cold is the prayer and cold is the house

sounds like an echo from an empty barrel

Not his the love, not his the hate

You hear what he says and know at once

if he comes from the priest? The bar? Or the forest?

A Goy is like his cloister, a Jew is like his shul!

Outside neglected and inside full!

See in the synagogue see for yourself

Open a door and come, do come in

a light floods you with warmth

a great light.

Warsaw a big house of study in joy!

In streets and in squares all spread out,

in yards, cellars and attics up high!

Your breath is felt, the warmth of it high

In Yiddish Warsaw throughout the whole city

one big house of study! Not just for God

it is more for his Jew, for his daily use!

The Shekhina she rests there for sure

The Jew is there but most important, the Tanakh.

It’s a house not for Sabbath. Its more for the week!

You come into this holy place

and let yourself have it on a week day.

Go slowly by there and stand anywhere

see the movement of hands, the head how it moves;

one to the other swears and fool one another

But you, do not fear and don’t be upset

I swear it is legal so don’t get mad.

So one fools the other! the other fools them

but they have never killed anyone, yet.

I love a House of Study and not just because

the Holy Ark that I love is within

and that the Torah is crowned and wrapped

in a silken coat You say what you will!

In the small space where I live, I hope

to stand holy and clean and it’s

not a house of study, oh no. The Torah yes, yes,

is honored in its place but where I

live there is no community of Jews.

This one can’t stand and that one can’t walk.

This one cannot take a book from its shelf

and the one who hums while he

learns under his breath. One hears no

news from a circle, no one throws

his prayer shawl over his shoulders

and lifts his belt up higher, or stands at the

washbasin washing his hands, or thanks

God for natural processes. No one

looks around silently to seek a small

interest free loan and no one is buying

or selling a house! It is not a

Bes Medresh, a house of study and prayer.

The Torah! of course not me and not you

The Torah! The Torah! It all depends on where

the Holy Torah resides and with whom

Could be in an attic, a cellar, could be,

in a hall in a palace. The important thing is

to do what she tells us all to do.

Down from the sky she came to earth

Lucky are we who received her!

She alone is Sabbath and speaks holy words.

Don’t climb up to Sinai. One hears her in the valley

She lifted us up and came down.

The main thing is to guard her

the Torah, protect. And listen well

to her again and again.

And the Sabbath will be

a needed part of your week

that lifts it up

The week is raised up and Sabbath is gone

The week needs the work of repairing the world.

You are needed to help in the week

poverty is made less by your help

Sabbath in the week can bless

as God’s breath into the first person.

One Shabbes balances the bustle of the week

Oh Warsaw streets! Gzhibon and Tvarda and Gensha

and Smotche! Blessed be their buzz and hum.

I disappear there and become nothing, no one

and more in a street full of Jews

What am I and who?

Up Marshalkovska and higher on Leshno

where once I was a Rabbi, a person!.

Not erased was I heaven forbid.

and not denied by the non-Jewish street

By non-Jews a Rabbi, by Jews no not!

I love to be mixed in the midst of Jews

A Jew needs no Rabbi he can reach understanding

together alone with his God.

The Torah is the same for all the Tfilin, a pair,

the very same Gemorah no different by a hair

A hard law to interpret? He presses and tries

and then understands it

And ask me: do I need to be the go between?

I’ve no need for the honor, what for?

Warsaw, oh you are the apple of my eye.

Jewish Warsaw is waiting I wash my hands

Blessed is the hour I recognized you.

I recognized you and blessed is the hour,

Jewish Warsaw there is no other!

I know no other though Warsaw is big,

do not confuse her with Jewish Warsaw

When seldom I ventured down to the non-Jewish part

I covered my head with a shtreiml

Whether in my own home, in the street or in the shul

my hat I would wear I loved to have

a Jewish hat on my head it’s light and it’s small

and that’s what Jews wear and in that lies it’s beauty!

That’s why it’s holy I want to be like you!

With my heart, with appearance equal to you

I don’t want to be wine from the flask of the drunk

nor golden coin from the wealthy man’s purse.

I want to be a salted drop in the sea,

in the taste of Warsaw.

Warsaw! Like David to Zion did his praise sing,

I would for my Warsaw do the same thing.

Warsaw! I long for Warsaw I long

for the Nalevka hub-bub to the Gensher crowds

and Murano! and Djuka! and Mila a breath!

I mix in with the crowds go find me!

Show me a trick search for me and find!

You cannot recognize me, my faithful Hassid

You don’t recognize your Rabbi so why?

So what is the difference?

You don’t see me so what!

Take just any Jew by the hand

put a shtreiml on him, oh my little Hassid

and he’ll be a Rabbi with luck for you!

But don’t ask him why him and don’t ask him how

Put on him a shtreiml and a gartl too

He may be a tailor, a shoemaker now

Don’t ask who he was yesterday do not ask

don’t search for his vocation or his tone.

Catch a Jew, any Jew, and call him Rabbi! It is in his core

Call him Rabbi! And follow him

Warsaw! I really mean Warsaw,

the Jewish view, the Jewish beauty

that flows over all, all at once

and especially outside the stone of a wall

calls out! Holiness! a stone! yes a stone

Listen, listen, you understand Yiddish? Here’s what I mean

that even on stones from pavement

she rests the Shekhina Look, look

and be glad and go close and feel, touch them,

they are like Jews it doesn’t hurt them

A Jew, if you rub up against him is for himself and for you

In case one of you has a wound

a blister to hide, doesn’t matter how big

it will burst by itself and drain itself out.

Drain yourselves out secretly in deep sleeves

don’t hurry home from the street

You are joined in a debt to each other

Get acquainted, get to know and do business together!

Argue together, it won’t hurt, it dries the wound,

You both will come home both healthy and fresh.

Wrangle together, bicker, it won’t hurt a hair!

If you make a mistake, well, you are learning!

You jump up from your benches

look sore at each other

is this about a law or money in millions?

Whatever each of you meant

to the study of Torah its all the same!

You struggle to understand and turn

things around

And use your thumb to twist and consider

and find proof that supports your claim

And argue and come to some conclusion

and learn the passage

Whether its Gemara or matters of women

the process of learning is the same melody

you jump from your benches

stare mad at each other

you find the right page

you pull your own beard

and hold your head then anger leaves

the deal is made and you agree to sum up.

Warsaw, Jewish Warsaw, a Jew

glows with excitement walking her streets

and feels the heat approaching

like Moses to Sinai you have just seen Sinai

But before you come closer to him, look see

It comes toward you you too are a Sinai!

slender as a thorn and dry as a stem

your eyes are bright with the holy flame!

It burns, flames up strong

lights up part of the city like a part of Mt. Sinai.

You stand in its light and look into it deep

Look upon Warsaw, take in its radiance

and know, understand it what it means

to the little dot of a Jew in the grand span of time

the eternal Jewish people in every wild desert

and know, understand you yourself who you are!

The Jew of old is still the one of today

and the long ago first is like the last!

Warsaw! the golden Yiddish core.

Do business and make a L’khayim, you may!

A Jew when he buys, sells and drinks

is like a happy student of Torah.

He trades with gusto and drinks that way too

bargains when he buys and when he sells

down a coin, up a coin, that’s how it goes.

The shelf can be empty and the pocket be full.

Call me, I’ll come to your bottle of wine!

Call me for a wedding, call me for a bris

call for more business, why not?

Warsaw people! All that you make and all

that you do is holy, is fine and is good!

Bring the schnapps bottle here!

Don’t look for the cork the bottle is open

and my glass is filled.

I open it easily, the bottle that’s corked.

Easier still to open your purse. No need to

open it already was! Before I could say

it happened! It was not you alone

who made a good deal,

but lonely and sick little orphans

schools and hospitals profited well

people who’ve lost their fortunes

from here and not here, they too

have been taken care of.

Now I open a door and meet at the table

a row of Jews, more poor than rich

For the rich there is herring for poor the fish

Wash up and enjoy it all of you!

Drink l’khayim drink wine.

You didn’t make the good deal this time

God Blessed be He He made the deal

Blessed and Praised be our God.

And now in this great disaster of ours

Warsaw is a solace that comforts us.

She shines out in the darkness surrounding us.

There is no place where we are not being destroyed.

The entire province is one bloody bath!

All Lithuania, Ukraine and Russia oh God

You are left alone here, alone in the world

Your people don’t live here their tents have been burned

Without a beys medresh on earth here

and without Jews without Jews what will You do then?

Who will recite psalms? Who will quietly weep?

And who, who will suffer though innocent here on this earth?

Who will lift eyes to heaven? And You

Your comfort to whom will you send? Say where and to whom?

Who will then want it? The Gentiles will not!

And Jews? Will a murdered Jew still need your comfort?

Your sunshine Your comfort will fall

wasted on graves, wasted on fields and on pits

Only Warsaw still breathes a bit free.

Oh now in our darkness God stand by her, our mother.

Warsaw she calls me, she sends for me now

Autos come, autos go: oh don’t stay out in the country!

“Why do you need me? I,  I alone

I need you more but I will not go,

into the ghetto pressed hard in tight crowds,

where you do not have food and do not have drink,

They die in the streets there and when you pass away

the dead are thrown into the street.

And great is the loneliness and terrible the need

But Warsaw survives, she’s stronger than death,

She doesn’t need me! I’ll not go there

News comes here to me from Lublin

I fear Lublin no longer has need of me

Lublin is being erased from this earth

some houses remain the stones as well,

Jews there, they go up in smoke

or they’re gunned down or put into boxcars and whew!

Away into wastelands in fields where? One doesn’t know

I’m not going to Warsaw with you

I have a funeral and the Rabbi takes his head in his hands

Part III

I have a funeral, Lublin is demolished

The Torah trashed, shuls smashed

Jewish houses and homes laid waste.

The sun breaks into windows in vain

No one is there to benefit, to enjoy

the light of the sun’s warm rays.

No one to thank your name and say: I believe

in your mercy that comes with your great light.

But Papa-Father how does it help you

to send out your light clear down to here?

No one is here now, no one any more

except those shot right here in this house.

They still lie in bed just as in a grave.

In their own bed and in their own blood.

They lie now, lie silenced, at peace

Wasted your light on the dead in bed

wasted his kisses, wasted each caress.

Your light, great God falls wasted like my tears.

Their eyes never will open again!

It is so in the houses and out on the streets

Oh streets of Lublin, how red and how wet,

wet with tears, red with blood

Lucky you dead ones, you now have it good!

Pieces of brain from a smashed head

look down at the dead one from a thick wall,

look at him without thought, cold and strange

Oh Jewish brain you are so dull!

You had hotly just thought, now burned and over

It’s good for him now, this dead one, this Jew

though his blood is still warm and still scarlet red.

It’s bad for the dead ones who are not yet dead,

who must wrestle with death in great pain,

in the street, on the bridge neither here nor there.

They lie on the border of lies and truth

gunned down but not totally out

Oh lying life, extinguish us now!

Take us, death, who is truth, into your lap

the German intentionally did not aim the shot well

Lucky the Jews who are dead!

It is so in the streets, so in the markets

People on the run wringing their hands, necks bent forward.

Mothers and fathers, daughters and sons

where are you running to, Jews, oh tell where?

If we knew we would tell you,

they pursue us no one knows where.

The son is hit by a bullet and sinks down

the father runs on, does not stop

the skin and bones mother is hit, falls like lead

the daughter has seen it and runs on

No one is chasing you! They chase us, yes, yes!

They shoot from their autos, one shot and gone!

Gone is the auto, gone the SS

gone is the Jew a corpse in the street

Lucky is he who is felled in the street, in his yard

in his house, in his bed, on the steps of his house

died, though not buried is gone!

Gone gone who can make peace with this kind of death?

A tallow candle has gone out with its wick.

A person, dear Father in Heaven, NO, NO!

A person should leave his bones in the earth!

A person should have his little hill of dust

to shed a tear there and be praised

his name to be read off in time from a stone

Don’t allow it dear God, oh NO!

Don’t let them be abandoned on cobblestone streets

You don’t look at Jews who live,

and the dead the dead lift

extinguished eyes to You endlessly.

Consider the dead ones, the Jews woe, woe

See all of the streets are full of them,

all of Lublin! All streets, squares and markets,

abandoned corpses form Jewish mountains!

All of them killed, countless slaughtered

and all cry to you in one voice:

“You don’t help us in life, in our need

Be merciful God to those who are dead!”

In sorrow the Rabbi lowers his head

and his tears fall down heavy

Why does the Rabbi cry?

And why does he bow his head so low, why?

Don’t bow your head low

Lift your eyes and cry!

And let the walls melt here from your sorrow

and let everyone see the flow of your tears

Oh, don’t bow your head down

do not mourn quietly what happened here.

Do not stifle your deep sighs.

Do not hide the pain

Sigh sorrow out loud, cry out your pain, rave and shout!

Scream suffering far, call loud to announce the disaster!

Let your scream split the earth, make a hole in the sky!

The devil will come out, and God will come down

Oh, don’t bow your head

Don’t hide your tears! Cry out! Be seen!

Let it be shaken, the whole sick, sinning world,

and let it be mirrored in your tears.

Oh no, do not bow down your head.

The Rabbi starts crying Oh hide it don’t cry!

Hide your face, so the world will not see

the world, oh the world! The poor world oh

She could, God forbid, still be shamed!

fool herself with a story

She did not conspire,

avoid evil nor witness the joke

Her conscience might plague her Oh my!

the conscience of the world is not to be found

Germans do what they do, the world sees and stands by

Which one is worse? What say you!

No don’t lift your bowed head, No, No

and let the world not hear how you cry.

Nor mirror her dirty self in your tears.

She loves the prophets, but loves sin more.

There is white in her eye, her soul is dark

she sins all the while she beats her heart.

And vulgar her thoughts while noble her speech

In her hand the Bible, in her heart seven horrors.

O do not raise your bowed head

And let her not see you, the world as you cry

The world oh the world who thinks of the world,

gone, not a sign of her in the tent,

the Rabbi’s tent meanwhile is left alone.

No one is within, only God, Blessed is He.

The Rabbi, the Rabbi, he breaks into tears

cries before God and does not care

if the world sees him or not crying there.

He denies the world, the mysteries hidden

He denies her as she denies his God

to whom he has hung down his weary head

He cannot, the Rabbi, witness God’s suffering,

he cannot look into His face

His face is clouded, His heart full of grief

the One On High, poor one, feels ashamed,

the Rabbi cries softly, he can hardly be heard

He has, the Radzyner, pity for God

who cries and God chokes on his tears

and the Radzyner bows his head low.

Now from Warsaw a messenger comes

He enters in silence and sees

the Rabbi the Rabbi a broken sail

who does not see nor hear him So he waits

then goes to the Rabbi and says quietly

“Ride, Rabbi to Warsaw, the car waits for you

a closed car and very secure”.

“I won’t go to Warsaw!”.

“Go Rabbi Go!

The auto is standing in front of the house

The chauffeur is German Come Rabbi, go out,

and ride to Warsaw with us, Warsaw waits.”

The Rabbi is angry, his answer is harsh

“I will not go to Warsaw!”,

“Go Rabbi, Go!

The auto is here and there is money too.

The road is secure, the danger not great

yet should something bad happen we’ll buy our way out.

We’ll take you to Warsaw. Warsaw awaits.”

“I’ll not go to Warsaw I have a funeral” and he bows his head.

“Oh Rabbi the auto awaits at the door

and Warsaw wants you oh Rabbi, woe’s me!”

“Warsaw awaits me, Warsaw the city!

I’ll not go alone when my God hears me!

If I were Jonah, the prophet, I would go

to Nineveh yes and would want to

rescue the Gentiles

Warsaw, however is not guilty as she.

Warsaw, my Warsaw does not need me

Warsaw wants to save me, she wants

to take me away quick and in secrecy.

She sends me a car and gold here.

Here, give the gold here and more give me more!

I need all the gold I can get.

They should send me more.

I must rescue the dead a dead Jew

yearns for a grave, wants to be covered with dirt

wants to have peace go into his rest

Burial money, Jews, send burial money to me!”

His stature and the clear bright blue eyes

Is this the Rabbi? Or is it a Goy?

He’s in front of the small forest, the one going dark.

And the Rabbi has rolled up his sleeves!

With a shovel in hand he works there, he digs

with the Jews who’ve just survived

together with them, he digs graves

in a little forest, a big cemetery.

The corpses are carried and more and more come

they lie like trees chopped down into moss,

they lie there and wait. A grave in the woods

does not dig itself fast, nor so soon.

The number of corpses grows in the woods

the eyes glazed, the faces like wax.

The mountain of dead grows high into sky,

The sack filled with gold slowly shrinks down.

The last holy martyr no more carried there

the sack has been emptied, empty and bare.

All this has taken from dawn until late

one sees them the mounds of earth there.

One sees they lay separate but close, oh so close.

And every mound speaks and demands and demands

we don’t demand anything, we lie calmed and soothed

died and were buried, now we are well off

Now thank God we are through being punished

The tree branches now sway over them: sleep

Sleep, millions of Jews choked and poisoned,

wish for a handful of Jewish burial sand

We were brought to a Jewish burial ground

so sleep now darkness comes falling together with night

and quiets the suffering and silences woe

Yisgadal! Oh who will say Kaddish for them?

the Rabbi, the Rabbi, he says it

Swiftly a wind comes, blind unseeing

it carries and blows the sad words far away.

And Jews answer into the wind and they cry.

The Radzyner alone, the Rabbi himself

the Rabbi says Kaddish and someone is crying

Who cries? Who is crying into the night?

We have brought our dead people to Kever Yisroel

and you, you, you live

Don’t cry and do not bow down your heads.

We’re not crying Rabbi, we rejoice silently

martyrs who are buried do not ever die

A mother’s womb or a mound of earth

we celebrate, Rabbi, what is meant for us

to have been rescued and to help you, yes

to bring those who lie here to Kever Yisroel.

We rejoice Rabbi and remain standing still

near the Rabbi wrapped deep in the night

The Rabbi he can’t be untroubled, serene

He listens intently and hears, hears the sounds.

Someone cries here surely not the dead,

and those who survived, they sit here with us.

The peasants have left us to go to their homes

Who cries, and so hidden, so secretly?

Does it come from the mountains or come from the valley

The Rabbi is following the crying sounds.

He does not see the path. But he feels, understands

the Rabbi knows it, the path that he takes

He goes toward the fields and there he stands.

At once, the moon becomes bright

out from a cloud, thick and radiant rays

light the long lonely train with a light, blue and cold.

Box cars like graves stand opened and bare

every box car with its wide open mouth.

The Rabbi observes this in the pale shine,

no one is inside yet it is as if someone is there.

Inside someone’s crying: the Rabbi inquires!

“Who cries there say who?”, he asks and enters the train,

and in its darkest corner he stood.

A figure in the darkest corner is there

silent and hurting. He stood listening

to the crying of God Himself

the Rabbi remained standing still, a very long time

deep in the empty dark railroad car

the Rabbi did not move a muscle

To his God above he listened and bravely heard

God’s crying

Silently he stood and said

not one word of comfort to Him.

He doesn’t want to comfort His suffering

More important to him to comfort the mourners

Jews shamed and despondent on God’s earth

The Rabbi continues to hear more and more

Rabbi you stand in one place you try to go

to the second railroad car and hear Him crying there

and the third, the fourth, and further go

hear how with each car, the further you go

the more bitter the tears. The greater

the pain, the deeper the lament

listen to yourself but don’t, don’t give in to Him

you must not comfort Him and do not comfort

those poor souls that also need comfort not yet

it is too soon.

The Rabbi, he goes from car to car and fills

himself with the One Above’s tears,

deep is his sadness and grave is his fear.

At dawn the Rabbi went to the small forest.

The Jews that survived had been waiting,

waiting for the Rabbi. He says to them sternly:

“To Vlodova Jews!” and says nothing more.

He starts on his way, and they follow him.

The Rabbi’s in the city and the sun shines bright

He stops at his house but does not go in

He knocks on the door in great haste:

“Bring out my taless and tfillin!

Take my white robe and bring it to the shul!”

Now the shul was suddenly full!

The people are frightened: The Rabbi woe, woe!

is paler, more frightened than they

He stands before the Holy Ark. He wants to

call out something loud here in the shul but is silent.

He heard something behind him and stops cold;

the same as last night, the very same cries he heard in the dark

in the cars of the train

come forth from inside the closed Holy Ark.

At that Rabbi turns around to the Blessed Holy One

And shouts into the curtains that cover the Ark

“Do not cry, not You!

You cry in the Ark and in each car of the train

Don’t cry! You have something else You must do!

Then the people said “We! We want to cry”

The Rabbi turned to them and said,

“Jews! I pronounce our entire community must fast!”

The Rabbi wanted to add something more but stopped,

The people now know where he had been

and what he feels in his heart, he knows

and the Jews in the shul cried passionately

and inside the Ark silence A whole city

of persecuted Jews cries harder than God!

One sees the ocean of tears, where it comes from

flowing down hard  one doesn’t need to be

a holy Rabbi for that

The Rabbi himself then began to cry

joined with his Jews in their crying.

June 1st. 1943

No. He did not keep silent, stubborn he is

He broke down and cried too

the whole city cried

Great Almighty Jewish God

You envy peoples tears

You want to cry too but cannot NO

Sh Sh. Quiet!  A German stomps into the shul

The Rabbi! He dare not be here for a minute

Quickly he’s surrounded, sheltered in the crowd and moved out

My God remains alone there and weeps softly in his house

He who called out the fast has fled and fled far

the fast was renewed in cities and towns

Jews in ghettos near and far, joined and renewed it.

Lublin is annihilated no longer there

The Germans learned of the fast and ordered

the Rabbi to police headquarters.

His wife warned him: “Don’t go!”

He looked at her with longing and said:

“Oh if I died like Rabbi Akiva to honor God’s name

my body combed with hot iron combs

Don’t sin my wife, don’t cry!

I earned that rite for my people, my God”

And he went away, and did not come back.” Yizkhok Katzenelson.