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Poetry Pleases: In Belsen

“A number of years ago my husband and I were staying on holiday with a family in Germany. During this period they took us to see the museum and gravesites at Belsen,’’ says Ellie Pemberton. “I was so shocked and the experience had such a profound effect on me that I felt I must write about it as soon as I returned home.”

There was camaraderie around, joie-de-vivre in the air,
When we approached our last destination.
Birds warbled blissfully, sun beat down mercilessly.
This side the large gates – the entrance to realization.

The overall impression was of a breath-holding silence.
No birds to be heard. As if the universe berates
The deeds of horror in the name of racial purity -
When once through the entrance – the other side of the gates.

In stunned silence we walked down the well-kept paths.
Large grassy mounds to our left and our right.
Stone plaques to announce thousands of Jews buried there,
The fate of all those herded behind doors slammed tight.

The oppressive heat haze shimmered over that cemetery,
Producing a mirage of endless bodies from a once-proud race,
The yellow Star of David sewn on their prison garb.
The door of hope banged shut in their face.

Like a whisper, a faint breeze blew in our faces
Exploding into torturous screams, then moans from one shower hut
Where two thousand nude bodies, stripped of possessions,
Were silenced by gas pumped through the doors tight shut.

Allied troops liberating the remains of that prison camp
Were drowned in feelings of pity, revulsion and anger.
Dead and dying were lying together. For the remaining.
The gates were opened, skeletal prisoners no longer.

In trial the cry was, ‘I was only obeying orders’,
The defence of the perpetrators of those dreadful crimes.
So learn from that Belsen, that unholy holocaust.
It must not happen again; open your minds.


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