My Holocaust Poetry Collection

haunter black and white photo of holocaust prison camp

I cannot explain why I started to write poems about the Holocaust. After reading books such as “Man’s Search For Meaning” and “Night” in my twenties, I was overwhelmed with so many different emotions and thoughts about “how can this have happened?”. I found myself trying to understand what it must have been like. At the same time I found perspective in having gratitude for basic day-to-day privileges of freedom, comfort, safety, nourishment and dignity based on trying to envision what it must have been like for those in ghettos, concentration camps or in hiding living with a daily probability of capture, torture or death.

Please feel free to share with your friends as we approach Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Poems

Life escaped

As survival governed

my crowded soul.

Breath was barely my own

crammed with nausea and decay.

On this freight train

every bit of cargo

would move if it could.

Human gridlock

with moans instead of horns.

Only my closed eyelids

could buffer the moment.

As my hands would dare

not cover my ears.

For my bent elbows

would deny another’s space.

My back gave some relief

to a neighboring body

as a mattress would to exhaustion.

We were all too numb

for expectation.

As our book of life

turned many pages

in these few hours.

With crude impact

arrival was disclosed.

That momentary stillness

let us hear our hearts

and feel our sweat.

The doors that separated us

from our doom slid open.

Light found each of us

as stark blindness

unfolded into a worse darkness.

Like catatonic sheep

we were a herd

that would not be heard.

Prodded by rifle butts

and hostile shouts

our shepherds

led us to

our slow, random slaughter.

Each branch of all family trees

broken, stacked in separate piles.

With no privilege to sprout

another seed.

©1992 Brian D. Lawrence

I smiled and tasted the

blood that spouted out of my gums

as my loose teeth knew it’s purpose.

The shovel I was handed was my

right to another day as long as I didn’t stop.

My spine was thrown for many a curve

but the pain was my mantra.

The dark, smoke filled skies

Clouded my attempts to remember

Better days.

I wondered if they would notice

As I grazed for anything on the ground

That could put an ounce on my frame.

Every heave of dirt

made room for more.

Nothing was empty for long

As loud motors

Nudged the unresisting meld

Of bones and flesh

To a place of unrest.

Then came the harsh sounds

Of the flock of

synchronous goose steps

that signal our return

to uncertainty.

The residual ache

remains as we are lined

up and directed to the shower

and wonder what nozzle will be turned.

As the cold water

Numbs my extremities

I am warmed by the probability

Of a tomorrow

As I hold in the coughs and the shivers

And show them I’m a man

Who can work into his grave.

©2001 Brian D. Lawrence

More lies than truth can unfold

More testimony than can ever be told

More death than birth can replace

More pain than time can erase

More layers than can ever be peeled

More wounds than can ever be healed

More loss can ever be felt

More vengeance than can ever be dealt

More fear than courage can curtail

More denial than search can unveil

More betrayal than can ever be amended

More heroism than can ever be commended

More rebellion than can ever be reported

More spirit than can ever be thwarted

©2003 Brian D. Lawrence

I remember my last meal

I’ll never forget it

The last time I saw my family

The last time my stomach was full

It was one year ago

And every day

I pretend it was yesterday

It is the only way

I can make it to tomorrow

For I cannot let this memory wane

The many smells and tastes

I took for granted

The family that completed my life

Always close and now so far away

Now I’d lick a crumb off a wooden floor

And risk a splinter in my tongue

Just to taste anything but my nausea

I long for my double chin

That I wore as a badge of contentment

Which is now a gaunt bone wallpapered with skin

Every minute takes so long to pass

Till I get my daily ration of

Bread and water

Every day having to tie the rope tighter

To keep my pants from falling off

As I look around me

Every day there are less of us

And more human landfill

I will continue to work

It is so easy to lift those starved bodies

And it is my only dream

That if I can make it through today

That tomorrow will be my next meal.

©2005 Brian D. Lawrence

In line awaiting that life-or-death audition

Using blood makeup to hide the pallor

Stuffing their striped outfits to mask emaciation

In shock from utter fear

From the overwhelming barking

Of German shepherds and soldiers 

They trod forward

Not knowing where to advance

Fixed on that extreme extremity

Shifting from side to side

Like an erratic pendulum

that moves to its beat and whim

And dictates the dividing line of fate

Between existence and extermination

©2024 Brian D. Lawrence