Afternoon at the Holocaust Museum (from a dream)

by Annette Friend (Del Mar, CA)

There you were Mom and Pop,
middle-aged, well-dressed,
on a bustling afternoon
in the Holocaust Museum.
So odd, since I’ve rarely seen you
appearing so alive
since you’ve both died.

I was so enchanted seeing you again,
I barely thought of context at first,
you both docents on display at this exhibit.
I think you were excited to see me
although you were quite preoccupied
showing spectators around
the Jewish apartment in Berlin containing
the average artifacts that fill all our lives,
except these rooms were turned to rubble,
up-ended couches, dishes smashed,
curtains slashed, lives ripped apart
at the seams, by black-booted beasts
on a sunny April afternoon in 1939.

You both smiled seraphic
at the rapt crowd,
radiant as angels,
which maybe you were,
as if, finally, you both were detached
enough from the horror,
even as memories
encroached on all sides.

Maybe you’ve embraced all the relatives,
friends, whose lives were leveled
years ago at vicious hands of Nazi brutes.
Has that holy reunion given you a type
of peace to be able to tour
through the past without shattering
into shreds?

Or perhaps God in His inimitable wisdom
sat down with you both on His white mantel of clouds,
patiently gave you His explanation for His silence,
willingness to wait out the Atrocity
while sitting on His hands.

Perhaps that explanation is enough,
if only in the afterlife.                                                            

Annette Friend, a retired occupational therapist and elementary school teacher, taught both Hebrew and Judaica to a wide range of students. In 2008, she was honored as the Grinspoon-Steinhardt Jewish Educator of the Year from San Diego. Her work has been published in The California Quarterly, Tidepools, Summation, and The San Diego Poetry Annual.


Filed under American Jewry, European Jewry, Family history, German Jewry, Jewish, Jewish identity, Jewish writing, Judaism, poetry

3 responses to “Afternoon at the Holocaust Museum (from a dream)

  1. A very tender and pain filled evocation of the writer’s parents. My favorite lines are the last two in the fifth stanza. If these parents were to meet mine in heaven the lines I’ve highlighted would likely be repeated by them as well.
    Thank you Annette, my namesake.

  2. Douglas Shane

    An enchanting and lovely poem.
    I wish that G-d would explain the silence to all of us.
    (The Book of Job doesn’t satisfy my questions.)

    As a child I often dreamed of my family and fellow congregants from our synagogue being rounded up and crowded into boxcars. Those dreams are now largely gone, but the trepidation remains in my waking hours.

  3. Jessica Ursell

    The lines that strike me most about this very moving poem are these:
    “…His explanation for His silence,
    willingness to wait out the Atrocity
    while sitting on His hands.“
    I, like many others, perseverate on the idea of God‘s “willingness to wait out the atrocity while sitting on his hands.” So many of my family members were murdered by the Nazis and the generational trauma that lingers to this day makes me ask these same questions. Thank you for sharing such a keenly worded poem.

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