Eduard Schmidt-Zorner

Bergen Belsen

Barbed wire as bitter ornament,
these butterflies of filament
do not fly away.
Water drops and tears
hanging from the thread.
The poles vibrate in the wind
memorials for the dead.

The ear pressed to the wall.
You hear the shadows in an empty hall?
Was it a sigh? A cry far away?

Above you, shuffling,
beneath you, marching,
never a response, silence is deafening.

Love could not stand it, hatred had nowhere to go,
grief vanished, replaced by woe.
All pleading in vain.

Did you suspect it? Have you been warned?
Were not dark birds on the branches?
Did they not dig a hole for you?
Was there no sign on the wall?

Drowned in the Danube

On the embankment of the Danube,
in front of the Hungarian Parliament,
stand sixty pairs of iron shoes,
pointed towards the river,
a sad ornament
making hearts quiver.

20,000 were brutally killed
along the banks of the Danube,
forced to remove their shoes
to face their executioners
before they were slaughtered
without mercy in the early day,
falling over the edge
to be washed away
by the freezing waters.

Sixty pairs of 1940s-style shoes,
true to life in size and detail,
sculpted out of iron, so real,
a memorial simple yet chilling,
depicting the shoes left behind by
those murdered by the Arrow Cross,
fascist orders fulfilling.

The style of footwear –
a man’s work boots,
a businessman’s loafer,
a woman’s pair of heels,
tiny shoes of a child,
standing there
in a casual fashion,
as if the people
just stepped out of them;
little statues, a grim reminder
of souls who once occupied them.

That winter,
men, women, children,
voices of pain afar,
fell into the Danube –
one after the other -
on their coats
the Yellow Star.

At that day the Danube,
a grave the riverbed,
was neither blue nor grey
but red.

Eduard Schmidt-Zorner © 2019

During the Blitz

Waiting in the dark, we dream of light;
deep, underground, we hear detonations,
vibrations of bombing causing fright,
impact of loads dropped on a town.

What awaits us outside is unknown,
when we inch to daylight (which we desire):
a day darkened by smoke
or a night glowing with fire?

Grasped by fear and helplessness,
by air raids and trembling walls,
recognising nightmare’s relentlessness
in the horror of today's sundown
when night falls like a gown
and sirens sound the all-clear,
in these days of war and fear,
in shelters with neighbours and strangers.

Wherever we look into dark future’s night,
far from the here and now, flickering light,
far from home, hoping, and hearing
the word without knowing its meaning.

Did we see warnings looming up?
Signs on the wall, in Belshazzar's hall?
Did we anticipate tyrants, invasion, depravity?
Victims, the dead, the bombs on Coventry?

Sons of the land clothe themselves with death,
arm themselves to kill their own kind
in the places of horror, up and down the land.
Dream weavers weave a wreath,
money counters count and pay in kind;
armourers forge, steel unsheathed;
soldiers kill; leave thousands bereaved:
we are all led like puppets on a string.

In the city of lost angels,
a masked man sharpens his black scythe,
saddles his mighty horse
for the very last fight.

Burn, Phoenix, that your ashes bear fruit,
keep your heart's blood, Pelican, to feed us.
Grim Reaper has his harvest time.
We hear graveyard bells chime.

Almost filled is the hour-counting shadow glass;
nearly faded, are pottery shards with your name,
the Tree of Life, standing pale in the rain;
wilted, the rosebush that lived your love,
windblown breath that carries your words,
naked, featherless - lonely peace dove.
Go where you have never been before,
where yet so many wait.

Eduard Schmidt-Zorner © 2019