How my youth was wasted with all the stupid rules
as admins laughed while I stood nodding like a fool.
How my youth was wasted with all the stupid rules
In the battlefield of right and wrong,
matters not whose weak, whose strong.
Truth has its own strength,
tougher than ignominy, harder than steel.
Immutable rules govern our world such as the law that no matter the time or space in which it occurs, evil committed by humans against other human beings leaves its mark, and that regardless of the amount of time it takes, the truth will always surface. These ideas, as well as others, are explored in depth in Richard D. Bank’s I Am Terezin.
With meticulous historical research and great care, Bank has painted a vivid picture of the people and personalities associated with the events that took place at Theresienstadt during the Nazi Holocaust. I Am Terezin is a revolutionary memoir – unlike others, it is written from the point of view, not of a person but, of a physical entity, the camp itself – an omniscient narrator. The voice of the camp comes alive to relay the ominous reality of itself, and it tells the reader what Theresienstadt really was, a concentration camp and not the paradise ghetto for elderly Jews the Nazis claimed it was.
The changing tone and perspective of the omniscient voice is compelling. The voice of the camp takes on many roles – a caretaker in one moment, a silent observer in another. It can be argued that the voice of the camp is none other than that of a lamenting God, unable to intercede in the world of human atrocities and forced to watch insidious actions play out. No matter the tone or perspective, the abuse, injustice, and crime which occurred at Theresienstadt is resurrected for the reader, and the reader comes to learn intimately about the lives of innocents who were forced to be bound within the walls of Terezin. Each word and sentence of I Am Terezin is written with great care, paying homage to the many who lost their lives at Theresienstadt. In taking part in the arduous undertaking of researching and telling the story of those at Terezin, Bank has completed the ultimate labor of love in tribute to his grandparents, Ludwig and Sophie Frank, who were imprisoned at but subsequently survived Theresienstadt.
Bank is masterful in his knowledge of the history of Theresienstadt, and I Am Terezin is a must read for scholars of the Holocaust, as well as those interested in bettering the human condition. Reading this book will help the vigilant to reaffirm the oath of never again. Never again should sadism be allowed to hide behind laws and systems meant to dehumanize. Never again should humanity allow the atrocities of genocide to occur. Never again should any people be persecuted for the faith they follow or for the way in which they worship the Divine.
As the water dries from disillusioned eyes,
something else emerges,
the other self I’d submerged.
She takes her chance to seep all the way in,
flourishing, allowing me release.
What good did being good get me but grief,
that woman has long enough grieved.
Where being good drowned me,
she helps me breath
standing to give me peace
protecting me from hereon in
a sheltering self,
tough enough to face the world’s ignominy.
Maybe, one day, I’ll allow you reprieve
but not now, dear. I’ll hold you close
watching you as you rest after trying your best.
How I love to see you sleep
while I grow strong, the bad seed.
You can trust the misfits more
than people who are cool,
the ones who always fit in,
able to change skins
like chameleons on catwalks.
Saturday’s ritual is discourse and diners,
when we talk while walking to
our regular hangout, The Green Kitchen.
We exit the pressure cooker
as worries are left at the door.
Forgetting brimming calendars,
we find a space of solace
where it’s just you and me,
fresh silverware and an easy cup of coffee.
Now protected within peaceful parameters
the havoc halts as we talk and laugh and breathe.
Whenever you are dismayed,
your heart steering you towards
hating people who betrayed,
try to grasp at any shred
any thread that you can use
to find your way back
to the fount of forgiveness
to the freedom that is love.
Please check out my latest publication, The Search for Calm Among the Chaos, at Rathalla Review.
When you thought you could stop caring
for people who never cared for you,
but then realize you will always care
because that is what you do,
as long as your heart beats
and red blood pushes
forward and through
into your body
into your mind,
a kaleidoscope of care and concern,
your heart filled with the need
to hold everyone up, to make sure
that no one is left behind in life
or suffering from strife.
Those who betray never care
about leaving you there,
though you still do, faithful forever,
bearing much, a true friend
from now until the end.
The cold December frost made my teeth chatter involuntarily as I came out of Kroger’s grocery store. I remember I needed red and green lace for my second grade social studies project, which would depict various holiday themes of the season. Hurrying through the parking lot, I searched for the cream-colored Chevrolet. It was so cold and all I could think about was getting into the car. Finally, the door unlocked and entry was permitted. Relieved by the warm air, I felt the blood in my face and hands return to regularity. Noticing the mist form on the windows, I wiped it away with my pastel blue sweater. I looked at the embroidered edge of the pretty blue sleeve. As my eyes moved from the interesting lines of the sweater back to the window, I noticed a tall, thin stranger approaching our vehicle.
“Let’s go,” I said to my parents. The stranger frightened me because it seemed as though in between his skin and bones he contained no noticeable amount of flesh. His forehead and cheekbones protruded greatly giving him the look of some ghoulish skeleton that had wandered far from his place of burial. My father trustingly rolled down the window.
“Clean your windows, mister?” the skeleton asked my dad with a painful apprehension.
“All right,” my father replied.
Encouraged by the reply, his long, ripped fingers moved to a badly torn pocket to take out an ice scraper and rag. I watched on with curiosity. He noticed my glance and returned it with an awkward yet prepossessing smile. The smile was not from any obligation on his part and made me feel strangely guilty for having been so afraid of him simply for his appearance. He cleaned the small layer of residue that had formed on the windows. The ice scraper made a funny, screeching sound, which held an echo in my ear. As he moved from window to window, my eyes followed him without flinching.
“Done, sir,” he stated after a minute. His hand shivered slightly as he held out his hand for the money which he had earned. He must be cold, I suddenly thought to myself.
“Thank you, sir,” he said before he walked away. Though the payment my father had given the stranger did not amount to a huge sum, it was enough for him to buy a cup of coffee which would warm him for at least a minute before he would again leave the warmth for a winter of frozen skin and frozen dreams.
Note: this piece was the recipient of The American Association of University Women’s (Lansdale Branch) Excellence in Writing Award and was originally published in the 1996 Anthology of Poetry and Prose.