Holocaust Poems


Bill Copeland

Updated: 7-17-09

A Dark Pall

A dark pall hangs over the earth
time sanity vanished
replaced with ruthlessness
unimaginable evil.

Tyrants rose from the muck
cloaked in black, adorning death heads
stone faces masking evil
hiding sinister intentions.

Ruses perpetuated
disarming many innocents
shading villainous intentions
a final solution.

Showers offered cleansing
but gas silenced prayers
and bodies pillaged and broken
reduced to ashes along paths.

A dark pall hangs over the earth
time sanity vanished
replaced with ruthlessness
a time known as the Holocaust.


In a gray dawn
like a summer storm
black uniforms
ominous to all
caps pulled low
the death head to show.

the whispers echoed
vultures alight
winging on the wind
gritting their teeth
yelling and threatening.

Jews pushed and shoved
prodded and smashed
driven before the storm
cajoling, beating,
forcing the weak to walk
kicking slower ones.

Neighbors one moment
soldiers the next
armed with power
used with exactness
filled with hatred
killing with glee.

Nothing to Fear

Nothing to fear
a pact of friendship
between two powers
poised to squeeze out
all life between them.

Nothing to fear
friendship ended
a show of force
one strong, one weak
poised to erase
life before them.

Nothing to fear
as birds of hell
sweep from a fiery sky
and dinosaurs of steel
belch awesome fire
rolling forward.

Nothing to fear
as a Hun hoard
rolls on unstoppably
followed by gods of hell
as death head squads
leave trails of death.

Nothing to fear.

The Ravine

In the pristine forests
north of Kiev
is a ravine
undisturbed beauty
a peaceful place
renowned in the world
as Babi Yar.

There is little to hint
of what happened there
no graves or signs
or markers like those
of their forefathers
they passed on the road
to Babi Yar.

There is peace in the woods
north of Kiev
but ghosts haunt the valley
restless souls of thousands
of innocents
roaming the ravine
at Babi Yar.

There is no evidence
of the carnage
no witnesses
to the pit and pyre
as thousands perished
in the ravine
at Babi Yar.

In the pristine forests
north of Kiev
there is no peace
for those who know
what happened
in the ravine
at Babi Yar.

The Ruse

Down from the train
the ruse begins
words of cheer
amid the guards
facing guns
fearing dogs.

To the showers
the ruse portrays
no diseases here
crowding together
walking slowly
on the ashes of kin.

Into the bleak room
the ruse reigns
stripped and bare
holding babies
waiting for cleansing
abandoning hope.


To be chosen
left or right
one to the showers
one to the barracks
one to die
one to waste away.

Pass angry dogs
amid the ruse
massed together
clutching children
walking the trail
to selection.

One to the left
one to the right
one to the showers
one to the barracks
one to die
one to waste away.

is the mere motion
one to the left
one to the right
one selected to die
one selected to live.

One to die
one to live
no hope for either
no choice in selection.

Tomorrow Morningís Train

puffing, chugging into camp
dragging their cattle cars
with chattel
workers for the mills
fodder for the ovens.

to their innocence
embracing hope
denying what is known
going right, left
clinging to small hands.

one upon another
creeping forward
to an unknown fate
trembling, praying
the end will be soon.

they will leave on
tomorrow morningís train
grasping at shallow hopes
but tomorrow morning
never comes.


Long rows of barracks
filled with valises
the lives of those who came
their last possessions
meager belongings
taken to Kanada
for sorting
for stealing
to feed the avarice
of a hungry beast.

These are the piles
of their last things:
rooms of eyeglasses
heaps of shoes
suits and dresses
cans of fruit
bottles of wine
silver, gold, gems
purses with compacts
toys and dolls
not needed anymore.

Nacht und Nebel

Fog hugs the still night
and darkness holds its secrets
hidden in the recesses
of its bosom
protecting them
from those who donít know
covering the crimes
of those who skulk in the fog
and hide in the night.

And yet another train passes
beneath the arch
its false slogan an irony
promising freedom for work
as workers cling to hope
grasping their children
holding them to their bosoms
unaware of the secrets
hidden in the night.

Arbeit macht frei
for those who donít know
who cling to false notions
of the justice of men
who believe they will be free
giving hard work
to die under the strain
as their children are chosen
and become like night and fog.

The Black Wall

Why is the wall black?
The wall between ten and eleven
the final place for those
no longer needed.

Is it a wall of peace?
The wall between torture and evil
the last stop for those
chosen to die.

Is it a wall for wailing?
The wall between evil and cruel
the end station for those
who can cry no more.

Is it a wall of salvation?
The wall between heaven and hell
the halting spot for those
who still have hope.

Is it a wall of damnation?
The wall between hell and heaven
the conclusion for those
who have lost hope.

Why is the wall black?


A man
young and blonde
delicate features
a target for cruelty
a puppet for men
a toy to use, to abuse.

A soldier
thick and strong
a criminal in society
a soldier in uniform
a manipulator,
user of men, abuser.

The death head
upon his cap
shown to frighten
a weapon to use
to intimidate.

And yet his pipel
was too frail, too light
to tighten the noose
dangling, strangling,
slowly dying.

The shot crashed like thunder
a small crack from his pistol
stilling his pipel
performing one kindness
in his miserable life.

Ashes to the Vistula

They had known it as the Wisla
a waterway flowing northwards
the noble river by their homes
bringing nourishment to their crops
meandering through fields of wheat
bringing relief on summer days.

It was called the Vistula
when they saw it from the slave train
in the far south, west of Krakow
a small place named Oswiecim
a community now called

There they learned the harsh cruelty
of men, of evil beyond belief
of such things as red brick houses
where the innocents entered
and breathed their last precious breaths
and died in bleak chambers of gas.

It is beside the Vistula
their mangled bodies and lost lives
were pillaged and plundered
and they were tossed like rubbish
into ovens to vanish in smoke
their memory reduced to ashes.

They were taken to the river
and dumped to join the current
as the Vistula carried north
their ashes through fields of wheat
pass the farms upon its green banks
bringing them home once again.

Gates of Hell

A long dark building
solidly built to withstand the ravages of time,
a sentinel to manís evil
all covered in pristine snow
hiding the lies of what was to happen.

The arched gate
through which passed
trains towing cattle cars
loaded with innocents
destined to be fodder
for the ovens.

A short visit to the showers
where they took their last breaths
air filled with gas
choking them, killing them
to lie naked atop each other
on the cold concrete floor.

Then stacked like cord wood
to feed the ovens
body upon body
reduced to ashes
as smoke rose above the chimney
only to fall again upon the snow.

A long dark building
solidly built to withstand
the ravages of time,
a sentinel to manís evil
all covered in ash-tinted snow
hints at the truth of what happened here.



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Nine Camps

It never happened
they assert
time and time again
complaining of the bombings
savagery of other armies.

They never knew of it
they insist
time and time again
complaining of their suffering
abuses of lesser men.

It wasnít wide spread
they admit
time and time again
complaining of their losses
crudeness of inferior people.

They say little
eyes aglaze
with the names
Dachau, Therenstadt,

But they look away
when hearing the names
Jasenovac and Treblinka
Sobibor and Majdanek
Chelmno and Belzec
Maly Trostenets and Janowska
and they say no more.

Death March

Los! Los!
Hurry! Run!

Leave a death camp
march down the road
die along the way
a bullet in the head
yet more merciful
than another camp
more hideous
for those alive.

Los! Los!
Hurry! Run!

Desert another camp
tossed on to a train
just chattel to move
one place to another
yet no work to do
just march on aimlessly
one foot, then another
one step, no bullet.

Los! Los!
Hurry! Run!

East, west, north, south
run this way, that way
danger here, there
donít fall, donít delay
keep standing, stagger
one foot, then another
donít accept a bullet
in back of the head.

Los! Los!
Hurry! Kill!

The Last Train

It was cold that November morn
and the ground was white with
pure snow, covering the harshness
of the platform and trails.

It was the last train for Birkenau
slowly passing through the gate
leading to Hell
along snow covered rails.

Hungarian Jews it was announced
this last train, destined for
the showers; no selection
here, no work to do.

Into the showers they go
to clean and prevent disease
another lie to hide
evil intentions.

Pack the room
with naked bodies
slam the doors shut
and listen to the death throes.

Silenceóthat is all thatís left
as the doors are slung open
making visible a grisly scene
of bodies atop bodies.

Silenceóa reverence for these
here, as the remains are stacked
upon the cart, like cordwood
destined for the ovens.

Silence--no one speaks or looks
upon the faces of these people
suppressing inner convulsions
fearing the same treatment.

These were the last
it is announced as the call
for sonderkommaandos
to prepare for the showers.

Silenceófor these were the last
of the witnesses
all dead except a few
who struggled to stay alive.

Wiggling Earth

They were teenagers when forced
to shovel dirt upon bodies
that still moved with a frequent moan
as armed guards walked back and forth
pushing them harder.

They were told to speak not
of that day, to forget what they saw
men, women, and children, wasted bodies
thrown into the deep pit
some dead, some alive.

And time passed and grass grew
covering the pit with weeds and flowers
and people went about their own way
by the quiet, green meadow
no thought of those there.

Some looked out kitchen windows
at the field where cattle grazed and memories
of another time so many years before
when they were forced to bury
innocents alone.

They remembered that time
a lifetime ago, and they can see
the meadow wiggles still.

One Hundred and Eighty-six Steps

A giant staircase
carved into granite
one hundred and eighty-six steps
used to torture
used to kill
used for fun.

Lift the rock
a mere fifty kilograms
with tired muscles and race up
one hundred and eighty-six steps
donít stumble or falter
or youíll do it again.

Hold the rock high
and dash up
one hundred and eighty-six steps
stay ahead of him
donít stop, donít pause
the loser dies.

Ignore the laughter
of the men at the top
grasp the stone and climb
one hundred and eighty-six steps
into Hell.


Quarry Steps

Four Pillars

Winter snows blanketed the area

hiding the reality of the camp

white beauty cloaking black hearts.


Four were chosen

to carry the bloody corpse

to cremation, liberation Ö

to return to the assembly

their bloody clothes

condemning them.


Stand straight as the guards

amid snickers and chuckles

spray the frigid water

upon red stains

coating bodies with thin ice

growing thicker, holding arms in place

and legs gone rigid, unable to escape.


Strong ice covers four bodies

save only the small holes

from which escapes tiny breaths

gray against pristine white

with staring eyes, unable to close

 as the last breath is captured in ice

and the four become pillars,

sentinels of death.


The Poets


Amid the gloom of Auschwitz

under the yoke of slave labor

starving, dragging onward,

defying Nazis and death,

they attested to the horror,

the insanity of

a world gone mad, risking lives,

witnessing the deaths and penning

their verses in dead of night

secreting them in the camps

saving them for another day,

a time of reckoning;

and tell us to remember

the shoah, the calamity,

and say never again!


Yellow Star


I know little of

being a Jewó

havenít studied

the Talmud and

donít acknowledge


but Iím herded

with the others

and know by

the yellow star

that I am a Jew.





The bodies of the old ones

exhumed and pillaged

cast upon pyres

their existence

reduced to ashesÖ

and those of now

buried at all the Babi Yars

raised from graves

cast upon burning towers

reduced to ashes Ö

and the mass of humanity

gassed to end their lives

their bodies plundered

shoved into ovens

reduced to ashes Ö

yet from the ashes

smoke rises to anoint

those with the memories

urging them to live

and tell their children

of the Shoah

to know and remember

so they can swear

upon the ashes

that it shall not happen again,

never again, never again.


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