Birds of Auschwitz

Photo: Holocaust Memorial Trust

Yesterday, January 27th,  was Hololocaust  Memorial Day (HMD).
This year it took the theme of, ‘Light the Darkness against prejudice and hatred’.

On the morning of Holocaust Memorial Day, 27 January, Dame Joanna Lumley handed out commemorative HMD candles to commuters and passers-by in Central London. She was joined by Joan Salter MBE, a child survivor of the Holocaust, and Martin Stern MBE, a survivor of the Holocaust, and Antoinette Mutabazi, a survivor of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
Dame Joanna invited people to light the candles and place them safely at 4pm that day for the Light the Darkness national moment.
Dame Joanna commented:

It is a real privilege to be able to mark Holocaust Memorial Day by being here in central London with survivors of genocide. I hope that by handing out these candles and inviting people to light them at 4pm this evening, we can provide people with an opportunity to remember those who were murdered for being who they were, and to reflect on ways that they can challenge hatred and prejudice today.

At 4pm on 27 January, people across the UK took part in the Light the Darkness national moment, lighting candles in their windows to remember those who were murdered for who they were and to stand against prejudice and hatred today. Social media was flooded with photos of candles as people joined the online conversation about Light the Darkness.

Whether a myth or a truth, it is said that because of the Holocaust, birds do not fly over Auschwitz and other death camps. I wrote the poem below inspired by this as a tribute to the thousands of victims of the so-called Final Solution and out of respect for the victims of ‘prejudice and hatred’ from the Jewish people, Gay and Romany people.

Birds of Auschwitz

This is a place where the voice of song is silent.
A place for remembrance,
and numbness of feeling.
To feel would be to break apart.
The ground, though watered with myriad tears,
is cracked open and dry.

Some say that the birds don’t sing here.
How can we?
How can we sing joyfully,
in this place of deep terror and pain,
of total hatred and barbaric torture?

Long ago, in those satanic days,
we took council together;
high in the trees where the acrid smoke
spewing from chimneys did not choke our lungs
and the roasting stench of death could not singe our feathers.
Hidden deep in the branches and leaves,
our eyes could no longer see
the piles of discarded humanity tossed aside.
The birds of prey were not our species,
but belonged to man.

We decided then
that here and in places like this,
our voices would be still.

Our gift to those who had themselves been silenced.
Our memorial.
Our act of remembrance.

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