Eulogy to the Holocaust | The Last Prayer | A Family Tree By Numbers

A Family Tree
By Numbers
by Ruth Mandel

    If the concentration camps had been liberated in 1943 or 1944
    I could have done my family tree
    by numbers.
    Now only one such branch, Auschwitz-Birkenau 6 4 1 8 9,
    (my great aunt Erna)
    still smoulders from the brand
    against unwilling skin.

    My uncle Henryk is the child
    neighbours promised to protect.
    They threw him onto the street,
    denounced him at the age of nine,
    they kicked him and kicked him.
    And I am told that my grandmother
    knew in a dream from her hiding place
    that he was made to bleed to death slowly
    on the street.

    My grandmother Henia finds her grave
    softer now
    on the branch that is my middle name.
    And same too
    my great grandmother Ruth
    about whom I can know almost nothing.

    My father Roman (Raymond now),
    a small child then,
    receives reparations payments from the German government.
    In spite of his fear, he has grafted
    three children to absent bark.
    In spite of the flames stalking him,
    searing his offspring,
    transferring the genetically coded

    that who I am
    must never be selected (that word)
    not for one split second
    not ever
    not on my life

    That if ever I am only a Jew to a Nazi
    only a woman to a man
    only a soldier to an army
    only an obstacle to a bullet

    If ever I am only
    a number of a name

    Then surely
                   I am
                   on fire