Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Adolf Hitler's Suicide Day, April 30: A Poem

66 years ago today, Adolf Hitler committed suicide. Some historians say he killed himself with a cyanide capsule, others say he shot himself first.


My mother didn't know how he killed himself, and she didn't much care. She was happy that he did it.

She had never met him, but she had felt his fist across her face, his whip across her back. She was taken to Germany as a slave laborer after watching her mother, her sister Genja, and Genja's baby daughter murdered. My mom's sister Sophie was raped too. My mom escaped by jumping through the window and escaping into a forest. The Nazis caught her pretty soon after that.

My mother didn't talk much about what happened to her and her family. When I was a kid, I thought her silence came from annoyance with my questions about the war. Later, I realized that she didn't talk about her experiences because she wanted to protect me from the terrible things that happened, even though I was a grown man and a teacher.

Here's a poem I wrote about what Hitler did to my mom and her family.

My Mother was 19

Soldiers from nowhere
came to my mom’s farm
killed her sister Genja’s baby
with their heels
shot her momma too

One time in the neck
then for kicks in the face
lots of times

They saw my Aunt Sophie
they didn’t care
she was a virgin
dressed in a blue dress
with tiny white flowers

They raped her
so she couldn’t stand up
couldn’t lie down
couldn’t talk

They broke her teeth
when they shoved
the blue dress
in her mouth

If they had a camera
they would’ve taken her picture
and sent it to her

That’s the kind they were

Let me tell you:
God doesn’t give
you any favors

He doesn’t say
now you’ve seen
this bad thing
and tomorrow you’ll see
this good thing
and when you see it
you’ll be smiling

That’s bullshit

__________________

The poem first appeared in the Chattahoochee Review.

The photo was taken by my wife Linda in 1979 or so. From left to right in the back row, it's my dad, my mom, my sister Donnna, her daughter Denise, and me. In the front row are my sister's daughters Kathie and Cheryl.

To read other poems about my mom, check out The Guzlowski Sampler, a site set up at Eastern Illinois University, where I taught.

4 comments:

Urkat said...

I hope we never see that level of brutality on a large scale again. To think that those soldiers had mothers and sisters and yet could treat women like that.

Ranjit Souri said...

Wow. Thank you for this entry and poem.

Charles Fishman said...

We have already seen that level of violence--again & again. The poem is strong & unsettling, as it should be. Thanks for posting it, John.

westwood said...

It's so hard to comment on poetry when knowing nothing about it, so I will just thank you for moving me.