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The Last Jew In Stolin

by Sara Salzman

He holds the shovel with infinite patience

chink chink chink
as dry earth and tiny stones fall upon bones, bleached by time.

His body davens to the sound of Kaddish

chink chink
yisgadal v¹yiskadash

They watch from the edge of the pit.
A ripple passes through the crowd,
each smooth naked body bends slightly at the waist
davens in time with the shovel.

Chink chink
Yisborach v¹yishtabach v¹yispo¹ar v¹yisromam v¹yisnaseh v¹yis-hador

Chink chink
one by one they fade from view
until no bones are seen no bodies stare from the edge
only grass and dirt and stone.

He bows. Turns.
Walks back to town.

Through the woods, slowly pacing his steps.

Chashka.
Velvul.
Avram.
Sara.

To the edge of the woods, the edge of town.

Leah.
Yosef.
Channa.
Yankel.

Past the wood framed houses.

Shlemka.
Mindel.
Reb Ariyah
and the babies.

And in the town,
the wagons pass,
the peddlers cry.

A stone obelisk points to the sky.
Empty dates. No names.

Human feces at the base of the stone.

NOTE: In 1942, the Jews of Stolin, Poland, were rounded up by the Nazis and forced, naked and shivering, to dig a pit 11 miles from town. They were then shot, their bodies buried by the Nazis in the pit. In 1945, Russian soldiers liberating Poland, dug up the bodies, searching for Jewish gold. The bodies were not reburied. Since then, the sole surviving Jew in Stolin, now in his 80s, walks every morning to the pit to cover up bones exposed by the elements, and walks back home. His journey lasts the entire day.


Did You Know?

Mania Altman
Lelka Birnbaum
Alexander Hornemann
Jacqueline Morgenstern
Lea Klygermann

These are the names of five children. Five out of twenty who were hanged in the cellar of a school from hooks on the wall. The first child to be strung up was so light - due to disease and malnutrition - that the rope wouldn't strangle him. The SS-corporal had to use all of his own weight to tighten the noose. Then he hanged the others, two at a time, from different hooks. "Like pictures on the wall" he would recall later.

Five children, each a reminder of the evil efficiency of the Holocaust. It takes 15 seconds to read their names. Reading the names of all the victims - for eight hours a day, seven days a week - would take three years and seven months.

Three years and seven months - that is also the period that elapsed from the first gas chamber in Chelmno to the release of the last survivor. The time that it took to kill eleven million Jews, homosexuals, Romanies, Jehova's Witnesses, disabled persons or dissidents is equivalent to the time it would take to read their names.

Five children, each one a reminder of the unspeakable brutality of the past. Before they died, they were used as human guinea-pigs in medical experiments at the Neuengamme concentration camp. Tuberculosis bacteria were applied directly to their lungs. Their lymph glands were removed. They were carefully observed, examined and photographed as the disease progressed.

Five children, each also a reminder of how close the naked ideology of violence looms. Not one of the children was older than twelve. Had they survived another two weeks, they would have been liberated by the German capitulation. Tomorrow they would have been able to celebrate that day - all of them still younger than 65.

The grief, the anger, the despair that we feel must not lead to dejection. The knowledge of what happened must lead to a resolve never to let such a thing happen again.

--Goeran Perrson, Prime Minister of Sweden
Speech given at the Stockholm meeting
"Tell ye your children...", May 7 1998

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