‘Ye are my witnesses’ Isaiah 43:10

Tishrei 5, 5702 (1942 C.E.)  Visiting the Holocaust Museum 2001

‘Today no Jews live in Eishyshok’.
A village empty and broken.
Half burnt doors open and close in the wind and smoke.
Opening in and closing out.

Once the streets and homes were full of Jews who were,
Who were alive,
And walked the mud and cobbled streets,
Whose synagogues sung to the stars and fields and forest pines
Songs of wonder and deliverance in the night.

O would that they were alive again:
Bearded men, women, mothers, fathers, children,
Tradesmen, students, rabbis–
All of Israel’s ancient race.

Search the bloodied streets,
The synagogues that smolder.
Their ashen ruins,
Their burned bones mixed among the embered timbers and blackened bricks.
All is incinerated.
No remnant remains.
No one, old or young,
Not one Jew is left.
All are dead.
All shot without or burned within the locked gates of the House of God.

There are no witnesses save the men who killed them and the stars and God.

O cry conscience!
Wail with the wind,
Weep before the starry angelic host and God Almighty.

Repent before they judge and sift you.
For they will.
They will find you out,
Lay upon the judgement seat all your crimes and cruelties.

You thought the emptied and wasted village
With its tongue and eyes ripped out
Would never speak or see again.
But you were wrong.
They speak in you in your inner part.

O cry conscience!
Wail with the birds,
The black birds that wait and watch,
Perched between earth and heaven on the charred roofless walls.

You thought your SS killing squads
Would strut and storm through the pale of Jewry,
Far from the eyes of men and God,
Killing them where they lived,
Without the tedious bother of trains and camps and ovens.

But you were wrong.
And now thronged without
And thronged within with voices.

O cry conscience!
Wail with the wind.
Speak to the men who killed them
While there is still mercy.

O you murderers!
Let your inner part come to agreement with the stars and God
If you would find the mercy you showed not at Eishyshok.

I know that even now He will pardon you,
Even yet for all your stupid inhumanity:
The Night of Crystals, Treblinka, for Warsaw, Auschwitz, for Eishyshok,
For them and all your other hideous stains.

‘Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord:
Though your sins be as scarlet’,
Black as the good men’s lives you made soot under your boots,
I will wash them whiter than snow.

Run while there is still time to the altar and the Lamb.
Let His blood purify,
Separate what is left of man from demon.
And, if not, destroy O righteous Judge.

Hasten the fires of the Second Death.
Rid the New Earth of those who chose death instead of life
That day in Eishyshok.

Elliott Tepper