We Debate the Use of the Term Concentration Camps As People Are Imprisoned and Children Die



Marc Chagall, The Cemetery Gates


Bitter-breasted men crush us

driving us on

in a repulsive show

of blood and sweat.

As storm sprays a blackened sky

and wind screams,

“Never again,”

we sing of if

and whisper when.


Screen Shot 2019-07-06 at 7.39.28 AM

Even the Oracle is appalled, but she still gave me “if.”

This week protesters in New York, Boston, and elsewhere were singing mir veln zey iberlebn  “We Will Outlive Them.”





28 thoughts on “We Debate the Use of the Term Concentration Camps As People Are Imprisoned and Children Die

  1. She really showed where her sympathies lie. I don’t understand this debate about concentration camps. Is it just ignorance about what the term actually means? Do the people who say it’s a terrible exaggeration know that the first concentration camps were set up by the British in South Africa, where they locked up Boer families to intimidate the men into surrender?

  2. “Bitter-breasted men”: oh, how true, how true. And this here as well, from memadtwo: “Despots love to focus on words instead of the reality of the actions behind them.” We should call these camps what they are, “crimes against humanity.” George Takei has written that when he and his family were placed in internment camps (twice), (1) he was never separated from his family; and (2) they were given toothpaste and soap. So what could we call these camps where people are caged in worse conditions than dogs at an animal shelter?
    Here I go again.
    Your poem is so moving, I can hear the Oracle screaming at us.

    • Thank you so much, Marie.
      I work on the book and read about horrible people and incidents, and then I hear the news. . . The Oracle is definitely screaming.
      Another thing that George Takei has said that stood out to me is that people still do not know about the internment of Japanese-Americans in WWII. Given our president, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by ignorance anymore, but still, I am.

      • So much of it seems like willful ignorance too: “if it didn’t happen to me, then it didn’t happen.” The rewriting of history textbooks doesn’t help either. I take solace in that my youngest nephew is a high school history teacher in South Carolina (transplanted from upstate NY). He’s also a Holocaust scholar, having been awarded over his career several scholarships and fellowships to study and teach about the Holocaust. He just recently came back from France where he and a group of Fellows attended the 200th anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles. Did I mention that I’m very proud of him? He is only one man but he’s in the position to influence so many young people.

      • You are right, Marie. And I see memes spreading fake history all the time. There are a lot historians on Twitter who are active. Your nephew sounds like a wonderful person and scholar. (My cousin’s cousin is also a Holocaust scholar.) My daughter does a big Holocaust unit with her eighth graders when they read The Diary of Anne Frank. She shows them interviews with survivors, etc.

  3. Pingback: The fight against anti-Semitism is also a fight for a democratic, value-based Europe | Marcus Ampe's Space

  4. I am as appalled as the Oracle and others. “Bitter-breasted men” describes them well. We should all be screaming with the wind. I don’t understand the battle over words when it should be a battle over terrible deeds. Well done, Merril.

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