For Pavel and Six Million

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For Pavel and Six Million

He saw the last, one butterfly,
a flutter of gold, gone
like hope. Here it died, and blue sky
was a tale—once upon,
the end.

Yet still, his soul demanded write–
witness, record despair,
the whys
and soul-sighs, but also brief light
a flash in ash-filled air–

For dVerse, a very difficult form called the memento. You can read about it here. Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and I felt I needed to mark it, especially now as authoritarian regimes are rising–and there are people in the US government who support them. There is a famous poem “The Butterfly” written by Pavel Friedman in Terezin. He was a young man born in Prague, January 7, 1921, and murdered in Auschwitz on September 29, 1944.

All my grandparents immigrated to the US from Belarus and Ukraine before WWI. I know my mother’s father had half-sisters in what became the USSR. They survived WWII (he didn’t know till afterwards). They immigrated to Israel in 1990.

71 thoughts on “For Pavel and Six Million

  1. This is beautifully done, Merril. A most difficult “holiday” to write about and you captured Pavel’s poem so well.
    It’s amazing how two such different translations were done.

  2. Thank you for this, Merril. Not too long ago, I finished listening to Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder. The history of Belarus and Ukraine and so many of those countries treated like sandboxes by Stalin and Hitler is devastating. Their history deepens the horror of the Holocaust. That horror was unimaginable and yet 💔

  3. Very beautiful and captures the horrific tragedy in such a few words and focus on one viewpoint. It brought to mind also the book by children of the Holocaust: I Never Saw Another Butterfly.

  4. Nice verses, Merrill. Literally they read well, my mind jumped in your first verse to the Butterflies abandoned in glass jars by children. Thank you for linking to the Butterfly poem, will check it out. I knew a young lady back when I was single, Jewish, she went to live in Isarael back in the early 70’s. We haven’t communicated since she left, her aunt kept me posted for a while.
    I haven’t done a DNA check but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Jewish showed up, Austrian/German (Habsburg), an ancestor was disowned because he married “out of favor”. There was some reparation involved but my mom wouldn’t take any of their proffered money.

  5. Amazing writing, Merril. A wonderful “write–
    witness, record despair” tribute.
    Yes, the uglies are mushrooming, again.
    It blows my mind how history repeats. Lessons are learned, and forgotten.
    I’m also aware that Ukraine is in massive crisis, which extends to all of Europe, and to the world in general.
    China is advancing its wants in the South Pacific.
    Sounds like a different version of the conditions leading to WWII.

    Hey… look how easily your words got me to dig.
    Thank you for your poem!

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