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                          Resurrection of Jews in Germany

 

                                We are coming back.

                                Not for revenge.

                                Not for your sake.

                                Not even to prove something to God.

                                But because life demands it.

                                We do it reluctantly.

                                Yet we know our resistance

                                Will have to yield.

                                Our children already want to know

                                Why we fled our homeland,

                                And now try to extract justice

                                From Arabs who weren’t even there.

                                They want to know

                                Where we lost

                                This God we speak of.

                                We want honest children,

                                And must admit

                                We have a hole in our hearts.

                                Back then we had to flee or die.

                                But now?

                                Excuse us, we want to pray here,

                                On German soil,

                                Where the souls of our loved ones

                                Still can’t find any rest in the ground.

                                We know that your sleep

                                Is just as disturbed as ours,

                                And that you flee your own homeland

                                To healing spas around the globe,

                                That you aren’t sure if foreigners

                                Are welcome in your country,

                                Perhaps because you suspect

                                You might no longer be welcome yourself,

                                That you can’t answer

                                Your children’s questions either.

                                Tell us, was it out of jealousy

                                That our loved ones were murdered?

                                Was the Thousand-Year Reich

                                And its One People

                                Jealous references to us,

                                Since Germany struggled for mere decades

                                To hang together,

                                While we did it for millennia

                                Using only books?

                                Did you gas us because

                                You yourselves were gassed in trenches

                                And then couldn’t fight back?

                                Your thinkers now debate whether

                                Only European culture has come of age,

                                Ours about whether God still chooses us.

                                But are any of us talking to each other?

                                Our rabbis have tried for a whole generation

                                Never to forget,

                                But what stuck in memory

                                Was death

                                Which we still stare at without breathing.

                                To really breathe again will require living pain.

                                It will require that we no longer

                                Die witnessing,

                                But live fully and long.

                                That is what it says in our book:  choose life.

                                In your book it says:

                                Love your neighbor as yourself.

                                We are still your neighbors.

                                Imagine:  after a long absence,

                                We, your neighbors, begin to return.

                                Soon we’ll move in next door,

                                And we'll stand around making noise in the streets.

                                Soon we’ll be joking with German officials.

                                We’ll sit at the tables for regular guests

                                And marry your children.

                                German houses and land

                                Will come back into our hands.

                                We’ll be citizens again!

                                The empty memorial synagogues will begin to fill.

                                Is this a nightmare?  No.

                                The whole world fears a recurrence,

                                But it is the fear that repeats itself.

                                The times are new.

                                We Jews will return to Germany.

                                No, not suddenly tomorrow all of us at the border.

                                Not next year either.

                                It will happen more gradually,

                                Here and there at first,

                                And then with gathering strength,

                                Like everything that grows.

                                You’ll see.

by Erik Bendix

 

This poem was written in 1989, originally in German, and then translated by the author into this version in English.  It was published in German as a frontispiece in Bert Hellinger's Rachel Weint Um Ihre Kinder: Familien-Stellen mit Opfern des Holocaust in Israel (Verlag Herder Freiburg im Breisgau 2004), and again in translation in Rachel Weeping for Her Children: Family Constellations in Israel (2003, Carl-Auer-Systeme Verlag Heidelberg/Phoenix AZ).                
             

photo:  Erik Bendix standing in front of the Jewish high school
(the Marks Haindorf Schule in Münster, Germany) that his grandfather
Ludwig attended in the early 1890s.  Ludwig Bendix survived the
Dachau concentration camp and lived to know Erik as an infant.
Erik Bendix's poetry     
Erik Bendix's biography     
Rainer Maria Rilke's poetry      
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