Poets who wrote about the Holocaust composed in the tradition of Jeremiah, the author of the biblical book Lamentations. Indeed, the Holocaust itself, in terms of its destruction, fits the events of Tisha B’av, the day of mourning for the destruction of the two temples. Their stanzas are mournful, full of grief and woe, condemning the guilt of their contemporaries and either implicitly or explicitly referred to a higher ethical and moral law.
The poetry selected in this chapter may be found in the works listed and is reasonably available to the reader. The poets selected are those most often included in anthologies and are well known for writing on Holocaust themes. Some poets included here are also well-known writers such as Charlotte Delbo and Primo Levi. Other poets were also artists or musicians, like Hersh Glik, author of a rousing march, and Luba Krugman Gurdus, the painter. An attempt has been made to include well-known poets such as Czeslaw Milosz, Paul Celan, Nelly Sachs, and Abraham Sutzkever. Two of the poets were famous Protestant religious leaders from Germany, Pastor Martin Niemoller and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
In general, the poets tended to write short pieces, always free verse and often prose poetry, based on their experiences in prewar Germany as well as on their dealings with the Nazi regime in the ghetto and the concentration camp, on the death march, with partisans, in making an escape, and in hiding. Bertolt Brecht, who had to flee, was shocked at the Nazis’ mass burning of books by Jews and other intellectuals. Pastor