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Indie Groundbreaking Book: Marking Humanity

Healing Stories, Poems & Essays by Holocaust Survivors
Who are the survivors of the Holocaust? They are people just like you — with hearts, minds, families, and dreams—who got caught in a torrent of hatred and discrimination that Germany’s Nazi regime instigated between 1933 and 1945. They experienced some of the worst atrocities known to mankind during one of the darkest periods in history.

A stirring new book, Marking Humanity: Stories, Poems & Essays by Holocaust Survivors, features the writings of 46 survivors who’ve rebuilt their lives in the United States, Canada, Israel, Australia, England, and Germany. They remained resilient and refused to be silenced – and through this collection they reveal the depths of what came through -- as they sought to make sense of the chaos that ensued as they went on to rediscover their places on the globe.

Shlomit Kriger decided to produce the anthology after meeting holocaust survivor George Scott, who’d written numerous poems about his experience, but hadn’t had any of them published. “While I felt that it was essential to provide the Holocaust survivors the chance to be heard and share their writings with others, I also hoped that they would possibly achieve some level of release and healing through the creative process."

Here is George Scott's poem,

Auschwitz 1944

Not close enough for warmth
The lusty flames
In the crematorium's busy chimney
Rise and fall

Indifferent lies
The barbed wire's shadow
On the frozen ground

Very this is the line
Between being and not being

The night is emptied
"Knowing that the survivors are aging, I wanted to make sure I could spread the word to survivors around the world when I was collecting submissions for the book, and I knew I had to do it now. I also devoted my full time to work on the book so that I could get it out sooner. I wanted to make sure that the survivors' words lived on and could educate and inspire generations to come. Sadly, two of the survivors passed away shortly after they gave the final approval for their pieces to be used in the book."

Here's another poem, by Miriam Spiegel Raskin:

Hilda Prays at Birkenau

I'd die a thousand deaths for you, dear God.

I am twenty and quite fair enough
to look at, but that's no help to me
while I am being thrashed.

They strap my fragile body to a chair;
my head hangs almost to the floor,
the cold and black cement floor.

I'd die a thousand deaths for you, dear God,
I'd die a thousand deaths.

I hear the whooshing sound of the leather
belt before it hits my naked bony back
and coils itself against my skin.

Tight, tight, I grasp the chair's thin legs
and squeeze my nails into the wood.
Oh let the lashes come; I will not scream.

I'd die a thousand deaths for you, dear God,
I'd die a thousand deaths.

Thank God, there's no metal buckle
on the belt now swishing through the air;
far better if no buckle slices my skin.

I count my black leather boots around the chair,
clench my teeth, and bite my tongue as lashes
slash and tear into my skin.

I'd die a thousand deaths for you, dear God,
I'd die a thousand deaths -- but first give me the strength to last this out.

My teeth are clenched. "Come, come, Jew whore,"
he shouts in rhythm with the blows.
"Let's see how smart your mouth is now."

"Ja. Ja, Herr Kommandant." I whisper it,
as respectfully as I can. I don't want him angry.
Just a few more lashes and he's done.

I'd die a thousand deaths for you, dear God.

I will not let him know my pain, dear God,
I will survive it.

"Get out of here, you scum,
before I kill you!" he shouts.

As I raise my racked, torn body
and weakly turn to take my leave, he asks,
"Where is your Jewish God now,
mein Fraulein?"

The fool doesn't see my God is with me, saving me again.
Blessed are you, God, who has allowed me to live,
although I would gladly die a thousand deaths for you.

Ms. Kriger had previously discovered the healing power of writing when she coordinated the 6th Annual Creative Writing Contest for the Homeless in Toronto in 2005. “One of the winners decided to hold on to his money so he could pay his ex-wife for rent and buy food. He also checked into a recovery house for a 28-day alcohol and drug treatment program. The grand prize winner had stayed at various homeless shelters, battled a drug addiction, and wrote about her previous experiences working as a prostitute. Today she is studying social work, raising her three-year-old son, living in subsidized housing, giving lectures about her former experiences, and continuing to hone her passion for creative writing.”

The Holocaust touched all of humanity. Along with six million Jews, millions of men, women, and children of other backgrounds and religions were also murdered. Ms. Kriger urges readers to consider what makes anyone worthy of such treatment and then look beyond the Holocaust to the various acts of discrimination and violence that have occurred across the globe since that time.

“This is a wake-up call for people to create positive shifts in themselves and the world around them,” she says, “so that future generations can discover the true meaning of ‘Never Again.’

“The Nazi regime in power during the Holocaust marked humanity in all kinds of negative ways, including separating people into stereotypical groups and putting number tattoos on camp prisoners’ arms in order to further dehumanize them and literally turn them into mere statistics. But in today’s era, we believe in and strive to create a world in which every individual can enjoy basic human rights. Let’s show those who chose to hate, as well as those who still do, that their words and actions no longer have a place in our reality."

* * * * *

Marking Humanity: Stories, Poems, & Essays by Holocaust Survivors
Edited by Shlomit Kriger
Soul Inscriptions Press, Thornhill, ON, Canada
312 page paperback; $27.99 (July 2010)
ISBN: 978-0-9864770-0-3

Toronto-based freelance writer and editor Shlomit Kriger specializes in covering dynamic and inspiring people and ventures for diverse news outlets and organizations. She recently earned a certificate in the Foundations of Expressive Arts Therapy and continues to explore how the arts can be used to help people express themselves, become empowered, and heal.