My Polish father spent five years in the German concentration camp system. He was captured by the Germans in fall of 1940 and finally liberated by the Americans in spring of 1945.
During those five years, he saw men crucified and hung, castrated and frozen to death, women raped and beaten and shot, their breasts torn apart by bayonets, their babies thrown and scattered in the air like sand.
He never thought he would be free.
He thought he would be a slave until he died.
And then the war ended. This is a poem about that. It's from my book about my parents, Echoes of Tattered Tongues.
IN THE SPRING THE WAR ENDED
For a long time the war wasn't in the camps.
My father worked in the fields and listened
to the wind moving the grain, or a guard
shouting a command far off, or a man dying.
But in the fall, my father heard the rumbling
whisper of American planes, so high, like
angels, cutting through the sky, a thunder
even God in Heaven would have to listen to.
At last, one day he knew the war was there.
In the door of the barracks stood a soldier,
an American, short like a boy and frightened,
and my father marveled at the miracle of his youth
and took his hands and embraced him and told him
he loved him and his mother and father,
and he would pray for all his children
and even forgive him the sin of taking so long.
There are no photos of my dad in the camps, but this is a photo of him after the war when he was a refugee for 6 years waiting for some country to say "come on over."
He's the fellow in the cap with his hands on his knees. The other fellows are guys who survived Buchenwald with him.