Dachau Concentration Camp Survivor
"...he noted - with some surprise at first -
that strangers could not tell he had died once."
by John Ciardi
In 1945, when the keepers cried kaput
Josef Stein, poet, came out of Dachau
Like half a resurrection, his other half
eighty pounds still in their invisible grave.
Slowly then the mouth opened at first
a broth, and then a medication, and then
a diet, and all in time and the knitting mercies,
the showing bones were buried back in flesh,
and the miracle was finished. Josef Stein
man and poet, rose, walked, and could even
beget, and did, and later died of other causes
only partly traceable to his first death.
He noted - with some surprise at first -
that strangers could not tell he had died once.
He returned to his post in the library, drank his beer,
published three poems in a French magazine,
and was very kind to the son who at last was his.
In the spent of one night he wrote three propositions:
That Hell is the denial of the ordinary. That nothing lasts.
That clean white paper waiting under a pen
is the gift beyond history and hurt and heaven.
In the following passage from Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor
Frankl contemplates the miracles of freedom after having endured
for so long and eventually survived the Auschwitz-Birkenau and Dachau
a few days after the liberation, I walked through the country
past flowering meadows, for miles and miles, toward the market
town near the camp. Larks rose to the sky and I could hear their
joyous song. There was no one to be seen for miles around; there
was nothing but the wide earth and sky and the larks' jubilation
and the freedom of space. I stopped, looked around, and up to
the sky - and then I went down on my knees. At that moment there
was very little I knew of myself or of the world - I had but
one sentence in my mind - always the same: "I called to the Lord
from my narrow prison and He answered me the in freedom of space."
How long I knelt there and repeated
this sentence memory can no longer recall. But I know that
on that day, in that hour, my new life started. Step for
step I progressed, until I again became a human being."