Bystanders, All

O, the baggage we must carry
When this century is done
‘Cause the one to come, will ferry
All the deeds undone, forgotten
From benign neglect and fear
To complicity begotten (and denied)

Somalia and Bosnia …Rwanda …the Kurds…
Words that bespeak the unspeakable
Ethnic cleansing? Genocide?
Widely spread? We must be mad!
Unthinkable? Impossible?
Ah, but Auschwitz made it thinkable!
Evil festered — you stood by!
You wouldn’t believe… you couldn’t believe…
You screamed in vain — you watched our pain…
Bystanders all!!!

You built a wall around your soul
You wrapped a soundproof shawl
Around your heart, to stand apart
With blinders ‘round your eyes
Your ears accepted only lies
Until your active mind (and you)
Were safely left behind!!!
But now you know. Oh, yes you know.
Because last night you really saw
The horrors on the tube…

How will you keep the truth at bay?
How can you face another day
Of standing by in mute neglect?
And what effect your silence bears
Upon all future devastation
Another group? Another nation?
Another unborn generation…
Yes, now you know… Don’t look away;
The past is now and here to stay!

The more you know — the more you flee;
The fig-tree doesn’t hide you well
‘Cause you created your own hell
To haunt us all —
Unless we dare
To care
About each other.

— Sonia Weitz, 1998

Sonia Weitz's identity card from the displaced-persons camp.

Sonia Schrieber Weitz’s identity card from the United Nation’s displaced-persons camp.

Holocaust survivor Sonia Schreiber Weitz was eleven years old when Germany invaded Poland. In 1941, her family was forced into the Kraków ghetto. From the ghetto, Sonia’s mother was sent to the Bełżec extermination camp, where she was murdered. In 1943, Sonia, her sister Blanca, and her father were sent to the Plaszów forced labor camp. Sonia and Blanca were then sent to Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Venusberg, and finally to the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. Sonia was 16 years old when U.S. troops liberated her and Blanca, together with 85,000 other prisoners, from Mauthausen in May 1945. Sonia and Blanca spent three years in a displaced-persons camp after the war, waiting for relatives to claim them, but no other family members survived.

[Research note: Sonia Weitz, 81; Holocaust survivor kept history alive]