The German Riveter: GRAFENECK by Werner Dürrson, translated by Jean Boase-Beier, from POETRY OF THE HOLOCAUST, edited by Jean Boase-Beier & Marian de Vooght (Arc Publications, 2019)

 Reaching upwards limes horse-chestnuts
airy avenue
the sky pristine blue
unhindered view to hilly distances
   I see you see
the Spring is mild
 No fluttering tape in the wind no
breath nothing rises from the meadows
I ask you ask who
carted the souls up there
ten thousand times delivered bread
to worthless eaters they
don’t starve for long
  I feel you feel
the Spring is soft
 Upwards through limes horse-chestnuts the
smoke plume high who turned
the tap on stoked the fire
threw them in who washed
their hands with soap it
did not scream did not foam
   sleep lovely sleep
ten thousand times you see
the Spring is blind
 I ask you ask no-one knows
black fluttering in the wind the
sky greyer than grey who
shoved the slack to one side
swept the ashes into a pile who
dug the ditch sowed the grass
 I hear you hear the witnesses
do not talk
the Spring is sly
 Closely drawn in the rows
limes horse-chestnuts lovely avenue
the sky pristine clear
no fluttering tape in the wind no
hair solid green nothing
rises from the meadows
 the birds twitter
the Spring is blue

By Werner Dürrson

Translated by Jean Boase-Beier

Read The German Riveter in its entirety here.

Find the books from The German Riveter on the Goethe-Institut page.


Werner Dürrson was born in 1932 and died in 2008. Here he writes about the fate of the 10,654 people with disabilities, brought to Grafeneck Castle in Baden-Württemberg in 1940 from care institutions in the south-west of Germany and murdered in a newly built gas chamber. This was the first location of the Euthanasia programme.


Jean Boase-Beier is Professor Emerita of Literature and Translation at the University of East Anglia, where she founded the MA in Literary Translation in 1992 and ran it until 2015. She is also Translations Editor for Arc Publications.

Category: November 2019 - The German RiveterThe RiveterTranslations

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