Karen Gershon--German

    
Karen Gershon
(1921-1993)

 

Kaethe Loewenthal, later changing her name to Karen Gershon was born in 1923 in Bielefeld, Germany. When Hitler came into power her parents sent her to England for safety. There she became a chronicler of the Kindertransport (Children’s Transportation) program recording the story of young Germans who were escaping the Nazi between 1938 and 1939. During this time she began writing poetry. Both of Gershon’s parents died in the Holocaust and consequently much of her poetry expresses the guilt of being a survivor. Three of her most important works are We came as Children, the story of the Kindertransport, Postscript, a collection of stories of Jews living outside their homeland, Germany Since the Second War and her autobiographical novel, The Bread of Exile. Gershon lived her final years in Israel. She died in 1993.

 

To My Children

 

Others may pity me but you shall not be ashamed
how can I scorn the life which is all I have
I will not belittle the little that I have saved
by denying my childhood memories my love

How can I wish to undo the past which I am
though I beggared myself I would not become another
"the appalling Jewish experience" is my own
"the unknown victims" are my father and mother
 
Be proud of the beginning you have in me
be proud of how far I have wandered with this burden
I would value you less if I were not a refugee
your presence changes my wilderness to a garden
 

 

Cast Out

Sometimes I think it would have been
easier for me to die
together with my parents than
to have been surrendered by
them to survive alone
 
Sometimes it does not seem that they
spared me the hardest Jewish fate
since by sending me away
they burdened me and cast me out
and none suggested I should stay
 
When the Jews were branded there
was one number meant for me
that another had to bear
my perennial agony
is the brunt of my despair
 
Sometimes I feel I am a ghost
adrift without identity
what as a child I valued most
for ever has escaped from me
I have been cast out and am lost