Gertrude Kolmar--German

Gertrude Kolmar
Gertrude Kolmar died in a German concentration camp in 1943. Born in 1894 she was a Jewish poet that wrote courageously during the war years. Her collection of letters, My Gaze is Turned Inward: Letters 1938-1943, proclaims the power of human will while a person is surrounded by oppression and the eventual sentence of death. Kolmar was able to produce a collection of poetry, Dark Soliloquy. during her imprisonment.




The murderers are loose! 

They search the world

All through the night,

oh God, all through the night!

To find the fire kindled in me now,

This child so like a light, so still and mild.  

They want to put it out.

Like pouring ink

Their shadows seep from angled walls;

Like scrawny cats they scuttle

Timidly across the footworn steps.  

And I am shackled to my bed

With grating chains all gnawed with rust

That weigh upon me, pitiless and strong.

And bite raw wounds into my helpless arms.  

The murderer has come! 

He wears a hat,

A broad-brimmed hat with towering pointed peak;

Upon his chin sprout tiny golden flames

That dance across my body; it is good…  

His huge nose sniffs about and stretches out

Into a tentacle that wriggles like a rope.

Out of his fingernails crawl yellow maggots,

Saffron seeds that sprinkle down on me  

Into my hair and eyes. 

The tentacle Gropes for my breasts, at rose-brown nipples,

And I see its white flesh twist into the blackness;

Something sinks upon me, sighs and presses—  

I can’t go on…I can’t…Oh let the blade strike down

Like a monstrous tooth that flashes from the sky!

Oh crush me! There, where blood-drops fly,

Can you hear it cry, can you hear it?  

“Mother!” Oh the stillness…

In my womb: the axe.

From either side of it break forks of flame.

They meet and fold together now:

My child. 

Of dark green bronze, so stern and grave. 


Translated by Henry A. Smith