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Szebnie
The Concentration Camp in South Poland

The memorial plaque in Szebnie
The memorial plaque in Szebnie
Source: pl.wikipedia.org

This poem was written by Wislawa Szymborska referring to the conditions in the concentration Camps in general, but in particular to the asse nice Camp, in the vicinity of Jaslo which was close to her hometown.

Starvation camp near Jasło

Write it. Write. In ordinary ink
on ordinary paper: they were given no food,
they all died of hunger. "All. How many?
It's a big meadow. How much grass
for each one?" Write: I don't know.
History counts its skeletons in round numbers.
A thousand and one remains a thousand,
as though the one had never existed:
an imaginary embryo, an empty cradle,
an ABC never read, 
air that laughs, cries, grows,
emptiness running down steps toward the garden,
nobody's place in the line.

We stand in the meadow where it became flesh,
and the meadow is silent as a false witness.
Sunny. Green. Nearby, a forest
with wood for chewing and water under the bark-
every day a full ration of the view
until you go blind. Overhead, a bird-
the shadow of its life-giving wings
brushed their lips. Their jaws opened.
Teeth clacked against teeth.
At night, the sickle moon shone in the sky
and reaped wheat for their bread.
Hands came floating from blackened icons,
empty cups in their fingers.
On a spit of barbed wire,
a man was turning.
They sang with their mouths full of earth.
"A lovely song of how war strikes straight
at the heart." Write: how silent.
"Yes."

Szebnie, after being a POW camp, was established as a concentration camp in spring 1943. Jews were taken there from the liquidated ghettos in Poland. In autumn 1943 there were about 5,000 prisoners interned, their number gradually rose to 10,000. The Jews were separated from the other prisoners in a special section. Many of them were killed by shooting in the nearby forest then. On November 5th, 1943, 2,800 Jews were deported to Auschwitz. The last Jews were transferred to Płaszów in spring 1944.

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