Emotional Poems About The Holocaust: The poems included in the following list have been written from various perspectives, and they explain the tragedies and experiences of the affected ones during the Holocaust. These poems depict the guilt, fear, hope and memory of the ones who were lost and those who survived during this occurrence.
Students can also check the English Summary to revise with them during exam preparation.
List of 9 Poems About Holocaust
The famous Holocaust poems included in the list are:
- First They Came by Martin Neimöller
- Death Fugue by Paul Celan
- Do not stand at my grave and weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye
- Never shall I Forget by Elie Wiesel
- A Poor Christian Looks at the Ghetto by CzeławMiłosz
- The Survivor by Primo Levi
- The Butterfly by Pavel Friedmann
- Fear by Eva Picková
- September Song by Geoffrey Hill
First They Came by Martin Neimöller
This is the poetic form of a post-war confession by German Lutheran pastor Martin Neimöller. The themes of guilt, persecution and responsibility have been highlighted in this poem through the German confession. The poem portrays the cowardice of particular sections of the German population during the second world war as the Nazis were eradicating people from their own country.
The poet includes himself in that group when he was captivated and sent to Dachau by the Nazis. Later on, after the war, he became the German people’s voice demanding peace in the post-war scenario. This poem is a concession speech that he delivered in 1946 at the Confessing Church in Frankfurt.
Death Fugue by Paul Celan
Written in 1945, this poem was titled ‘Todesfuge’ in German, and Fugue is a type of musical composition where one or more voices occur simultaneously throughout the poem. This is a thirty-six long poem based on the camps and the Final Solution. This poem speaks of many emotions, mainly love, fear and pain.
Paul Celan, a prisoner himself, very beautifully portrays the emotions and experiences of the others as he has observed during the war. The poem depicts the love for a family member who was killed or captivated. It also metaphorically speaks of the fear of a commandant who apparently “plays with snakes” but dreads the war’s terror.
Lastly, the poem portrays the intense pain, misery and unwillingness of the captives to survive. This is a thirty-six long poem based on the camps and the Final Solution.
Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye
Although the poem’s background is not very clear, it is generally thought that this poem was written in 1932, before the darkest time of the Holocaust in Germany. This period is considered the era of growing antisemitism in Germany.
The poet speaks of death in a welcoming tone as she comforts people who will mourn her demise. She has seen death not just as an end to life but also as a beginning. She had taken inspiration from the life and hardship of a young Jewish woman, Margaret Schwarzkopf, who could not return to Germany to see her mother before she passed away.
Never Shall I Forget by Elie Wiesel
This poem is a part of Wiesel’s memoir ‘Night’, where he recounts his experience of the first night in a camp in Birkenau. The poet deflects from his general writing style and writes about this particular night’s experience, which has changed his life forever.
He has used multiple repetitions, seven times to be exact, to intensify the pictures of the smoke, the stillness and the silence. Of the lines, most important is: “Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes”. This reflects his trauma and experience of that night that has led to his transformation as a whole.
A Poor Christian Looks at the Ghetto by CzeławMiłosz
This is a famous poem by the Nobel Prize winner CzeławMiłosz where the poet depicts the condition of the Warsaw Ghetto after being demolished by the Germans. Particularly, the first two stanzas reflect the destruction of the ghetto, depicted with natural images implying a dark and complex history.
The speaker portrays the collapsed walls and roofs as the houses were burnt and only a leafless tree remains. The poem also speaks about ‘Patriarch’ as the ‘guardian mole’ finding its way between the corpses. The poem has been narrated through the experience of a survivor who is a ‘Jew of the New Testament’. He blames himself as he sees the heinous scene of corpses and the destructed Ghetto.
The Survivor by Primo Levi
Primo Levi, best known for his short stories collection, The Periodic Table, speaks about his experiences in the concentration camps and his survival. He was a part of the Italian resistance and was arrested along with the comrades and was sent to an internment camp.
The poet remembers his “companions’ faces” as they are darkened by uneasy sleepless nights and the fear of death. He expresses deep guilt over his own survival and mourns for lost who tried to find peace.
The Butterfly by Pavel Friedmann
Pavel Friedmann wrote this poem at the Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1942. The poet later died in Auschwitz in 1944. In the poem, he describes the “last” butterfly and its movements through the air. It symbolises life, freedom, and hope. The yellow colour of its wings is used as a contrast against the darkness.
The poet depicts the fear and terror of the new world that he has found himself in. Living in a ghetto in Nazi Germany, the speaker has seen his last butterfly, symbolising freedom loss. The poet finds darkness all around him.
Fear by Eva Picková
One of the lesser-known poems on this list, ‘Fear’, was written by Eva Picková, a twelve-year-old girl from Nymburk as she experiences the dreadful holocaust. She was deported to a Nazi concentration camp in 1942 and died in Auschwitz just over a year later.
The poet speaks about the impact of typhus on her community for the ones she cares for as she sees them suffering and dying around her. The poem reflects the terror and the fear that she regularly experiences in the detention camp.
In the third stanza, she considers whether it would be better to die than to continue on this way but quickly changes her mind decides that she, along with her friends and family, needs to make the world a better place. The poet reflects upon death, fear, family and requests God to save her loved ones.
September Song by Geoffrey Hill
‘September Song’ is a haunting poem written in the form of a sonnet and depicts a young child’s death, whose birth and death dates begin the poem. The poem does not have a rhyme theme or metrical pattern. Here the poet laments the loss, memory and terror that went around in Germany during the time of the Nazis.
The poet has used enough allusions and imageries like marching, military night, memory. The lines imply the difficulty of the poet who has faced all these events during the Holocaust.