Auschwitz – a Poem

Evi Gemmon Ketterer wrote these lines after her Bearing Witness retreat in Auschwitz Birkenau with the Zen Peacemakers in 2013. It was published later in the book „Pearls of Ash and Awe“. The book includes some testimonies and reflections from other retreat participants and gives some background. This is in appreciation of the 20 years of Bearing Witness in Auschwitz with Bernie Glassman and Zen Peacemakers.

Auschwitz – a Place of Cruelty and Hope

by Evi Gemmon Ketterer

In 1942

none had the vision

that in the gas chamber at Auschwitz

a German Zen Buddhist woman

would take an American male Rabbi

in her arms

till he stops crying and comes back to life.

In 1944

none had the vision

that an American male Rabbi

and a German Zen Buddhist woman

would sit behind the fence together

both sobbing and bearing witness

to those inside the fence

exposed to the new victims arriving

seen as prisoners while they knew the destiny

of those walking on the road of death.

In 1945

none had the vision

that an American male Rabbi

would comfort a German Zen Buddhist Woman

in her heartbreak about those liberated

who had to find a way back to life

by telling her stories of his family history

and their mastery of survival.

In 2013

it happend.

Let´s not deny the evil and cruelty of this place

nor the good and love that arises here.

We would deny humanity.


More about Evi Gemmon Ketterer see on her website:

The book “Pearls of Ash & Awe” is published by Edition Steinrich

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