Krystyna Żywulska’s Auschwitz Poems

Excusion into the Unknown


He who is able can easily read,
The writing that appears among the rye,
Yet they go peacefully in a long line,
Along the edge of forest, following stream’s course.

And they look around in silent rapture,
Wondering how to begin lives here,
Wondering, after years of pain and suffering,
How exactly here might come rebirth.

Suddenly through thicket they glimpsed the flame—
Tightened heart, despair, flashes of memories,
And a strange odor—Fear froze them in place,
They shuddered, terrified, and turned to stone.

Translation by Barbara Milewski

March of Freedom

Toward the end of 1944, Zywulska composed the parody song, ‘Marsz o Wolnosci’ (March of Freedom), borrowing the well-known Soviet tune ‘Moskva Mayskaya’ (Moscow in May) (music by Dmitriy and Daniel Pokrass, 1937). Also known as the ‘Parting March’, it was sung by prisoners including Zywulska during their forced evacuation from Birkenau.

Such a place exists on earth,
No fairytale or dream is this,
In which there occur — did you know? —
Many dreadful, macabre scenes.
Five chimneys send up smoke,
Like some kind of damned magic,
From inside spouts crimson blood,
An unimaginable, horrible fire.

So take off your striped clothes and kick off your clogs,
Your shaved head raise high!
Merrily return home this way,
With a joyful song on your lips!

‘Times you’ll recall your dear wooden bunk,
How everyone wanted to fight,
How you waged bloody battles,
To have a bath once a month.
And how you stood there during roll-call,
Choking on your tears,
The Lagerkapo and Gestapo
Will visit you in your dreams.


We’ve had enough ‘Zugangs’
That arrive here every day,
Enough of this ‘Lager-ruhe’
And the orchestra that for us plays.
Farewell, horrible Auschwitz
And savage Birkenau,
Through the empty barracks in winter
Only a plaintive wind will blow.


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