A Poem about Then(?)

Comparisons between the Holocaust and contemporary issues are difficult to assess.

We maintain that the Shoah was unique in its purpose, scope, and cynical systematic organization. We argue that to label each injustice as a forerunner to a new genocidal move by evil people cheapens the memory of the 6 million and fails to recognize that complexity and nuance through which evil enters our world.

Yet we also maintain that the sacred pledge of “Never again” maintains its meaning only if we are willing to assess each act of injustice to determine whether it might be part of a systematic, strategic move against another group of people. We easily remember the end result of the Holocaust – the murder of 6 million Jews and another 5 million other people. But we want to remember also that the Holocaust did not arise ex nihilo (out of nothingness). It was a slow piling on of one injustice after another, one act after another to dehumanize the victims and desensitize the rest of the population.

A Poem about Then(?)
By Rabbi Paul Kipnes

They say it started slowly
One injustice at a time
They desensitized us quite deliberately
‘Til we became partners in their crime

They preyed upon our prejudice
Against those “outsiders” in our land
Whom they depicted as foreign parasites
In a conniving sleights of hand

They moved from the rapists and the criminals
To judges, the rule of law, and the independent press
Hammering upon our dissatisfaction
Until we also were ready to disposses

We ignored the times they slandered us
Because they flattered with such skill
We forgave the times they marginalized us
Because our brethren were part of it, still

We forgot that we were once like them
Hated immigrants, blackballed outsiders
We forget how much we suffered then
Because we’re now comfortable insiders

Are we discounting the values we professed,
Those messages we should amplify?
Take care of the children, they’re our future
Love the stranger, Don’t stand idly by

When we declared “Never again would we let it happen”
Was that just the killing or the xenophobic mindset too?
Was it the systematic undermining of morality?
Or just that they came for me… the Jew?

They say it started slowly
That the killing came much later
After the soil of our souls had been fertilized
By a master manipulator

Rabbi Paul Kipnes serves Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas, CA.

One reply on “A Poem about Then(?)”

Wow. This summarizes so much of what I am feeling. I haven’t felt this sad, angry, afraid since the night of the election.

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