Not April, but November is my cruelest month

when bitter winds begin to blow tattered leaves,

looking like worried mice scurrying for shelter

across black macadam streets.

In 1938 swastikas desocrated my Hebrew School .

Young members of the German-American Bund

hunting for Jews after school, chased me home. 

November reminds me of burning books

and shattered glass, precursor of  burning bodies:

fires raged, rising smoke choked sobbing angels

whose pleadings failed to move an indifferent deity

when the SS attacked the “untermenschen”

unleashing howling wolves with swastika eyes.

Beards were pulled, old men pummeled, a bayoneted

baby hoisted in the air, trophy for the Fatherland.

Families traded all they owned to huddle in safe places

playing hide and seek with storm troopers, where

getting caught would prove most lethal.

Ordinary citizens turned a blind eye in Bucharest

when human carcasses were hung on meat hooks

instead of Angus sides of beef, hapless victims

corralled in simulated camp showers hoping work

would make them free; good Germans thought

gassing Jews would surely bring prosperity.

In the good old U S of A  Henry Ford

And Charlie Lindbergh applauded Katie Smith

who kept singing “God Bless America .”

The honorable Father Coughlin spewed Sunday

morning radio sermons as venomous as a rattler’s

two front teeth. As the thin veneer of civilization

was ripped asunder it made the millennium assaults

of Huns, Goths, Vikings and Mongols look like

Tom and Jerry cat and mouse cartoons.

Russians helped round up neighbors for machine-gun

tailgate parties; forced to dig their own graves

at Babi Yar, inspiring Yevtushenko to write:

“Nothing in me shall ever forget.”

Now human bombs with Islamic faces

reach for heaven exploding themselves

in crowds of “infidels.” Five thousand years of efforts

to destroy the Jewish people have yet to succeed,

but enemies, both old and new keep trying.


Milton Ehrlich