Halina Birenbaum

of a

she was waiting there

she was waiting there for me at the end of the road

knowing well that I will be back one of these days

feeling again with all my senses

my ever young and beautiful Mother

she was waiting there near the road to Majdanek

across from the barrack called: "Desinfection"

- at the crematorium's oven door

and I came back from afar after forty years

in spite of her death she was still standing there

just like than, on that separation day:

not too tall, black-haired

one long curl dangling over her forehead

rosy complexioned, wide-eyed from exhaustion

her teeth white as pearls

which were showing the most wonderful smile

Mother's smile

attempting to reassure her child

at the gas chamber's gate...

a plaid broad coat was covering her frame

she wrapped my small body in it

trying to calm me down at that last moment

with a ray of consolation and a human word

in this place where there was only one exit:

as a chimney smoke!

I have arrived here again as a grown woman

from a different land far away

but at the same time still the same little girl of those days

loved and cared by her Mother

now entering the gravel path

I have felt her presence

I started to run toward her breathlessly

when suddenly - I have stopped

insane from helplessness and from hurting

understanding and knowing clearly

that I will never have her again

because they took her from me forever!

Majdanek, now a sleepy deadly kingdom

we came together than

now I am standing here alone

still touching and hugging her in my thoughts

drowning my horrible heartache in my tears

small and helpless just like then

across from the crematorium and the gas chamber

extinguished for me much too late

free now, but as helpless...

I have dropped to the ground where I was standing

burying my head in my hands

crying aloud uncontrollably

lamenting my great loss - without shame

trying to hug the shadow of my beloved Mother

holding with all my might the illusion

wanting to take it home with me overseas

even though I would rather stay here with my tears

I don't remember how I managed to get back

while she was left there alone

in that deadly stillness

I felt completely numb

my body was shaking with convulsive sobbs

when a museum worker passed me by asking:

"Tell me, who was killed here that you are despairing so?"

and not getting a reply - he left

he was speaking to me in a language of the living

but I was still with my Mother's vision

her shadow in a vacuum

mourning her death here, in Majdanek

- and maybe also my own

August 30, 1986



My Israel
















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