Poem on the Liberation of Buchenwald - English Translation

If you have any information about the author of this poem, please contact: Susan Perry Ferguson at sferguson1@nyc.rr.com

April 11, 1945

Buchenwald! It is in the dark, deep forest


Where the birds never dare exchange cries.


It’s the camp where the isolated Häftlings,


That the SS have taken as prisoners, rot away.


This is the forced labor camp where death provides,


At any moment,


Either its common grave, or crematory oven.


Bodies shattered by blows, or death through exhaustion.


It is the death of imprisonment, which history will speak of.



April, 1945.


The sound of invasion penetrates


The souls of the living dead.


In the distance, the loud voice of artillery


Can already be heard.


The American tanks advance, triumphant.


However, Hitler’s Krauts,


Along with their Gestapo, the SS, and executioners,


Joylessly await,


And have no desire to deprive their victims of their fate.


A murderous thirst has taken over their minds.



63,000 Häftlings, concentrated everywhere,


Must not fall into the hands of the enemy.


Before being surrounded,


It would be necessary to evacuate everyone.


The Häftlings shuddered at that barbaric order.


To evacuate meant to go out on the road,


To drag themselves along, under the blows.


No food, no rest.


Farther, always farther along.


One would, without a doubt,


If able to walk,


End up at another forced labor camp.



At daybreak, April 8th, the exodus will start.


First the small camp, then the large camp.

Where the Häftlings move,

It will be under blows,

As they utter words that come to nothing.

The big camp is called up.

It does not move out of its unit.

A gesture of revolt is carried out,

But immediately repressed,

Because the SS sends their crushing troops

Down on their heads.

Still some more martyrs who did nothing blameworthy.


April the 9th. Artillery fire is still heard, off in the distance.

The place is teeming with Häftlings.

They organize the departure of some new columns

Under SS troops the watchful eye.

Their orders are to slit the throats of any stragglers.

The French prisoners, up till then,

Were able, thanks to a warning, escape deportation.

This was not, by special favor,

The love of the German, Russian, Pole, or Czech.

Having places in the camp for them

Amounted to nothing more than hard labor.


There are some invalids, sick and feverish prisoners

In the Dispensary and the Blocks,

Who are unable to walk.

And the French doctors intervene for them,

Next to the SS doctors, who will consult with them.

An initial selection is carried out.

In the evening, some of the infirm French,

Crippled with pain, leave the camp.

And yet, hope might be reborn in all their hearts

As two planes, bearing stars, saluted the colors.


April the 10th comes about. The artillery rumbles more strongly,

And the mental tension increases, hour by hour.

The second day without bread. One more step closer to death.


If the rumor coming from the so-called well informed is true,

The evacuation of the big camp, Auschwitz, was total,

Flames having completely wiped out the surrounding enclosure.

That alone can bring the matter to a close.


Evening approaches,

Retrieved, one more time, from among the infirm,

And another departure is marked out along the road.

Only the lame, and all the butterflies of the human race

Whose cases are not in doubt, remain.

A plane bearing stars traces out a circle in the sky.

Is it closing in?

Death hangs over its prey.

Some of the French, fighting against cruel fate,

Decided they would, at least, die joyfully.


April 11th, zero hours. The waiting is considerable.

Some foul-smelling heads lie on top of straw mats,

The wakefulness continues on.

If the outcome is going to be a happy one,

So much the better.

But it is better to die fighting.

The artillery fire seems to be working wonders,

Off to the west where they are fighting.

Daylight finally appears on the horizon.

One learns that the Russian prisoners of war

Have attempted combat,

And have taken out all the Prussian henchmen.


11 hours. All the SS guards gather at the site.

They will hand the camp over to professional killers.

This is a crucial hour for everyone. The issue is racial.

21,000 Häftlings run the risk of a cruel fate.

13:30 hours.

Some activity takes shape in the dispensary.

Prisoners in revolt take over the watchtowers.

These are not passive people that one will kill

Because these unleashed lions have become their mentors.

The French prisoners are not the last to take on the task.

And at 14:15 hours,

Hoisting the white flag,

The committee that has formed

Relentlessly attends to the immediate problems

Inherent in life at the camp.

15 hours. Off to the south,

The American regiments, along with the rebels,

Clean up the surrounding areas.

At 16 hours, a tank appears below the watchtower.

Finally, there are no more Häftling prisoners,

Only liberated men.


The big armored tanks pass near the camps,

Along the road.

Some Allied soldiers and French circulate among us.

There can no longer be any doubt about our liberation.

The SS guards, taken prisoner, seem to have gone mad.

Even so, a certain thought cast a dark shadow over our jubilation.

The partially deserted Block

Causes us to think about all our friends

Who are on the road, and surely in distress,

Because being surrounded is allowed no more.


Buchenwald is finished.

In the SS barracks, the liberated set themselves up

In a little bit of comfort.

The anxiety is over,

But we think, non-stop, about the two last processions,

Struck down by death.

There is but one survivor, hiding among the cadavers,

Who lived through the slaughter that was extermination.

The previous processions fell upon no peaceful haven.

No less than 42,000 human beings died.


So we will return to France, to our family homes.

Feelings of emptiness, which are many, spoil our return.

But there is an oath we need to assert:

We must avenge our dead,

Surround and stage an attack, in turn,

Against the race of murderers and sadists.

Men, women, and children they have killed,

Mercilessly, without pity.

Out of fanatic hatred. 

















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