I was Four! It was War!
I am Eighty-Four! It is War!

I was four, it was war.
I was five, my father died.
He died in the mud,
a bullet in the gut.

Why did he went to war?
I learned later:
His friend was Jew.
The Nazi hunted Jews.
My father helped with money.
There was no save place!
The Gestapo asked my father:
"You want to join our glorious army or join the Jews in hell?"
Guess what he did.

I remember two times:
At four I climbed a rock,
My father fetched me before I broke my neck!
I dropped head first into a lake,
He rescued me.
I cried in rage:
"You drowned me! You drowned me! You drowned me!"

Strange soldiers broke the door,
lined up us face to the wall:
"SS? SA? SA? SS?"
The maid howled, whimpered like a dog.
This heap of meat was thrown into a ward,
no food, no water, death.

Ten thousand,
twenty thousand,
thirty thousand people,
the whole town
was in the stadium.
One man was picked out of the crowd.
"Nazi! Gestapo! Killer!" the new rulers railed at him.
I was too small,
I couldn't see the victim.
Three shots!
I still hear the bullets zoom through his flesh.

Put into a camp surrounded by barbed wire,
children and women separated from men.
All nights women buried in the upper bunk,
concealed by blanket,
we children on top.

The soldiers came.
Flashlights flashed:
"Good Children! Nice Children!"
They left without prey.

Next morning
two soldiers dragged a crying girl into a shed,
"No! No!" she cried.
What happened to her?

The country didn't want us
Another country had to take us.
Two days by foot to the border.
Summer heat!
Thin as a rail I had to carry the bankbook,
our last possession.
It slipped out of my trousers.
A soldier picked it up.
"Who's this? Who's this?"
Muzzle in my neck!
I didn't answer.

In the next village,
we drank from the creek
My elder sister had a hole in the heart,
my grandmother had one in the leg.
They got a ride on a hay wagon.
Mother left us behind,
My small sister and I,
We walked till dark.
She found us between thousands and thousands of people.

We crossed the border
tired, empty stomach.
They offered us green apples and milk.
I don't drink milk.
A train waited.
The compartment jammed with displaced.
Someone pushed me onto the roof of a wagon.
Smoke and sharp wind clouded my sight.

A ramshackle house
Fife people to a room!
Seven people to a room!
Nine people to a room!
Thousand of thousands of fleas and bugs to a room.

Mother had to cut corn for a farmer,
seven feet high,
eight feet high,
nine feet high.
She got one slice of bread, a quarter of milk.
She shared it
with three children and a weak mother.

The soldiers hunted roe and hare,
they send us home
"Dawei! Dawei!"
Ammunition was all around.
A cousin picked up a grenade,
a finger was gone.

The books we got in school were blackened.
The swastika blackened
Hitler blackened,
Goebbels blackened,
Himmler blackened.
I liked it!

In the evenings my sisters and I were singing:
Guten Abend, Gute Nacht!
Weist Du wieviel Sternlein stehen?
Der Mond ist aufgegangen!
A had a boy'svoice,
high and clear!

The country didn't want us.
We left the country with another train,
in cattle wagons,
a hundred person a wagon.
We stopped at camp.

They cut my hair,
powdered my bald head,
blew DDT into my pullover,
into my shirt,
into my trousers.
They killed the bugs in my cloth,
at my skin.
They didn't kill the bugs in my head.

The next country had to take us.
They drove us to a small village with an open truck.
Nobody took us in!
A woman with a sick mother and three small children,
useless for farm-work!

We got one room in the parish house,
build 1595.
In January the wall was a map of mildew,
velvet cushions in yellow, blue and gray!
In summertime the house was cold.
The winding staircase made my hair stand on end.

Junior high was 25 miles away.
I rose at 5.00
took the train at 5.30
and waited till classes opened till 8.00.
I was back home at 4.00.

I was a bad student.
I liked to read!
They gave me books,
books of missions,
of daredevils.,
of Indians.
When my Uncas was killed the last of the Mohicans I climbed into a tree and cried.

I had bugs in my brain,
as a student in school,
a student at the university,
a teacher at the university.
At sixty seven I unfolded the bugs in my brain,
became storyteller.
My brain is still full of stories.

But in times like this,
in war times,
I know, I better should take a gun,
kill all the bloodthirsty tyrants of the world!

Never forget:
Tyrants mess up the life of innocent boys just for their own glory!

This poem is copyright 2022 Ruwen Rouhs, to whom comments may be sent.