Dachau Concentration Camp Survivor

"...he noted - with some surprise at first -
that strangers could not tell he had died once."

by John Ciardi

In 1945, when the keepers cried kaput
Josef Stein, poet, came out of Dachau
Like half a resurrection, his other half
eighty pounds still in their invisible grave.

Slowly then the mouth opened at first
a broth, and then a medication, and then
a diet, and all in time and the knitting mercies,
the showing bones were buried back in flesh,

and the miracle was finished. Josef Stein
man and poet, rose, walked, and could even
beget, and did, and later died of other causes
only partly traceable to his first death.

He noted - with some surprise at first -
that strangers could not tell he had died once.
He returned to his post in the library, drank his beer,
published three poems in a French magazine,

and was very kind to the son who at last was his.
In the spent of one night he wrote three propositions:
That Hell is the denial of the ordinary. That nothing lasts.
That clean white paper waiting under a pen

is the gift beyond history and hurt and heaven.

...beyond history and hurt and heaven.

In the following passage from Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl contemplates the miracles of freedom after having endured for so long and eventually survived the Auschwitz-Birkenau and Dachau concentration camps:

      "One day, a few days after the liberation, I walked through the country past flowering meadows, for miles and miles, toward the market town near the camp. Larks rose to the sky and I could hear their joyous song. There was no one to be seen for miles around; there was nothing but the wide earth and sky and the larks' jubilation and the freedom of space. I stopped, looked around, and up to the sky - and then I went down on my knees. At that moment there was very little I knew of myself or of the world - I had but one sentence in my mind - always the same: "I called to the Lord from my narrow prison and He answered me the in freedom of space."

      How long I knelt there and repeated this sentence memory can no longer recall. But I know that on that day, in that hour, my new life started. Step for step I progressed, until I again became a human being."