The Children's Memorial at Yad Vashem | The Nation


The Children's Memorial at Yad Vashem

  • Share
  • Decrease text size Increase text size

For Hana Amichai

Inside a domed room photos of children's faces

turn in a candlelit dark as recorded voices

recite their names, ages and nationality.

"Ah, such beautiful faces," a woman sighs.

Yes, but faces without the prestige

of the future or the tolerance of the past.

Not one asks: Why is this happening to me?

They stare at the camera as if it were a commandment:

thou shall not bear false witness...

Why would anyone want to take their photo,

remember what they no longer looked like?

There's no delusion in their eyes,

no recognition or longing, only

the flatness of hours without minutes,

hunger without appetite.

They understand they are no longer children,

that death is redundant, and mundane.

Expected, like a long-awaited guest

who arrives bearing the gift

of greater anticipation. Their eyes

are heavy--fear perhaps,

or the unforgiving weight

of knowledge.

Did they understand why they were so hated?

Wonder why they were Jews?

Did God hear their prayers and write

something in one of his glistening books?

Were they of too little consequence?

What did they think of God, finally?

Dante cannot help us.

Imagination is the first child in line.

They cannot help us.

It is wrong to ask them.

Philosophy cannot help us,

nor wisdom, or time.

Or memory.

We look at their faces and their faces look at us.

They know we are pious.

They know we grieve.

But they also know we will soon leave.

We are not their mothers and fathers,

who also could not save them.

Subscriber Log In:

Subscribe Now!
The only way to read this article and the full contents of each week's issue of The Nation online on the day the print magazine is published is by subscribing. Subscribe now and read this article—and every article published since 1865 in our 148 year digital archive—right now.
There's no obligation—try The Nation for four weeks free.


  • Share
  • Decrease text size Increase text size