Empty Chairs

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a theologian who was murdered by the Nazi regime, stated: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

When we were in Krakow, Poland once, we visited the “Plaza of the Heroes of the Ghetto”, the site of mass shootings of the elderly, young children, and infants. The “Empty Chairs” monument erected in this square was inspired by a ghetto survivor’s story of having witnessed schoolchildren, evicted from their school, carrying their chairs through the streets. I wrote this poem after visiting this memorial to the Holocaust.


Empty Chairs


Children walked the sidewalk that day
Chairs above their heads
Like chains keeping them in line
On a strange field trip of kind

It was the hour when lessons were taught
But ethics and truth were not
Did fear fill their eyes?
Was it palpable?

Did they chatter unknowingly?
I cannot comprehend
What they felt in the end
The mind, the emotions have limits

This hour and every one chiming, in remembrance 
Empty chairs line the square
Once soaked in red
Life-shattered, dream-spattered pools

The aged, the youngest, the child
Whose life would have spanned 
Even till now
It was a second ago

Do you understand? It was a second ago
When madness tried to rule the world
Can we derive meaning from vile hatred?
A senseless slaughter of innocents

Being’s right cries Evil
Evil demands Justice
Justice embodies 
Love and Goodness – Vinco Vici Victum

Plaza of the heroes of the ghetto
This is why we must remember, to stop its recurrence
So there will never be
Another empty chair
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