To my Daughter: On the Holocaust

by Dr. David Mandler

“To my Daughter: On the Holocaust”
by David Mandler

What words can I use to tell my father’s story
To my little Rachel with that angel smile?
What words can be used now when the only glory
In that time of demons was reduced to empty style?

No words. Clearly, no words can ever scream the pain
Her great-grandmother sweated…locked inside that train:
Pulsating in labor, shaken to the core
Standing…with no space for her to spread out on the floor.

No words. Clearly, no words will ever suffice
To describe the agony reflected in her eyes.
Why were they packed into all those cattle cars?
Why, like some smelly weeds, grew those yellow stars?

What words can be used to tell of the six million?
Words like empty bottles line up in my head—
Burned, gassed, starved to death, shot…floating in vermilion
Images of horror, dry, abstract and dead.

No words.  No dead pictures, nor the sounds of rhyming
Can help me rise above this sentimental drag.
Even in a black hole we seek the silver lining—-
Looking for a diamond in the body bag.

Oh, I cannot tell you how my Zaide’s daughters
Gasped for air and clawed into their dying mother’s skin.
Nor will I attempt to justify God’s orders
No, I cannot stop now, nor can I begin.

Still, the silver lining coils itself around me
Like the snake that charmed Eve all those years ago.
I can’t handle darkness—can’t escape my ego
Grasping after straws of positivity.

There were some good men and women who were brave then…
Life emerged from darkness: my father was born.

In unbearable heat.
In a cattle car.
In 1944.

No words. No words will ever
No rhymes however clever
Will suffice to tell the story of this sordid crime.

I know I cannot tell you—I shout I cannot tell you
I sob, Rachel, because, I know, that soon, soon I must tell you.

And once you know the story in a little while
I pray you still retain your sweet angelic smile.

April 24th, 2014
© David Mandler
Revised on April 15, 2015
David Mandler’s short story, “The Loft,” is available through