Whose holocaust ?

Berlin Holocaust Memorial..

Twenty-two and backpacking across Europe,
I stopped at Dachau, for a sad rainy day,
then plunged on onto the Black Forest.
In my thirties I went to Bergen-Belsen,
and I remember nothing. Living in Vienna,
in my forties, I went to Auschwitz twice:
first alone, on a cold November day, seeing
Birkenau cradled in the arms of the Vistula
river from a nearby hilltop, sharing a cigarette
with a Japanese guy who came overland from
Mongolia, our tiny braziers of flame cupped
against cold death. I was thinking about
Hiroshima. Irony. No language between us.
That was before I lived there, learned about
Mongolia, why a Japanese kid would be interested
in prison camps. Later that year I came
with my daughter, who dissolved in tears.
Living in Japan, I went to Tuol Sleng
before they spiffed it up. The Stasi jail
in Berlin was a luxury hotel after that–
the Khmer kept torture simple. Even the
Russians’ feared Trubetsky Prison
had a sauna. But what have I learned
from all this atrocity tourism? Why these
museums, when the seven million Ukrainians
starved by Stalin don’t even get a plaque?
What about Armenians, and Palestinians?
Only the involuntary seizure of your space
your body space, gives you any idea:
The ‘standing cell’ of Maximilian Kolbe
in Auschwitz, where he wrote prayers
on the wall — he had founded a monastery
at Nagasaki, that was a post-irony for me;
or the leg-log at Tuol Sleng, to which all
prisoners were shackled, shitting and dying
together. Or the walk between these black
monoliths, alone, inside gay Berlin.

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