Jared Carter, “Gerstein Report”

Jared Carter’s most recent book of poems, The Land Itself, is from Monongahela Books in Morgantown, West Virginia. He lives in Indiana.

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Gerstein Report

Kurt Gerstein, an ethically conflicted but subsequently
resistant Waffen-SS officer, describes a moment at Bełżec
extermination camp, in August of 1942, when a large group
of naked men, women, and children are being herded into
a gas chamber. A woman “of about forty years of age, with
flaming eyes, calls down vengeance on the head of the
murderers for the blood which is shed here. She gets five
or six slashes with the riding crop across her face from
Hauptmann Wirth, then she disappears into the chamber.”

Then she disappears into the chamber,
Lost beneath its waves – forsaken stranger,
       nameless witness, having spoken out for
       all the others, in a voice that soars –
Calls down vengeance, heedless of the danger.

Scornful of the measures to restrain her,
Unafraid at last, with proud demeanor,
       she turns about, to face a final door.
           Then she disappears.

Gerstein sabotages gas containers,
Seeks to warn; denounced as a complainer,
       dies mysteriously alone. All that shore
       is distant now, all quieted, that roar.
Waves erase whatever might explain her.
           Then she disappears.





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