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Chapter 12

The Poetry of Dachau


Forty poets wrote a total of ninety-eight poems in ten languages, composed during their time in Dachau. These works have been bundled in the book “Mein Schatten in Dachau” (My Treasures in Dachau). The poems are printed in their original language, with a German translation next to them. There is a short biography of all the writers, in addition to the story of their arrest.


“All of us are not poets”, according to the Belgian writer and ex-Dachau prisoner Arthur Haulot. “But if we were we would have written it just like this, because we felt it all deep in our hearts”.


Some of the poets wrote about their experiences. Writing poetry was a escape for them, a way to retreat in another world, to be alone in surroundings where no one was ever alone. For them, writing was a like being saved, and took care that in this harsh world, they were not completely hardened inside.


When they arrived at the camp, everything was taken from the prisoners, they had no right to personal possessions. It was extremely difficult to procure writing materials. A butt of a pencil and especially paper was almost impossible to get. Often fellow prisoners would help, if they had the opportunity. If that did not succeed, the poems could be inscribed in their memory, to be written down after the liberation.


Everything was being used as writing paper. Old newspapers, cardboard, toilet paper. The note had to be hidden very carefully, under the floor of the barracks, in the ceiling, between clothes; everything was thought of to hide what was written from the continuing inspections of the SS. Because the poems were written with the intention of bearing witness to what had happened in Dachau, on the day the gates would open for them.


In the middle of a society where everyone wore dehumanizing striped suits and were only referred to by their numbers, a poet wrote:


“Ik ben not steeds IK,

ik ben een mens

Mogen de beulen dan geen gezicht hebben,

vervormd als ze zein door martelen en moorden,

ik ben een mens gebleven die kan huilen,

lijden en bidden."

"I am still ME,

I am a human being.

May be the executioners do not have a face,

Deformed as they are through torture and murder,

I have remained a human being who can cry,

suffer and pray."

The book contains a number of drawings by the Venetian artist Zoran Music, who in the last few months before the liberation of the camp worked at a desk, and therefore could get drawing materials. Like the poets in this book, he though it was important to draw his impressions for posterity.

The book was compiled by the writer Dorothea Heiser, who lives in Dachau and is financed by the International Dachau Committee. The book contains several Dutch contributions.


Bunker Dachau

Een traliegat, een dikke muur

Het zonlicht dat, hoe ik tuur

De weg door `t gat niet kan vinden

Alleen, ik ben alleen


Drie passen heer, drie passen weer

Terwijl ik strofen declameer

Van verzen uit herinnering

En zachtjes oude liedjes zing


Als uit verweer.

Een cel, een kale grond

O plek waar mijn wieg eens stond

Herinnering van lang geleen


Flits van thuis vliegt door je heen

Aleen, je bent alleen

Mary Vaders




Wij weten niet hoe snel wij gaan

Geruisloos volgen wij een baan

Als reizegers op een planeet

Die wonderlijk de aarde heet


In deze heldere herfstnacht

Betoverd door een sterrenpracht

Van lichtjes, ongekeeend hoeveel

En ieder toch een wereldsdeel


Als wij dat dan mogen zien

Dan denken wij ach heel misschien

Wordt ons het wonder wel gebracht

En eindigt een te lange nacht


Zolang een ster valt en men ziet

Hoe snel zijn kosmisch licht verschiet

Laat God ons spelen als een kind

Dat blindelings het geluk soms vindt.


Willem A.H.C. Boellaard

Bunker Dachau

A hole in the bars, a thick wall

The sunlight that, how hard I peer

cannot find its way through the hole

Alone, I am alone.


Three paces to, three paces fro

While I recite passages

Of poems from memory

And softly sing old songs


Like in defense

A cell, a bare floor

Oh place where my cradle once stood

Memory from long ago


Flash of home flies through you

Alone, you are alone.

Mary Vaders


Perseus Children


We don't know how fast we go

Silently we follow a path

As travellers on a planet

Which full of wonder is called earth


In this bright autumn night

Magic with the splendor of stars

Of lights, unknown how many

And every one still part of a world


If we are allowed to see this

We think Ah it just may be

The wonder will be brought to us

And will end a night too long.


Like a star falls and one sees

How fast the cosmic light dims

God allows us to play like a child

Who blindly finds happiness sometimes


Willem A.H.C. Boellaard