If you prick us, do we not bleed?
A young boy was being hauled to death in front of me, and I couldn't do anything.
Another woman was being badly hit as well - I could see she was pregnant. Her father, an old man, tried to protect her, but the Jew police would not listen. When he got fed up of the old man's pleas, he gave him a painful hit with the back of his shotgun and the man fell down to the ground, bleeding severely. There they all lay, dead corpses advising us about what the Germans would do to us once we hopped onto that deathly train.
And still I jumped on. What else could I do? Run away and try to die like a hero? That wouldn't do me any good. My family needed me, and I had nothing left. They had burnt my poems, ripped out all of the pages in my books. The only thing left inside my numb and swollen body was a small hope that everything my work mate Janusz had told me about Treblinka wasn't true.
If you tickle us, do we not laugh?
Over the train journey to Treblinka, my brain went numb. For the first time in all those years, I felt something unknown to me: fear. Not the fear a child feels when he believes a ghost is hiding under his bed. This was something a lot more deeper. Something inside me told me I didn't have much time left. I was standing next to Papa, who was mourning silently for a piece of bread. It broke my heart to see him like that, but I couldn't do anything about it. I searched in my bag and found nothing but a couple of books. Those damn books had been my life, and now they were all gone. All but the two I had brought with me, The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare and The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri.
My mind went back to the time when I first read The Merchant of Venice. I was a skinny, rather cocky fourteen-year-old with revolutionary ideas about fascism and communism. Of course, I had no idea that barely ten years later I would find myself trapped in a train, being sent to my most certain death. I would always throw puns and sarcasms at my older siblings, and pick on a twelve-year-old and rather weak Halina. I chuckled softly, remembering that one time I had pulled her braids' hair ties off and she had started crying loudly when I hung them out from the living room's window, laughing as I never had.
But then, a feeling I had never felt before washed over me. I couldn't recognize it at first, but after a while I assumed what I felt was nothing less than guilt. I felt guilty for not being nice enough to my little sister, for laughing at Regina's job as a lawyer, for not telling Papa and Mama how much I loved them, not once. But most of all, I felt guilty for having despised Wladek's attempts to be a nice brother. In that very moment, it struck me how many times had he offered himself to help me, how much he had done for me without me asking him. I felt such a lump in my throat, such a guilt inside my chest...
"Papa, where's Wladek?" I asked.
Dad did something like a smile before wrenching once again, clutching his belly in a heartbreaking pain.
"He escaped," Papa whispered.
He escaped. Wladek escaped. I would never get to say I was sorry, nor would I ever be able to see my only brother again. Now, all I could do for him was wish him the long, calm life I would never have.
If you poison us, do we not die?
As we mounted off the train in Treblinka, I looked up at the sky. I didn't know how many days had gone by ever since we had left Warsaw, but the sun shone brightly over us, tempting everyone in the surrounding area to go outside and have a nice bath in the lake. But of course, none of us would enjoy such a pleasure - we were just lambs being sent to slaughter.
I never saw Papa, Mama, Regina or Halina again. Perhaps they were killed right after our arrival, or perhaps they were just sent to another bunkhouse. That, I cannot tell. The only thing I can remember from those days I spent in Treblinka was the thought that every day that I was kept alive was the worst torture they could put me into. I worked until my hands went numb and my knees pleaded my brain to stop. I knew I wouldn't be able to take it much longer.
One day, a German officer said they were going to move us to another bunkhouse, and before that we had to get a medical check and a small shower. I knew what was coming, but I did not protest. It would not do me any good to be killed by a German's bullets.
A few of us entered the small chamber where they said they would give us a small shower and then take us to our new, special bunkerhouse, which I suspected as one of the ovens in the camp. We would die in the worst conditions - hungry, thirsty, naked. Away from everyone I loved and knowing I would soon find out the reason of being of every religion. By the time being, I doubted there was anyone up there, but as always, hope was the only thing stronger than fear.
I felt how my body went numb as the taps were turned on, but I was not afraid.
And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?
After all, I had been dead for a long time before I breathed in the painful gas that burnt my lungs violently.
When you burn a poet's lyrics, you're burning his soul too.