Tuesday, July 30, 2019

At The End Of The War by DeWitt Clinton

At The End Of The War
by DeWitt Clinton
© 2018 DeWitt Clinton
Kelsay Books
Aldrich Press
ISBN 978-1—947465-92-3
Softbound, 111 pages, No Price Given

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

The Holocaust is 80 years in the past and survivors have decreased in large numbers. But deniers of that terrible period have increasingly  spread their message  to countries throughout the world.

In this toxic atmosphere DeWitt Clinton’s poem, “Touring the Holocaust” is more than a reminder; it is a tribute to the past and those who died.

Following are excerpts from this poem “Opening Day, The United States Holocaust Museum.” While the poem is five plus pages long, I present excerpts depicting the prejudice and bigotry unleashed against the Jews.

We cannot move any further
unless we step
into a care
a brown cattle car
swept incredibly clean
where all of us must
unload nothing bad will happen
to us here
though we cannot stay
too long in the car
that would bring the guards
everyone believes
we will be safe
it isn’t as if
we are really there.

And the people on the tour years later see what the camp was like. The truth may frighten. The truth may reveal. Those in the present do not die like those who died in the death camps.

What is it like for a town and its people to be wiped off the face of the earth? Clinton captures this tragedy of the many small shtetls which existed, in some cases for hundreds of years, before being exterminated by the German soldiers and their accomplices.

Dazed, disoriented, we step
into a shtetl sky high
a room of old photos
of everyone who ever
lived in that place
this fire place high as a smokestack
those at the very top
lift first into ash.

Finally we approach
the crematorium
a model of long courteous lines

little people with
little faces
guards and shepherds
keeping everyone
civil, in line.

We watch them go inside
watch them undress
the inappropriateness
of men and women
long beards
pubic hair
a wildness beyond even G-d

Clinton has brought readers through the Holocaust Museum to the reality of the actual brutality as it was perpetrated in the 1930s and 1940s. His poems portray what the Jews experienced. He shows a sensitivity to biblical literature as well as Judaism. Each poem reveals the horror of the war as well as the cruelty and viciousness of the Nazis.

Reading the Tao at Auschwitz” is a 28 part sequence which begins thus:


In the beginning we saw Nothing
From Nothing came Something
Something made All of us
Turn into ash only to
Float onto those just Arrived
or on farmers, nearby,
Turning us into Soil and Food
The irony of death, of ashes of humans becoming food is not missed either by Clinton or his readers. How Nothing becomes Something is the tragedy – of which there are many -- of World War II and the Holocaust.

The third part portrays another tragedy, the treating of humans like cows or sheep led to slaughter:


Imagine, go ahead imagine
Undressing a place
Where signs direct
Everyone to Remember your number
To be efficient, your number is used again

In Part X the helplessness of the Jews is laid out in twenty-three lines. Many of the things Jewish prisoners needed are listed-- food and help the most prominent.


The way never acts yet nothing is left undone.
--I, xxxvii
We needed soup
We needed clothes
We needed penicillin
We needed cots
We needed mothers
We needed water
We needed more soup
We needed flannels
We needed air
We needed guns
We needed prayer
We needed Benji
We needed Marla
We needed all we ever knew
We needed law
We needed time
We needed home
We needed stew
We needed health
We needed Moses
We needed bombs
We needed meals
We needed You

Clinton’s book is a masterpiece of understanding and presenting the Holocaust in real terms.  He refutes the deniers for their anti-Semitic beliefs and their nefarious political purposes.

As Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, I am hoping that he taught his students about the Holocaust during his long career and that they have retained his lessons and passed them forward. That is what keeps the truth ahead of the deniers.

At The End Of The War is a book of poetry to be read by everyone.
Zvi A. Sesling

Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Author, War Zones (Nixes Mate Books)
Author, The Lynching of Leo Frank (Big Table Publishing)

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