Detailed Statements

András Mezei (1930-2008) was a major poet of the Hungarian Holocaust. More of his poetry in Thomas Land’s English translation has just been published in Too Much Toothache: The Malaise of Modern Poetry by Alan Dent (The Penniless Press) and Translating the Poetry of the Holocaust: Translation, Style and the Reader by Jean Boase-Beier (Bloomsbury), both in England in 2015.

child and corpse



How tranquil are Your children…freezing to the bone
shuffling to Your throne beyond despair and hurt.
Spare for them, my gracious Lord, the odd clean, shirt.



Counting heads at the gate,
the Düsseldorf guard kept tally.
Beneath a detailed statement
about the deportation,
1,007 lives
are described on the sheet
by groups of vertical lines
crossed out.


POOR FOLK        

If you and your family must be taken away,
at least do right by us, we are poor folk
and to you it is now all the same –
we'll send the children over to collect,
may the Eternal Lord keep you
and we will save your valuables,
in case you return

Feinstein, a Jew from Memel,
recognized his neighbour
in the execution squad.
And he cried out to him:
Gustav! Be sure to aim
between my eyes!

hitler and child

I watch my spade as thrust by thrust
and spit by spit it shapes my home
till, like our psalms, my steaming breath
lifts rising from this cold, deep hole.
My Eternal God!  You know
that all the time till resurrection
will pass quickly like the thunder
of the gun.


The cows grazed in freedom beyond the deathcamp.
The air conveyed their healthy munching
to the people promised a communal bath,
yet whose prayer was for gas: relief, at last,
in the bitter almond fragrance of Zyclon B2 –
in that passive state of animal existence,
there stood a group of women
crammed together, devoid of hair.


I praise my father’s compass. He chose to disperse us
to save us the pain of witnessing each other’s fate.
That’s how I’ve come to treasure forever these gifts
from my late mother and sister and baby brother:
empty reels, their keepsakes from different camps.


Suddenly, I speak in my mother's voice.
Suddenly, I speak in my father's voice.
Suddenly, I hear my people speak
in my voice.

András Mezei

Translated from the Hungarian & Edited By Thomas Land

If you have any comments on these translations,  Thomas Land  would be pleased to hear from you.