Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Die Zeichen"

This poem is spillover from the March 2, 2021 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] nsfwords. It also fills the "Marigold - Grief" square in my 2-1-21 "The Language of Flowers" card for the Valentines Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles. It belongs to the series Eloquent Souls.

WARNING: This poem touches on historic horrors that may disturb some readers. Hankie warning! It also makes people cry. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers and possibly also triggers. It includes the Holocaust, because the Holocaust is always a warning, Adolf Hitler, and his questionable orientation(s), extreme self-mutilation, possible boomerang bigots, Nazis, Nazis everywhere, soul marks across ideological lines, sometimes leading to murder or other mayhem, soul violence, concentration camps, and their tattooed numbers, suicide, human experimentation, evil Nazi mad scientists, effects of pervasive surveillance, loss of soul marks, traumatic grief, forced separation, acts of genocide, assassination, mutilation of human remains, taking of human trophies, self-destruction, and other mayhem. While the overall severity is somewhat reduced compared to historic records, it is still horrible. Please consider your tastes and headspace before deciding whether this is something you want to read. People with historic trauma relating to World War II may wish to take extra caution.


"Die Zeichen"


It was said that Adolf Hitler had
the mark of a Jewess on his arm.

It was said, but nobody could
tell for sure, because he had
cut off his left arm at the elbow,
and he never appeared in public
less than fully dressed, so if
there was a mark elsewhere
on his body it was never seen.

It was barely even whispered
the mark might not have
belonged to a woman.

There was no telling,
because sometimes
cutting away a mark
worked and other times
it didn't, and besides,
people lost arms for
all sorts of reasons.

They were just rumors.

What people knew
for certain was that
Hitler hated the Jews
(and women, Gypsies,
homosexual men, lesbians,
scientists, the disabled, and
anyone who happened to be
out of work at the moment)
with a deep and burning passion.

As the Nazi Party grew, it gained
followers by promising a return
to greatness Germany had known.

There were always those eager
to blame others for their misery.

There were some people, though,
who protested the intolerance,
and it all came down to die Zeichen.

Soul marks gave enigmatic hints
about who would later become
the most important person
in your life, when you met.

They were difficult
if not impossible
to alter on purpose,
and that was a problem.

Everyone whose mark
suggested a connection
with someone (and there
were a lot of someones)
that the Nazi Party hated
could be killed for that.

Who wanted to risk death
because a Jew might talk to you?

Or just because the name on
your wrist suggested someone
of the same sex, as if there
weren't platonic soulbonds?

Die Zeichen bound people together.

Too many had marks that crossed
the lines of language, religion, culture --
severing all of those connections
could damage the soul of humanity
as a whole, not just individuals.

So there was resistance,
right from the beginning.

Then came the numbers.

All across Germany,
citizens began to see
not words but numbers
scrawled across their skin.

The rumors, the whispers --
they said that those numbers
had come from the Camps.

There was a great scandal
when one of the high officers
of the Nazi Party found numbers
on his arm one morning, sat down,
and turned his gun on himself.

But it was too late: the numbers
had been seen and photographed,
and the word spread quickly.

The Nazi Party tried everything
it could to suppress the unrest.

There were even scientists in
the Camps who experimented
on soul marks in attempts
to erase or transplant them,
forcibly imposing human will
over mystical or Divine direction.

Most of the attempts failed, aside
from a few extremely embarrassing
successes in transplanting across twins
where a typical two-person bond
suddenly turned to three or four.

The Nazi Party tried to hush it up,
but the word still spread in whispers.

People watched each other, but
der deutsche Blick was powerful --
the watchers were seen and avoided.

There were so many, far too many,
who saw their soul marks disappear
all of a sudden as their unmet soulmate
died or moved forever beyond their reach.

Sometimes the old mark was replaced
with a new one later, other times not.

There were Germans, Aryans, who
touched their blank arms and
grieved for what they had lost
before even knowing it.

Worse, far worse,
were the cases where
people's soulmates were
dragged away to the Camps
and those left behind saw
their mark blur with death.

In the end, it was not
the Allies who toppled
the Nazi Party but
Germany itself.

The resistance
fielded small teams
of those who had lost
soulmates to the Nazis.

They succeeded where
the Allies had failed --
so many attempts at
assassination -- because
they were already inside
the lines and death held
no fear for them at all.

The teams ambushed
the leaders of the Nazi Party
and cut them down, then cut
the marks from their bodies
and waved them in the air
like still-bleeding trophies.

Here were thick lines of Hebrew,
there a row of numbers, and
this one had the names of
not one but two other men.

It had all been a sham,
for nothing could divide
humanity the way that
the Nazis had wanted.

Souls were souls were souls.

Germany all but tore itself apart
trying to ferret out the last of the Nazis
and free everyone they had oppressed.

The Allies mopped up the remains
of the war on the other fronts, and
Europe struggled to rebuild itself.

In Germany, people wore
short sleeves and displayed
with pride whatever clues
God had written on their skin.

Perhaps it was no accident that,
in the wake of the war, more and more
of them were written in foreign languages.

* * *

Notes:

die Zeichen
omen, portent, sign, mark, character, symbol, signal, indication, identification, token
Declension of Zeichen in singular and plural in all cases

See the series notes for Eloquent Souls regarding what soul marks are and how they function in this setting.

I have put specific warnings on some link sections, but this whole topic is a minefield of triggers, so browse accordingly.

(These links are appalling.)
Adolf Hitler drove much of the conflict in World War II, including the Holocaust / Shoah. The Nazis hated a pretty huge range of humanity.

(Messy medical details ahead.)
Self-mutilation has a more extreme manifestation in self-amputation where someone removes an unbearable body part. More commonly, self-injury is minor to moderate rather than extreme, and done to release emotional tension. The Hurt Yourself Less Workbook is a guide buy and for people who struggle with self-injury.

Boomerang Bigot and You Are What You Hate are two examples of people who attack a group they belong to themselves. This has scientific backing in the study of gay homophobes. Numerous people have pointed out that Hitler may have had Jewish and African ancestors, homosexual encounters, and other traits he attacked.

(These links are horrifying.)
Concentration camps used serial numbers to identify prisoners, variously with patches, tattoos, and other methods.

(Some of these links are disturbing.)
Suicide can come from ego-dystonic sexual orientation or other unbearable identity dissonance. It affects other people. People who practice tolerance are less likely to suffer from unexpected identity discoveries. Understand how to deal with suicidal thoughts and how to help someone who is suicidal.

(These links are ghastly.)
Human experimentation is an evil branch of pseudoscience, in which the Nazis are among the most notorious examples.

Back in Marburg, the prevailing mood was pro-Hitler. Frau Beyme said she would gauge her own neighborhood as 90 percent for and 10 percent against. "You could not say anything on the street. There was something called the German look [der deutsche Blick]." She demonstrated it by looking behind her and to each side before talking.
Frau Marion Beyme's Memories of Marburg and Berlin during the Third Reich
(Retrospective account dating from the early 1990s)

Assassination is one way to remove a tyrant. There are 42 known attempts on Adolf Hitler, and likely more unknown ones.

Mutilation of human corpses is often considered a war crime, but in fact is ubiquitous in war as a demonstration of utterly vanquishing the enemy and dispersing his power. It's instinctive almost to the point of being universal.

Hebrew has its own distinctive writing system.

The German rejection of Nazism was even stronger in elegant-Earth than here, and it happened sooner.

Pride can relate to many types of identity including sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, and so on.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, ethnic studies, fantasy, fishbowl, history, horror, poem, poetry, reading, spirituality, weblit, writing
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