Monday 10 February 2020

I Couldn't Visit Dachau 

by Imogen Arate

When I was in Munich
I couldn't bring myself 
To visit Dachau
Already exhausted 
I feared I would collapse 
Into unmendable parts
Under the emotional encounter 
I avoided all the camps 
It was an appreciated privilege 

I talked with gentle
Older German ladies
Who took me 
Off my itinerary 
Some to their home towns 
Rebuilt post war

Through broken English 
Some told me of their
Sons who lived in kibbutz 
To atone for a generation's sins
Others told me about the firebombing 
Of now reconstructed quaint towns
Of the lake of fire 
That swallowed the unlucky
Moments after losing grip
Of their firmly believed cause
Thought to assure victory

Sympathy for one's enemy 
Ideology attached to human faces
Also a symptom of privilege 
Much like that of 
The luxury of having
The time to feel
Instead of the necessity 
Of self numbing for survival 

Yet my enemy is the conflict 
That cheapens life
That rationalizes cruelty 
As long as I hate their philosophy 
That demands I weigh suffering 
To measure their worth in empathy 
I ask for better of myself 
Though I'm unsure
If I'd be a hero or coward
In the times they had lived in 
Or even the era I now live in

* * * * *

"I Couldn't Visit Dachau" is also read and discussed on Poets and Muses 2/2/20,

Imogen Arate is a US-based Poet and the Executive Producer and Host of Poets and Muses (, a weekly poetry podcast where she chats with poets about their inspirations. She has written in verse since her tween years, in four languages and published in two (English and French). While Imogen has always utilized poetry as a vehicle for self expression, she has also found it to be an effective therapeutic tool in coping with a recent trauma.


  1. The last stanza carries the poem out of the park, but this sentence, for me, was the CRACK of the bat: "The luxury of having the time to feel instead of the necessity of self numbing for survival."

  2. We need this poem so much. It's wonderful, at time of rising anti-semitism, when small immigrant children are locked up in cages and die without anyone noticing. It is a philosophical poem.

    1. Thank you-your comment means a lot to me.