In Poems Born in Bergen-Belsen, a collection of poetry that will be published in April 2021, Menachem Z. Rosensaft explores the haunting and haunted world of the Holocaust from simultaneously personal and universal perspectives. The son of two survivors of the Nazi German death and concentration camps of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, Rosensaft was born in 1948 in the Displaced Persons camp of Bergen-Belsen. Numerous of his poems are rooted in the death of his five-and-a-half-year-old brother who was gassed upon arrival at Auschwitz-Birkenau. “Once upon a time,” Rosensaft writes, “my brother used to laugh, used to play, used to sing, used to have tomorrows, but that was before . . . before he went with his father and grandparents into a blackness without end.” Confronting God, the perpetrators, and the by-standers, Rosensaft’s poems expresses horror and anguish without wallowing in hopelessness. In what he considers to be his spiritual and literary legacy to his grandchildren, he also reflects on genocides generally and why Black lives must matter, among other themes that inspire the reader to make the ghosts of the past and integral part of their present and future.
Menachem Z. Rosensaft is the Associate Executive Vice President and General Counsel of the World Jewish Congress. He teaches about the law of genocide at the law schools of Columbia and Cornell Universities.
Praise for Poems Born in Bergen-Belsen:
Through his haunting poems, my friend Menachem Rosensaft transports us into the forbidding universe of the Holocaust. Without pathos and eschewing the maudlin clichés that have become far too commonplace, he conveys with simultaneous sensitivity and bluntness an absolute sense of loss, deep-rooted anger directed at God and at humankind, and often cynical realism. . . “Poems Born in Bergen-Belsen” deserves a prominent place in Holocaust literature and belongs in the library of everyone who seeks to connect with what Elie Wiesel called the “kingdom of night.”
- Ronald S. Lauder, President, World Jewish Congress
Ever since he was a college student and in the many decades since Menachem Rosensaft has been raising difficult questions. He has rarely if ever, turned away from a fight when truth and justice were at stake. That same honesty, conviction, and forthrightness are evident in these compelling poems. His passion for the horrors of genocide, prejudice, and hatred leaves the reader unsettled. And that is how it should be.
- Deborah Lipstadt, Ph.D., Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies, Emory University.
Menachem Rosensaft’s luminous poetry confirms that he is not only one of the most fearless chroniclers of our factual, hard history, but also a treasured narrator of our emotional inheritance. Each of his poems is a jewel of economy, memory, and pathos, and each is a crystallized snapshot of the strained times we are living in, as well as the past moments we wish we could unlive. Share this collection with the people you care about.
- Abigail Pogrebin, author of “My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew”