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Something for Holocaust Memorial Day - but a different angle.


They took us near Vinnytsia in 1941

Supply lines long since severed, ammunition all but gone.

We numbered 97 boys, all from Podillia’s lands

They shot a half of us right then as we raised our hands.


They ordered us to strip our dead beneath that wintery sun

I’ve asked myself a thousand times, “What would you have done?”

They shipped us north to Poland along with thousands more

And onwards to this barbed-wire Hell that’s known as Sobibor.


Inside these walls of horror there is no Wrong, no Right

Just wake at dawn; make sure that day you live to sleep at night.

And do just as they bid you to, as all of us have done

I’ve asked my friends a thousand times, “What would you have done?”


I’ve ripped the women’s clothes off to show the guards their tits

Then hauled the bodies on the cart and heaved them in the pits.

I’ve beaten aged Jews to death to give the guards their fun

And begged their souls a thousand times, “What would you have done?”




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John Coopey

Sun 29th Jan 2023 09:07

It is indeed complicated, Stephen, and I fear entrenched in our anthropology. I am reminded of Ed McCurdy’s (Simon and Garfunkel) “Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream”.

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Stephen Gospage

Sat 28th Jan 2023 16:53

Of course there is only one answer, John, and ad-hoc pacifism is probably never going to work. The nation state, with its strongman leaders and propaganda, has too much of a grip on the minds of its citizens, especially those who are thrown into battle to be killed. I am reminded of the TW3 sketch with the General: 'Don't worry, men, I shall be behind you. A long, long way behind you.'
I don't know what the answer is, but I do know it isn't war, with all its horrible consequences. So we will have to start somewhere to stop this sort of thing happening again.

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John Coopey

Fri 27th Jan 2023 17:39

It’s an interesting idea, Stephen. But it takes two to tango. If Britain’s armed forces laid down their arms, would the Nazis have done likewise? Or would it have been a green light for Hitler? Likewise if the soldiers of Ukraine laid down their arms, would Russia do the same?
And thanks for the Like, Ghost and Stephen A.

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Stephen Gospage

Fri 27th Jan 2023 16:59

An interesting one, John, and an illustration of how war dehumanises everyone. Which is what warmongers ultimately rely on, I suppose. In an ideal world, the foot soldiers on each side would throw down their weapons and tell the generals to go to hell. However, in the real world, the dilemma you raise is a genuine one.

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John Coopey

Fri 27th Jan 2023 14:08

Thankyou, Kevin and Helene. Yes, high minded principles aren't worth a can of beans unless there's a cost. And there can be no higher cost than the daily threat to your life.
This is a re-post which was prompted by the case of a Detroit car-worker, John Demanyuk, who was extradited to Germany to face charges of being a Ukrainian guard at Sobibor.

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Fri 27th Jan 2023 13:42

Powerful, heartbreaking, wise. Seeing from a deep perspective. Thanks John.

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kJ Walker

Fri 27th Jan 2023 13:24

One of your better ones John.

And it's a fair question "what would you have done?"
It's easy, when in comfort and safety to think that we are morally higher, and that we would behave differently.
But I doubt many of us would.

Survival is a natural instinct, and I personally wouldn't blame anyone for doing whatever they needed to, to stay alive.

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