Herbert Nehrlich

Rookie (04 October 1943 / Germany)

Purging - Poem by Herbert Nehrlich

They came at daybreak, olive green
their uniforms, a soldiers' truck.
They stopped at fourteen houses briefly,
and no discussion, and no sounds.

The captain was a feisty Russian,
of rooster size and acne scarring,
and overbearing body posture,
he barked commands with little patience.
In minutes it was time to go.

And 14 men left on that day,
no questions asked, no answers given.
They huddled in the open truck
in their pyjamas in the cold.

The year was 1948,
East Germany grew up at last.
A democratic transformation
from Nazi past to people's rule.

It had been ascertained by those,
whose social roles securely rested
on full compliance of the masses,
and no dissent could ever grow.

Some voices had been heard by others.
Dear neighbours, friends and even kin
would share, betraying their own mothers,
all non-conformists were turned in.

They were misled, which means diseased,
and treatment was now of the essence.
Once they disturbed the Russian Beast,
their days were numbered and their presence
would be cut short, all in due time.

They said good-bye at daybreak then,
and grinned a bit, then they would climb,
while wives were crying, these good men
would board their modern cattle train,
with destination quite unknown.

There was no talking, and in vain
would be resistance, one was thrown
onto the pavement from the truck,
for reasons unbeknownst to all.
The captain told them it was luck
that he had been allowed to fall,
as bullets wait with little patience.

It started snowing now and wind
was blowing flakes, a fond farewell,
they later found one striped pyjama
near the town bridge, the man was dead.

No one did ever learn their fate,
but none returned and none survived.
I don't accuse the communists
of cruelty and genocide.
No, it is man who's capable
to do away with human beings,
it may be lynch mentality
or even that the fit must live,
what does disturb this cynic's mind,
is that the reasons can be flimsy.


Comments about Purging by Herbert Nehrlich

  • (2/8/2005 9:33:00 AM)


    You've written this very sensitively, Herbert and your last verse says it all and says it well.

    Chrissie
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  • (2/8/2005 4:50:00 AM)


    I don't have the words to praise this theme so beautifully dealt with. But I feel strangely cleansed by reading it. (Report) Reply

  • (2/7/2005 10:33:00 PM)


    A very difficult subject; you handled it with great sensitivity. I agree with Rich Hanson that the last stanza sings nicely. (Report) Reply

  • (2/7/2005 9:11:00 PM)


    well told, and a powerful last stanza summed it up powerfully. (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: farewell, fate, green, people, wind, time, soldier, friend



Poem Submitted: Monday, February 7, 2005



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