Paul Hartal

Whose Life Is Worth More? - Poem by Paul Hartal

'Whose life is worth more? ' the SS officer asked.
Jacob Kogen did not answer.
In the eerie silence that ensued
the SS man drew his pistol.

'Tell me', he said, playing with the weapon,
'Whose life is worth more?
Yours? Your wife's? Your children's,
or the life of a stranger? '

'All human lives are equal', Kogen replied.
'You mean the life of a Jew and a non-Jew
has the same value? ' the SS officer asked.

'God created all human beings
equally entitled to their lives', Kogen said.

'In that case you will provide me 7,000 Jews',
the SS man said.

It was September 1,1942,
the third anniversary of the war's start,
the German attack on Poland
and Kogen was a member of the Jewish Council
in a Polish town.

He went home devastated.
He realized that The Nazis would take
the selected 7,000 people
outside the town in order to be shot.

'One shall not shed innocent blood
to save his own life', he told his wife.
And he added: 'A Jew Cannot decide
who will be taken for execution'.

Kogen and his family committed suicide.

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Poet's Notes about The Poem

This poem is based on a real story. It happened in Wlodzimierz Wolynski in Nazi occupied Poland. Source: Martin Gilbert, The Holocaust, London: Fontana Press,1987; p.440

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Poem Submitted: Sunday, May 20, 2012

Poem Edited: Sunday, June 24, 2012

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