Dr Lichtenstein


Arbeit Macht Frei

(For Dr Liechenstein)

I was born in 1951,
At home, in a pre-fab, built for soldiers
Returning from the Second World War:
Homes fit for Heroes, in a way;
My dad had fought behind Japanese lines -
He’d had a bad war,
But patriotic, and needing the extra money,
He was on the reserve list for Korea –
If he’d gone to the Korean War,
I wouldn’t have been conceived.

I suppose I was a war baby, in a way.

I first saw the electric light of evening,
In my parents’ bedroom,
After my father had biked anxiously out
To collect some strange gas apparatus,
To assist my mother’s breathing in her labour;
It was a long and arduous birth.

The first hands to touch me were those of Dr Liechenstein;
For it was he who brought me into the world;
I grew to remember him as a kindly man -
But his delivery of me is recent news:
I found out from my sister only last week.

I have also only just discovered
That his wife and children were gassed at Auschwitz.

It’s disconcerting to discover
That the first hands to touch oneself
Were hands that embraced a wife and children
Who were gassed, desperate for breath,
And then despatched in a crematorium:
A union consigned to ash.

And he brought me to life,
With gas for my mother,
When she was desperate for breath,
In a growing family union,
And with tender-hearted care and concern
For the family and me, until we moved,
Some five years later.

Work may not have made him free,
But sometimes, only brief, fleeting, sometimes,
It helped him forget.

I’m not sure that my birth helped him forget
. But how can I ever forget?
Dr Liechenstein.