Thinking about the Tales of the Brothers Grimm


Mound of Glasses at Auschwitz, property of Getty Images.


Thinking about the Tales of the Brothers Grimm
(through the lens of Spring 2015 Trial of Auschwitz Guard )

In even the simplest tales,
there’s always blood somewhere.
(One is not allowed
to photograph the hair.)
Bird-plucked eyes, a roll in nail-blasted barrel
(It’s not something you can truly compare.)
saved up for those craven or foolish.
(It did not matter how good you were,
if you were Jewish.)

The heroes adhere closely
to strange instructions
(We were only following orders)
given from some animal, crawling from earth, sea–
crawling even out of the sky–
(an ostensible reason: that reparations had starved
the country–a wheelbarrow
laden with currency not enough for a loaf of bread
by the time it was rolled
to the bakery–)

(Yes, yes, I knew, but I didn’t myself do–) 

Some live happily ever after.
(One complainant in the current Auschwitz case
lost 49 of her family members.)
An evil step cuts off her heel to make foot fit
and for a bit no one notices–
(Though many won’t even admit knowing)
–all the blood.


A draft poem for Ella’s prompt on With Real Toads about Grimm’s Fairy Tales.  I actually find Grimm’s Fairy Tales very interesting stories, but the originals are pretty grim, as is often noted.  When thinking about the stories,  I could not help also thinking about a war crimes trial going on right now in Germany of a man who was a former guard and bookkeeper at Auschwitz, charged as an accessory in 30,000 deaths, and a recent article that I read concerning those people who work as preservationists at Auschwitz.  (Apparently, one is not now allowed to take photos of the mounds of hair that were found at the camp on its liberation.  At that time, there were 7000 kg of hair, which was a small fraction of the hair actually collected.)   The preservationists have (in my view) a sacred, if very difficult, task.  


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11 Comments on “Thinking about the Tales of the Brothers Grimm”

  1. Ella Says:

    Wow, you went there and it is deceptively dark and haunting as it should be~ So, much madness! Bravo, for being brave~ Well Done

  2. What a chilling reminder .. And its there is important, soon all perpetrators and survivors are dead, so now only those objects remain. An important work indeed.

  3. Jim Says:

    No smiles in this courtroom. None from your readers either.
    Gloom throughout. Fitting the shoe would be a bloody scene.
    Nice writing, it must hVe been hard to keep the dark mood.

  4. Snakypoet (Rosemary Nissen-Wade) Says:

    Yes, Grimm’s stories are pretty horrific really, at least in the original. And so are some of the things real humans do to each other. I think you are making some very good points here, and would be interested to see where this draft goes in the end.

  5. Sanaa Says:

    Blood-chilling..! Agreed with Jim.. this is seriously dark stuff & it must have been difficult keeping up with the mood!

    Lots of love,

  6. othermary Says:

    You’re right, the original fairy tales are very dark and violent. What an original approach to entwine that with the war crimes trial. Brilliant!

  7. Susan Says:

    Fairy tales and blood and terror. Well done. It is no accident that Bruno Bettleheim finished thinking through “The uses of enchantment” in concentration camps. Whatever else he might have done, he opened that door. Because of being raised on these stories, your poem is extra meaningful to me!

  8. hedgewitch Says:

    A somber topic, so easily overlooked amid our current whirl of other disasters, yet I think no one who grew up in the post WWII generations can ever completely forget or ignore it. Your poem mixes the grotesque with the heart-rending, the pain with a sort of anesthetized obliviousness in a very deft and effective way. I also watched a bit of this trial footage, thinking no one who was a cog in that machine is without responsibility. When you accept the dictums of monsters, you become one yourself.

  9. The Grimmest tale of all and too sadly true. Yes, the preservationists have a sacred task. Your line “I knew…but didnt do….” hits home.

  10. Kerry O'Connor Says:

    Human history is nothing if not a trail of human hair, bone and blood stretching back much further than 70 years and genocide is being practiced as we speak in more than one place on the globe. I wish that the trial of one man would be sufficient to bring it all to an end but it seems such a drop in the ocean.

  11. I just love the way you connected all these loose ends into a beautiful poem. Thanks.

    Greetings from London.

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