The Eleventh Lost Tribe: Poems on the Holocaust


by Louis Daniel Brodsky

 

The Bitter Riddles of History

Why does memory forget itself so easily?
Why do successive generations let grief and regret fade,
Until all that's left are those old demons —
Xenophobia, hostility, anti-Semitism —
And the fear of being invaded,
Violated, and exterminated by supermen
Bent on racial purification, ethnic cleansing,
And the next decades' euphemisms for genocide?

Why are history's bitter riddles so mystifying,
Cryptic, inextricably mixed
With the DNA of culture's collective conscience?
When will man decipher the ancient codes
To elitism, egotism, and societal violence,
Those intervening variables that never vary?
How is forgetting like a vampire?
Who or what will thrust a Star of David through its heart?

 

Use the player below to listen to Louis Daniel Brodsky read this poem.

 



Summary:

The Eleventh Lost Tribe, Brodsky’s fourth book of poems devoted to the Holocaust, asks the reader to confront the dispossessed lives of ghetto dwellers, death-camp survivors, Jews prescient or desperate enough to have fled Europe prior to being captured and slaughtered, and, finally, children of the Shoah’s refugees or orphans of those who perished in it. Exposing the gritty existence of characters Brodsky has resurrected from his imagination, the book’s four sections implore the reader to follow on a quest not so much for historical fact as emotional truth, in search of a better understanding of our incredulity and outrage over the Holocaust.

Although no sane design can be applied to the irrationality of the German wartime psyche, Brodsky has given order to the narrative formed by these characters, grouping them by their proximity to the actual smells and sounds, obscenity and corruption of death. While no one can know the depths of horror experienced by those who were about to inhale the gas or be incinerated in the ovens or shot at point-blank range, Brodsky suggests that those who survived carry just as devastating and palpable an insight into death for having to live with their memories.

This book brings those memories to life through the eyes of camp survivors, refugees, and their children, revealing scars so deep that nothing can alleviate their debilitating pain, ultimately rendering these victims the waking, walking dead, the wandering ghosts from another lost tribe — the fated eleventh — comprising these misbegotten spirits, those who died, and all of us now assimilated into the aftermath of the Holocaust.



Praise:

It’s as though the Holocaust still lives within him, within these angry, defiant poems, not as a subject to write about, but bone of his bone, nerve of his nerve.
— Rodger Kamenetz, author of The Missing Jew



The Eleventh Lost Tribe
is one of those collections that can touch the heart and, at the same time, serve as an inspiration to have faith in human potential.
— Rabbi Robert Sternberg, former director of the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center, St. Louis



The Eleventh Lost Tribe
is a thoughtful meditation on the post-Auschwitz human condition. The collection sensitively explores the limits of language and the enormity of loss for the generations who come after the Holocaust. The Shoah is history, but as Louis Daniel Brodsky’s gifted poetry shows, the event continues to live in the lives of succeeding generations.
— Alan L. Berger, Raddock Family Eminent Scholar in Holocaust Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of Values and Violence after Auschwitz, Florida Atlantic University



To read Charles Adès Fishman's interview of Mr. Brodsky, about his Holocaust writing, please click here.