This is not about Dachau, although
these things happened there.
When my son and I visited the Denkmal,
as the Germans refer to Dachau,
it was late afternoon,
and it was deserted.
The weather was rainy and cool.
Vancouver weather: warm for
December in Bavaria,
I was told.
We walked around, peering
curiously into the barracks
where the living dead stared with eyes
like those of African night mammals
at the stunned American cameramen,
and then we stepped into the “Duschbad,”
and then into the crematorium
and then back outside into
the drizzle –
Finally, I stopped to look at the bronze memorial
to the “Unknown Prisoner”: a stooped, skeletal
in rags, ashy and green from the wet Bavarian winters;
leaving a pebble on the pedestal, as I had been taught,
I turned to leave.
My son had lingered behind.
Fifteen, tough and big;
standing quietly in front of the pitted bronze,
his black football jacket dripping rain,
sloppy, untied Adidas hightops
and blue/white acid-dyed jeans soaking through –
he slowly reached up
to his soggy old Detroit Tigers
between wet thumb and forefinger,
tipped the brim.
Graham Forst, PhD, taught literature and philosophy at Capilano University until his retirement and now teaches in the continuing education departments at Simon Fraser University, University of British Columbia and Banff School of Fine Arts. From 1975 to 2010, he co-chaired the symposium committee of the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre.