We Orphans

We orphans
we cry out to the world:
they have hewn down our branch
and hurled it into the fire –
those who defend us have been used for firewood –
we orphans lie in the fields of loneliness.

We orphans
we cry out to the world:
In the night our parents play hide-and-seek with us –
Behind the black folds of the night
their faces watch us,
their mouths speak:
Kindling we were, in a woodcutter’s hand –
but our eyes have become angel’s eyes
watching you,
they can see
through the black folds of the night –

We orphans
we cry out to the world
stones are now our toys,
stones have faces, father
and mother faces.
They don’t fade like
flowers, they don’t bite like beasts –
and they don’t burn like kindling, when
you throw them in the fire –

We orphans, we cry out to the world:
World, why have you taken our soft mothers from us
and our fathers who say: My child, you are so like me!
We orphans, now we are like no one in the world!

O World,
we cry out and accuse you!

Wir Waisen* (click to listen)

Wir klagen der Welt:
Herabgehauen hat man unseren Ast
Und ins Feuer geworfen –
Brennholz hat man aus unseren Beschützern gemacht –
Wir Waisen liegen auf den Feldern der Einsamkeit.

Wir Waisen
Wir klagen der Welt:
In der Nacht spielen unsere Eltern Verstecken mit uns-
Hinter den schwarzen Falten der Nacht
Schauen uns ihre Gesichter an,
sprechen ihre Münder:
Dürrholz waren wir in eines Holzhauers Hand –
Aber unsere Augen sind Engelaugen geworden
Und sehen euch an,
durch die schwarzen Falten der Nacht
blicken sie hindurch –

Wir Waisen
Wir klagen der Welt:
Steine sind unser Spielzeug geworden,
Steine haben Gesichter, Vater- und Muttergesichter
Sie verwelken nicht wie
Blumen, sie beißen nicht wie Tiere –
Und sie brennen nicht wie Dürrholz, wenn man sie in den Ofen wirft –

Wir Waisen, wir klagen der Welt:
Welt, warum hast du uns die weichen Mütter genommen
Und die Väter, die sagen: Mein Kind du gleichst mir!
Wir Waisen gleichen niemand mehr auf der Welt!

O Welt
Wir klagen dich an!

*”The choral arrangement closes the first half of Testimony of Witnesses. It was recorded by Boston Secession for our first professional CD release, Afterlife: German Choral Meditations on Mortality


One thought on “We Orphans

  1. I chose the poem named “We Orphans.” I chose this poem because it really spoke to me about how lonely orphans feel.
    Definition: n. a person, esp. a child, both of whose parents are dead; an abandoned or neglected child
    Synonym: stray, foundling, ragamuffin
    The definition of an orphan is someone whose parents are dead. I think Nellie was talking about the orphans in the Holocaust and how their parents were killed, and so they were orphans.
    There were a few words that stood out to me in this poem. One is fire. The word fire stood out to me because it seemed like a good representation of the whole poem. It was also repeated many times.
    Definition: n. the light and heat and especially the flame produced by burning
    Synonyms: blaze, heat, coals, charring
    Symbols: Hell, love
    Another word that stood out to me in the poem was cry. It stood out because when I think of orphans, I usually think of sadness, and when people cry they are usually sad. It also stood out to me because that word was repeated many times throughout the poem.
    Definition: v. to produce tears from your eyes often while making loud sounds because of pain, sorrow, or other strong emotions
    Synonyms: howl, sob, and bawl
    Symbols: babies
    The poem talks about how “they” have taken everything from the orphans and how lonely the orphans feel. I believe that when she talks about “they,” she I talking about the Nazi regime. The poem uses a reference to their parents representing kindling and being burned in the fire. It talks about their only toys being stones, and how they have made mother and father-like faces for them, and how when they get thrown in the fire they don’t burn. The poem talks about the Orphans accusing the world of taking their mothers and fathers from them, who love them.

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