Last Jew in Vinnitsa

An officer shoves me to the edge of the pit.
“Kneel!” he screams.
My knee sinks into the mud at the brink,
and I look in and see death,
twisted and tangled in bare heaps of limbs,
contorted unnaturally on the faces of children,
their eyes as wide and scared and lifeless
as those of the bigger bodies around them.
They were shot in lines that moved forward as one,
sometimes holding hands as the soldiers
took aim and fired.
There is no line for me because
there is no one left to shoot.
Entire families gone.
Entire swaths of the city erased,
the ghettos as empty as their vacant eyes.
And I am the last one.
The last Jew in Vinnitsa.
I lock eyes with a face below me.
We have much in common:
both brown-haired, both Jews, both dead.
I feel a barrel press against my skull.
“Wait, you dummkopf, you’ll get his filthy brains
all over you if you shoot him like that.
Step back, and wait for the picture:
this is the last one, after all.”
“Look up!”
I stare at the blurring face while
the photographer makes a few adjustments.
“Eins…”
A breeze plays gently with my hair.
“Look up, Schwein!”
I wonder who will see this picture.
“Zwei…”
I inhale deeply and raise my eyes.
“Drei!”
A flash of light—

  

2 thoughts on “Last Jew in Vinnitsa

    • Thanks, man. It’s an interesting exercise, trying to see the world through someone else’s eyes. It’s intimidating, and you want to be careful about how you approach it. In this piece especially, I try to be reverent about this man and these people, but I want people to realize that this isn’t just a picture. These people had lives that were ended in horrific ways. I do my best to honor that in this piece. I’m glad it spoke to you.

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