On December 13, 1991 – Yvette wrote a poem, “The March” about her experiences on what is commonly called the Death March – from Auschwitz to Ravensbruck. [Translated from French with the help of Yvette’s daughter, Sylviane Farnoux Toperkoff.]
Who will be able to, or who could understand?
Is there something to understand?
All of this, is it totally incomprehensible?
Or rather totally impossible to understand at all!
The eighteenth of January 1945 – I believe or I know…or perhaps I …
We found ourselves in a kind of corridor, naked.
A kind of metro corridor, in rows of five.
Terribly numerous, advancing by groups, quite slowly
And then, suddenly, after about two hours,
We were made to leave, always naked,
Thrown in a kind of clothes closet.
Each one took what she could.
I had the chance to recover two shoes
And especially a warm, lined jacket.
We were then put on a road, in rows of five
Cold, wind, snow from all sides.
On both sides of the road also, crushed skulls.
The laggards, a bullet in the head.
Red on the white of the snow, horror,
The snow was red with blood of cracked brains…
We must move forward, we must support ourselves.
We are walking.
In a village, some French prisoners, in French uniforms…
Some local residents pour buckets of water on us
They shout, “Down with the whores.” Again, the horror,
The horror of not being able to say anything.
Our horrible horde is nothing, nothing, nothing!
On the third day, a kind of farm.
We could sleep here, on top of each other.
In the morning, a miracle: a hot bowl!
We are walking again.
There is a station and open cars.
It is minus twenty, minus twenty-five or minus thirty degrees.*
The deportees occupy half of a car.
The other half has the SS, the dogs, around a brazier.
Getting on the train, I discover my dress is soaked.
I take it off. I want to wring it out.
Frozen, it breaks in two.
The solidarity brings me a skirt and a knit pullover.
They are great.
We sat on the ice.
We will not die.
The ice, the cold, the wind,
Without having eaten anything except the snow.
For eight days, without bronchitis, without a cold.
We did not die. Why? How?
* In Fahrenheit that would have been -4, or -13 or -22 degrees.