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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Charles Reznikoff's Holocaust vs. a Trivializing Holocaust-Themed Ice Skating Routine

Charles Reznikoff, photo by Gerard Malanga
I read this morning about Tatiana Navka, wife of Vladimir Putin's chief spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who with her partner performed an ice skating routine in concentration camp striped uniforms, explaining that children should know about the Holocaust. Yes, they should know about it, but they should not be taught about it through propagandistic trivializations. In his book-length poem, Holocaust, the Objectivist Poet, Charles Reznikoff, selects and lineates  The Trials of the Major War Criminals at Nuremburg and The Eichmann Trial in Jerusalem. You can find photos of Reznikoff and links to his reading Holocaust hereFrom the Modern American Poetry website's section "On Holocaust" (with excepts from various critics about the book about the problems and ethical quandary that the poem presents), offer you one small section, which presents just one instance of the real horror of the death camps:

Women guards at the women's section of the
        concentration camp
were putting little children into trucks
to be taken away to the gas chambers
and the children were screaming and crying, "Mamma, Mamma,"
even though the guards were trying to give them
        pieces of candy to quiet them. 

There are ways in which I, personally, wrestle with Charles Reznikoff's method in Holocaust. However, in response to this ice skating routine's appalling and offensive trivialization of the Holocaust, Reznikoff's Holocaust seemed a most powerful answer. It is as if the poem were prophetically written just to denounce this kind of news item. Reznikoff's poetic voice is varied, and I deeply admire his work and am influenced by it. I encourage you to read his other poems, as well; here is a selection on The Poetry Foundation's website.


  1. Here is the type of poetry that I wish I could write. I like Mr. Reznikoff's style. I find it a very powerful way to get a message across to people.

    1. I'm glad you admire it, Tim. Thank you for leaving a comment.