In the camps the Muselmanner
gave up first. You couldn’t say
they were living, you couldn’t say
they were dead. They were like
the mannequins who showed off
clothes in my father’s store. One lived
in our attic. We called her Anne.
She even looked a little Dutch
with her blond wig and wooden
clogs. Not that she ever wore them.
She couldn’t risk the noise.
The real Anne could have used
a wig like hers. She’s been there ever since
I turned thirteen, the day my father
brought her home from his store. “It’s time,”
he said, “you learned to live like a Jew.
Forget the rabbi’s narishkeit.
She’ll teach you everything you need
to know.” Up the stairs to the tiny
attic; he locked us in.
In the camps all the Muselmanner
cared about was food. If you grabbed one
by the throat, it might collapse. They lived,
if you call that living, from finger to mouth.
They ran out of time before they could learn
the rules. Before he turned the key he gave
me a sandwich. “From your mother,” he sighed,
as if I couldn’t guess. “She worries you might get
hungry. Better she worries you won’t learn
how to starve.”