Forty poets wrote a total of ninety-eight poems in ten languages, composed during
their time in Dachau. These works have been bundled in the book “Mein Schatten in
Dachau” (My Treasures in Dachau). The poems are printed in their original language,
with a German translation next to them. There is a short biography of all the writers,
in addition to the story of their arrest.
“All of us are not poets”, according to the Belgian writer and ex-Dachau prisoner
Arthur Haulot. “But if we were we would have written it just like this, because we
felt it all deep in our hearts”.
Some of the poets wrote about their experiences. Writing poetry was a escape for
them, a way to retreat in another world, to be alone in surroundings where no one
was ever alone. For them, writing was a like being saved, and took care that in this
harsh world, they were not completely hardened inside.
When they arrived at the camp, everything was taken from the prisoners, they had
no right to personal possessions. It was extremely difficult to procure writing materials.
A butt of a pencil and especially paper was almost impossible to get. Often fellow
prisoners would help, if they had the opportunity. If that did not succeed, the poems
could be inscribed in their memory, to be written down after the liberation.
Everything was being used as writing paper. Old newspapers, cardboard, toilet paper.
The note had to be hidden very carefully, under the floor of the barracks, in the
ceiling, between clothes; everything was thought of to hide what was written from
the continuing inspections of the SS. Because the poems were written with the intention
of bearing witness to what had happened in Dachau, on the day the gates would open
In the middle of a society where everyone wore dehumanizing striped suits and were
only referred to by their numbers, a poet wrote:
“Ik ben not steeds IK,
ik ben een mens
Mogen de beulen dan geen gezicht hebben,
vervormd als ze zein door martelen en moorden,
ik ben een mens gebleven die kan huilen,
lijden en bidden."
"I am still ME,
I am a human being.
May be the executioners do not have a face,
Misformed as they are through torture and murder,
I have remained a human being who can cry,
suffer and pray."
The book contains a number of drawings by the Venetian artist Zoran Music, who in
the last few months before the liberation of the camp worked at a desk, and therefore
could get drawing materials. Like the poets in this book, he though it was important
to draw his impressions for posterity.
The book was compiled by the writer Dorothea Heiser, who lives in Dachau and is financed
by the International Dachau Committee. The book contains several Dutch contributions.