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Holocaust and its Effect to Humanity Destruction in Palestine as Seen in William Heyen’s Riddle

“Riddle” by William Heyen


From Belsen a crate of gold teeth,

from Dachau a mountain of shoes,

from Auschwitz a skin lampshade.

Who killed the Jews?


Not I, cries the typist,

not I, cries the engineer,

not I, cries Adolf Eichmann,

not I, cries Albert Speer.


My friend Fritz Nova lost his father –

a petty official had to choose.

My friend Lou Abrahms lost his brother.

Who killed the Jews?


David Nova swallowed gas,

Hyman Abrahms was beaten and starved.

Some men signed their papers,

and some stood guard,


and some herded them in,

and some dropped the pellets,

and some spread the ashes,

and some hosed the walls,


and some planted the wheat,

and some poured the steel,

and some cleared the rails,

and some raised the cattle.


Some smelled the smoke,

some just heard the news.

Were they Germans? Were they Nazis?

Were they human? Who killed the Jews?


The stars will remember the gold,

the sun will remember the shoes,

the moon will remember the skin.

But who killed the Jews?


The poem, written by William Heyen, entitles Riddle surprised me since at the first sight. Theme about Holocaust looks uncommon while compare with the other themes which is studied in this department. But, behind that uncommon, I see a lot of lessons which can be taken from this poem.


The term of Holocaust come from ancient Greek word, has the meaning of sacrifice to Gods which is entirely burned in the altar. Holocaust always refers to the systematic mass abattoir of Jews, and the other minority clan, conducted by Nazi Germany. But in this chance, I will not analyze about the term of Holocaust, but the effects of Holocaust itself, especially humanity and political effect.


Why I choose this theme? This is my reason. If we read about Holocaust, we will know about genesis of Jews. In Europe, at 18 and 19 century, Jews is overshadowed. They are hated with various reasons though have dwelt in Europe continent since thousand years in consequence of Diaspora. And this hatred culminates in the human tragedy called Holocaust.


I emphasize in this paper about the effect of Holocaust as a human crime, in the reality result another human crime. As known, since the Holocaust tragedy, a large numbers of Jews try to return to the ground that claimed as Promised Land. The problem is the existence of population of Arab Palestinian. And this case becomes the beginning of another human tragedy to Palestinian. We can see the last incident, it is war between Israel and HAMAS, and many innocent people become the victim.


I try to analyze this problem from the side that perhaps during the time never been expressed. Holocaust of Jews in the reality generates a larger ethnical cleansing and its bad effect to humanity.


If we read the poem above, we will see impression of Holocaust horror at this masterpiece. Many people agree that this poem in fact very close with psychological side about the Holocaust. Heyen write powerfully in structure and the core of poem. But, I will not analyze this side. I am not interested to analyze the intrinsic side of this poem. As I said before, I will analyze the effect of colonization to Israel in World War II which actually generates the colonization to the other nation, Palestine.


In 1946, United Kingdom gives full protection to Jews, which became the victim of Nazi Germany’s Holocaust, in Declaration Balfour. The protection is also including the confession about Israel state establishment. In the beginning, United Kingdom offers an area in Middle Africa to be a country of Israel. But that proposal is refused with the reason that the Jews people still have trauma with their position as a diasporic clan (detached, according to term of Postcolonial). They assume that Middle Africa is not their habitat. Finally, the government of United Kingdom asks the area that they want to build a state, and Jews choose Palestinian land.


The problems appear here. The land has been occupied during centuries by Arab Palestinian people. As we know between Jews and the Arabs have a deep sentiment since years ago, including religion sentiment and also clan sentiment. When the Jews enter Palestine land, there are many hard reactions from Arab nations. But the reaction will not kill the spirit of Jews people to found a state of Great Israel.


In the end of 1940 and early 1950, the Jews only occupy about 10 percent of Palestinian region. Then people of Israel success to occupy about 80 percent region during last five decades. Palestinian has been isolated into two parts of region, Gaza Strip and West Banks. This is what Israel really wants. Learn from the past experience, for example Six Day War, Israel have to annihilate any kind of potency strength of Palestinian. With one sided of diplomacy, Palestinian forced to give their regions, not allowed to have armed forces, demarcation and border access closing, and economic boycott which generate endless hunger. From here we can see that Israel also apply the policy of Holocaust to Palestinian. It is strange, isn’t it? And this policy makes Palestinian like losing of their spirit as a nation. Palestinian will be hit by syndrome of lost culture. Israel has agenda to blur Palestinian position in the international political map. And this action causes the worst result to Palestinian. We also can see that Palestinian hit by syndrome of inferiority. They feel the lost of their national identity.


Israel also intends to conduct the terror to Palestinian in all way, economics and also military way. When Israel attacks Gaza Strip months ago, Israeli army conducted cruelty murders. They do not care with battle ethics by killing the innocent and unarmed people. The economic boycott also causes many victims.


The next question is there no resistance from Palestinian? No. They also fight against the cruelty of Israel. Yasser Arafat and HAMAS is the icon of the resistance of Palestinian. But recently the resistances dwindle because there is a friction among combatant of Palestinian. In one side, there is a group which remains to hold firmness of struggle idealism, and the other try to accept the ‘bargain’ from Israel to get easier life. In Postcolonial studies, we recognize the last group as the collaborator of colonization to a nation. The collaborator, in fact, becomes the original enemy of Palestinian independence combatants. This group is the result of hybrid and mimicry process that dangerous to their nation. They forget to be a Palestinian; more like to be the people of Israel than Palestinian.


Actually, I do not want to conclude in analyzing this poem. I only wish to note that in the reality the colonization effect exactly can generate more cruel colonization. And the real example is something that happened in Palestine. And, all of us have take responsibilities that the colonization of Palestinian can be ended immediately, and will not happen again to other nation in this world. And Palestinian shall no longer as colonized nation. Nation will be vanished systematically by Israel from the map of world. The Palestinian never loses their national identity. Because the nation that lose their national identity, national dignity, and culture will be vanished from the map of nations in this world. And this is something that very wanted by Israel, as colonist of Palestinian.



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  2. Downing, S. (2007). Benarkah Nazi Membantai Yahudi? Yogyakarta: Narasi.
  3. Endraswara, S. (2008). Metodologi Penelitian Sastra Edisi Revisi : Epistemologi, Model, Teori, dan Aplikasi. Media Pressindo.
  4. Hynson, C. (2007). Kisah Yang Terlewatkan: Perang Dunia II. Jakarta: Elex Media Komputindo.
  5. Said, E. (1978). Orientalism. Vintage Books.
  6. Salzman, P. C., & Divine, D. R. (2008). Postcolonial Theory and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Routledge Press.
  7. The class materials of Applied Literature Criticism (Postcolonial) by Bernard Hidayat, M.A., second semester of academic year 2008/2009, Faculty of Cultural Sciences, Gadjah Mada University.

Juni 30, 2009 - Posted by | Tulisan-tulisan

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