All the gaping mouths without a voice by Michael Parker

(In homage of the 33,771 Jews exterminated by SS Troops in Kiev, Ukraine, September 28th, 1941)

“Mammy, why do they throw sand in our eyes?”* a girl could be heard screaming from the 30-foot-deep ravine, Babi Yar. (*The Holocaust: A history of the Jews of Europe during the Second World War, Martin Gilbert, Henry Holt and Company, Inc., New York. Page 203.)

It was late in the night of the second day of the grand extermination. The German SS soldiers were cleaning up, bulldozing dirt and lye on top of the dead and the living.

It was a gravedigger from the local cemetery who heard her voice. And though he knew death well, and though, possibly, like his other fellow-Ukranians, he supported the Nazis’ “resettlement of the Jews,” maybe it was this innocent question from the mouth of a girl (who could be the age of his own daughter), that caused his heart to turn. And knowing as well as the backs of his dirt-engrained hands that he had witnessed things so terrible, he ran (stumbling, crying) back to his gravedigger’s shack, opened up the cemetery’s worn, leather-bound log book, and wrote down word for word the little girl’s question.

Maybe, too, he questioned seeing her last moment on the ledge: her mother’s arms tightly wrapping her into her naked body, her free hand holding her little head deep into her abdomen to shield her eyes from the machine guns, from that moment when they would jerk madly and petals of black-colored blood would blossom and burst from the bodies of her dad, brothers, sisters, and friends. She didn’t want her baby to know they would fall like baby birds with weak wings from their nest to their death.

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “All the gaping mouths without a voice by Michael Parker

  1. Joanne Jagoda

    Recalling the horror of Babi Yar. Powerful piece Michael.

  2. So powerful! Beyond heartbreak… Storytelling is the antidote to throwing ‘sand in the eyes.’ Thank you, Michael.

    • Michael Parker

      I’m touched by this comment, Stella, knowing you have told historically relevent and heart-wrenching stories about our human proclivities for violence and war and oppression and hate with great heart and care. Love your comment. And thank you. Best,

  3. Maude Larke

    Yes, Michael. One of many pieces of evidence of the lies we like to rell about the “superiority” or “supremacy” of the human species. Very touching.

    • Michael Parker

      Thank you, Maude! When I first read this account, I had it in my mind that it was recorded by one of the SS soldiers (because in many accounts the Nazis’ were very prolific note takers about how many were rounded up and exterminated). Not in this case. The damning evidence of the brutality was marked by the simple descriptions that the cemetery watchman wrote: how the soldiers lined up the Jews in groups of a hundred; gunned them down with machine guns; threw little kids and babies off the cliff by their feet, alive (a fact I didn’t have the space to tell); and finally and most poignantly, the voice of the little girl heard from the pile of the dead bodies crying out to her mom about the sand being thrown in her eyes! i can’t imagine a more horrowing or haunting moment to have to hear that. I’m grateful for the witnesses throughout history that have courageously stepped forward to reveal the truth about the atrocities. Thanks again, Maude.

  4. Seeing the dark side of humanity, and the innocence and the guilt.

    • Michael Parker

      Hi Susan. Thank you for this comment. The themes that spoke to you are similar to those I replied to in Maude’s comment. So please read that and consider that I am replying personally to you, too. But in short, I’m so glad you saw the “innocence” shine through in this! For me, I can’t help read her question and feel heart-broken every single time. Again, thank you for reading and posting.

  5. Darryl P.

    Everything about this is moving and stark. We need to say these things, to read them, to weep over them.

    • Michael Parker

      Darryl, you nearly brought me to tears over this comment because we do need to write and say these stories, to read and share them, and to “weep over them.” Thank you for reading this and posting that you were moved by it. Thank you!

  6. Oh I definitely should not gave read this before bed. How heart breaking…

  7. Thank you for keeping the truth alive. Beautiful, heart-rending, pure. Peace…

  8. Pingback: Week #42 – Under wraps | 52|250 A Year of Flash

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