Refugee Blues

Say this city has ten million souls,
Some are living in mansions, some are living in holes:
Yet there’s no place for us, my dear, yet there’s no place for us.

Once we had a country and we thought it fair,
Look in the atlas and you’ll find it there:
We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go there now.

In the village churchyard there grows an old yew,
Every spring it blossoms anew:
Old passports can’t do that, my dear, old passports can’t do that.

The consul banged the table and said,
“If you’ve got no passport you’re officially dead”:
But we are still alive, my dear, but we are still alive.

Went to a committee; they offered me a chair;
Asked me politely to return next year:
But where shall we go to-day, my dear, but where shall we go to-day?

Came to a public meeting; the speaker got up and said;
“If we let them in, they will steal our daily bread”:
He was talking of you and me, my dear, he was talking of you and me.

Thought I heard the thunder rumbling in the sky;
It was Hitler over Europe, saying, “They must die”:
O we were in his mind, my dear, O we were in his mind.

Saw a poodle in a jacket fastened with a pin,
Saw a door opened and a cat let in:
But they weren’t German Jews, my dear, but they weren’t German Jews.

Went down the harbour and stood upon the quay,
Saw the fish swimming as if they were free:
Only ten feet away, my dear, only ten feet away.

Walked through a wood, saw the birds in the trees;
They had no politicians and sang at their ease:
They weren’t the human race, my dear, they weren’t the human race.

Dreamed I saw a building with a thousand floors,
A thousand windows and a thousand doors:
Not one of them was ours, my dear, not one of them was ours.

Stood on a great plain in the falling snow;
Ten thousand soldiers marched to and fro:
Looking for you and me, my dear, looking for you and me.

written in 1939 by W.H. Auden (1907-1973)

7 Responses to “Refugee Blues”

  1. Reading this gave me the shivers, unrelated to the weather. Trump is a menace

    • telescoper Says:

      Yes, we’re re-running the 1930s, only this time we’re on the side of the fascists.

      • And Germany is on the side of tolerance ind inclusiveness. Who would have thought, in 1938, that it would be that way round.

      • “Who would have thought, in 1938, that it would be that way round.”

        Only those who believe that certain moral characteristics of a people are immutable. In other words, racists.

      • telescoper Says:

        Indeed. Some British like to think that they are morally superior by that same logic. Facts are proving that they are not.

      • “Yes, we’re re-running the 1930s, only this time we’re on the side of the fascists.”

        Due to Brexit, some UK Jews are making use of a law to obtain fast-track German citizenship. (The law allows for fast-track citizenship if one or one’s ancestors was unlawfully deprived of such citizenship; in practice, this usually applies to people whose citizenship was revoked by the Nazis.)

      • “Yes, we’re re-running the 1930s, only this time we’re on the side of the fascists.”

        Two common questions: If you realized at the time how bad it was, why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you leave?

        I don’t mean this cynically, but rather to point out that not everything is black and white. Otto Heckmann, then director of the Hamburg Observatory, author of a wonderful book on cosmology, and later founder of ESO (which used to be headquartered in Hamburg) was criticized by some for joining the Nazi party as it enabled him to remain a professor in Germany. It was later revealed that he allowed a Jewish woman to hide out on the grounds of the observatory, which probably saved her life. Some employees expressed relief when he joined the party, since otherwise they might have had to deal with a real Nazi as director.

        Not everyone is in a position to leave and if they are, it might endanger others. And, in some cases, people really didn’t know. For some people, the Nazi times were great times (at least until the war), and without modern communication, many people in rural areas really didn’t know everything which was going on (which doesn’t mean that all would have been opposed had they known).

        Today, the problem is not lack of knowledge, but too much false information. Fake news. Alternative facts.

        “What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.”

        ― Mark Twain

        Note that Trump has made Steve Bannon, former head of fake-news website Breitbart (speakers of German would think that “Schmalbart” would be more appropriate), Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor and a member of the National Security Council’s principals committee.

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