We Are Not Heroes

We are not heroes, not the valiant sort
We let them take us, fell in to survive
The heroes are the ones who stood and fought

Our bodies packed together frail support
The nudging of her foot kept me alive
But we’re not heroes, not the valiant sort

Our best fought underground, our martyrs caught
Resistance from the shadows, fire and strive
The heroes are the ones who stayed and fought

Our seaside camp a lightless last resort
The body pile my mother’s life deprived
We were no heroes, not the valiant sort

Yet some refused to board this train of thought
Defiance and rebellion to drive
The heroes are the ones who stirred and fought

So tell me, was our agony for nought?
Can stripped and shaven dignity revive?
Perhaps we all are heroes of a sort
The heroes who survived, who stood, who fought

I wrote this poem after reading an account by a Jewish Holocaust survivor. She described her experiences in harrowing detail, and also revealed her feeling that she and others like her were not heroes because they let the Nazis take them to the camps. The real heroes, she said, were the Jews who fought back instead. It struck me as tragic and very harsh on herself.

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