Here War Is Simple

Here war is simple like a monument:
A telephone is speaking to a man;
Flags on a map assert that troops were sent;
A boy brings milk in bowls. There is a plan
For living men in terror of their lives,
Who thirst at nine who were to thirst at noon,
And can be lost and are, and miss their wives,
And, unlike an idea, can die too soon.
But ideas can be true although men die,
And we can watch a thousand faces
Made active by one lie:
And maps can really point to places
Where life is evil now:
Nanking. Dachau.

Author Notes

In August 1937 Japanese forces invaded China and embarked on a savage war which lasted until 1945 and in which at least 10m Chinese civilians were killed. In November the Japanese attacked Nanking, then China's capital city; by December they had taken it, and began a six week series of atrocities against the citizens. The soldiers raped, looted and burned, and upwards of 300,000 people were massacred with extreme cruelty.

The concentration camp at Dachau in Germany was opened on March 9 1933, less than a week after Hitler became supreme ruler. Almost at once several thousand people were imprisoned there (without trial) because they opposed Hitler's Nazi government. They included Communists, Socialists and Liberals, many of them academics and other distinguished people. Later, thousands of German and Austrian gypsies and Jews were held there before being deported to death camps set up in Poland. The Dachau camp was run by the SS, and with great brutality; many prisoners died there from ill-treatment, or were killed. In 1944 and 1945, when the Germans were hastily emptying concentration camps set up outside Germany, many surviving Jews were sent to Dachau on 'death marches'; those who collapsed were left to die. When American troops liberated Dachau in 1945 they found many dead, but also 33,000 starving survivors - only 2,531 of whom were Jewish.


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