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My mother, her sister and parents escaped Nazi Germany just after Crystal Night. As a 13 yr old, it was extremely upsetting to see her beloved teachers returning from having wrecked her home. This direct experience of violent destruction along with knowing about the toll of Nazism on Jews in Germany, had a profound effect on her, shaping her worldview, especially around issues of trust. 

When my mother was 84, shortly after 9/11, she confided to me that she had forgiven the Germans. She asked herself if she would have the strength of will, with three small children at her side, to intervene if the state should come to remove her Muslim neighbors. She thought not.
Witnessing the state’s immense power to foster and perpetuate hate towards Muslims made her rethink her attitudes and, through empathy, forgive the people of her country of birth; a country our family has a 600-year history with. So this poem is about the power and the journey of forgiveness.

Out of Germany

We are who we forgive
even in our darkest night
not a moment goes by
where this letting go
is done.

This constant movement
a slim red shoot
pushing through snow,
its wilting imminent
already mistaken
for the dim-lit end.

The melting snow,
after a crystalline night,
bare ground revealed
where now
we find ourselves

drawn together
like raked leaves
from the chaos
wind leaves
in its wake.

All this letting go
sown in stories
re-seeds the soil
and in the sprouting
forgives the farmer the tilling
the fire
the burning
of last year’s crop.

Steve Garber