An old geezer down our boozer
He says his name is Joe.
The numbers on his arm explain
A life of pain and woe.
Someone said he was a German –
Or he might have been a Pole
Who as a child saw the pit of hell
And never grew up to be whole.
He tells of children from windows thrown,
Starvation, disease, hope gone,
He stood helpless, scared and alone,
While others, just looked on.
He never saw his family again
Taken away and gassed,
While he had to face his future apart
Just another of the damned amassed.
In a nightmare world where all hope had gone
He was marched from camp to camp
Trying to stay alive on the road
In the biting snow and damp.
Then at Buchenwald’s door salvation came
From soldiers to rescue not slay,
Finding new homes for these children of pain
In a land not too far away.
Joe drinks his pint, says he once met the Queen
We asked him ‘What did you say?’
He told her, ‘Ma’am this could happen again
‘If hatred has its way.
‘For everywhere there are those that jeer
‘At others ‘not quite the same’
‘With darker skins, or different clothes, or beliefs with another name.
‘We must unite and challenge these views
‘Whenever we hear them spoke,
‘Together we stand, united we fall
‘Under the terror of racism’s yoke.’
I didn’t see old Joe again
I heard he moved away.
It’s now our turn to spread his words
And recall what he had to say.
To break the wheel of racism’s hate
To love and value all –
Or else we’ll face a dreadful fate
Because we ignored this call.
- The 45 Aid Society came about after the British government offered to allow 1,000 children who had survived the camps to settle in the UK, but the Nazi killing machine had been so brutal that only 732 could be found. ‘Joe’ was one of these children – he was 17 when he arrived here in 1945. Find out more here
- Beaky is a Unite activist and occasional poet