On 27 January 1945 the Red Army had just been defeated in an armor engagement with the 20th Panzer Division, which was retreating to escape encirclement, slightly south of Gleiwitz in Upper Silesia. Two villages were punished for the defeat: Preiswitz, populated by Poles, and neighboring Schönwald, populated by Germans. In total, 200 innocent civilians were murdered in cold blood.
The sniped T-34s blaze in the snow,
some with their upturned turrets venting smoke,
others with gaping holes from each fierce blow.
The red infantrymen begin to choke—
a Mongol, Tatar, Uzbek, Ket, and Jew,
the last who holds a pistol to the ear
of a young Pole whose eyes are black and blue,
who’ll not forget the day, or month or year.
Now Schönwald’s Germans must endure their wrath.
Whole families are lined against brick walls,
girls raped and fathers beaten on the path
that leads to where another village falls.
And no amount of soap in history’s bath
can make them clean, or let us hear their calls.