You came to live with us when I was eight
And tried to teach me German: “Anton –
Riesengroß Anton”. Silly stuff; but I was told
I must be nice to you, a refugee, a Jew
Escaped from Hitler. So I learned
About the Anschluss, and the things you told
About your father on his hands and knees
Forced to scrub paving-stones while men stood by
And spat on him. Also the man you loved, Fredl,
An Aryan (and you explained) you’d left behind.
Thirty years later, in the Sheffield synagogue,
I saw you marry Norman, heard the strange sad chants,
Heard the glass broken in its ritual
And, in the foreign past, the sounds of Kristallnacht.
Anthony Thwaite, born in 1930, has been a university teacher, a radio producer and a literary editor of the New Statesman. He is one of Philip Larkin’s literary executors and editors. His most recent volume of poetry is Going Out (Enitharmon Press).
This article appears in the 27 Jan 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Should Labour split?