The Radegast train depot stood just outside the ghetto of Lodz. It was once used, in that unlovely German word, as an umschlagplatz, meaning ‘transshipment place.’ My grandparents with dozens of other Jews were collected, packed into the nearly-cliché-named ‘cattle car,’ to be transported to the annihilation camp of Chelmno, thirty-eight kilometers away. Four years ago, I stood in the memorial plaza of the depot. Parked on the rails alongside the wood-frame waiting room were four original wagons, headed by a huge, black locomotive. A group of us climbed into one of the cars. It was night, dark, with only a few weak points of light trickling from smart phones. I suddenly felt wobbly, as if the train was beginning to move. I told this afterwards to my sweet little son who said, “I’m so sorry for what happened to you. Why is the world so cruel? I know I can be a little mean, but not like this, deep down inside I’m not like this.”


Norbert Hirschhorn is a public health physician, commended by President Bill Clinton as an “American Health Hero,” proud to follow in the tradition of physician-poets. Hirschhorn has published seven previous collections, recently ‘Over the Edge’, was published in 2023, by Holland Park Press, London.