Natalie Woodward

Research output: Other contribution


After visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau in 2012, I was struck by the buzzing life in the town and villages so close to the camps. Surrounded by bushes and the birch trees which inspired Nazis to rename Brzezinka to 'Birkenau', the camp was shielded from the public eye. This poem is my account of the silence which surrounds the camps, stemming from the fact that so many victims, sent left to the chambers, died without being accounted for.

The journal in which this was published has folded, but I am working with a small group of students to get it running again.


Oświęcim, like other towns, has a history,
but one which stops before its time.

Townsfolk are talking in old tongues
and laughter is on their lips.
Their young are growing older.

Their old are growing older.

I wonder if they know their town
is a tree burnt from the roots up.

Brzezinka was translated into trees
planted to block out shadows.

Wooden tongues take hold in soil
And stick, wordless, to bits of bone and teeth,


Each bone, light as ash, testifies only
to a haunting absence.
Past the trees, they land silently,
touching the ground like lips brushing against an ear,
as stories of the uncounted left
are left uncounted.

Original languageEnglish
Media of outputPeer reviewed journal
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


  • Auschwitz
  • Birkenau

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