‘Don’t Mention the Children’
by Michael Rosen

Israel bans radio advert listing names of children killed in Gaza
(Guardian 24.07.14)

Don’t name the dead children.
The people must not know the names
of the dead children.
The names of the children must be hidden.
The children must be nameless.
The children must leave this world
having no names.
No one must know the names of
the dead children.
No one must say the names of the
dead children.
No one must even think that the children
have names.
People must understand that it would be dangerous
to know the names of the children.
The people must be protected from
knowing the names of the children.
The names of the children could spread
like wildfire.
The people would not be safe if they knew
the names of the children.
Don’t name the dead children.
Don’t remember the dead children.
Don’t think of the dead children.
Don’t say: ‘dead children’.

Children’s Crusade 1939
by Bertolt Brecht

War came into Poland
In 1939
And there was only a wasteland
Where house and home had been.

The armies took brother from sister
And man from wife. In the fire
And rubble the child sought the mother
And couldn’t find her anywhere.

Then nothing came out of Poland
No newspaper, no post
But a story, a strange story,
Circulates in the east.

In an eastern town snow was falling
When they told the story about
A children’s crusade and Poland
Was where it started out.

There were children trailing the long roads
In troops and passing through
The shot-to-pieces villages
Their hungry numbers grew.

They were trying to escape the battles
And all the nightmare
And one day come to a country
Where there’d be no more war.

They had a boy for a leader
He cheered them when they were low
But he was worried, he asked himself
Which way? And did not know.

A girl of eleven dragged along
A little lad of four
And to make him a good mother
All she wanted was no more war.

And on the march was a Jewish boy
With velvet at his throat
And he was used to white white bread
But he found his own two feet.

And two little brothers, great strategists,
Marched in that campaign.
Stormed an empty shed but lost it
To the overwhelming rain.

And one lad sidled along apart
He was the thin grey one.
A terrible blame was eating him:
He came from a Nazi legation.

A musicmaker was with them, he found
A drum in a smashed-up store
But couldn’t play it, the rat-a-tat-tat
Would have told the world where they were.

They captured a dog
To kill and eat, they said
But hadn’t the heart to do it
So they fed him instead.

They opened a school, a little girl
Was writing the hard word FRIEND
(“I” before “E”) on a busted tank
And never reached the end.

And they did have a concert of music
By a winter stream that roared
And the drummer-boy was allowed to drum
Because he couldn’t be heard.

A girl of twelve, a boy of fifteen
They had a love affair.
In a house and home the guns had smashed
She combed his hair.

The love couldn’t live. The cold came on
Too cold. And tell me how
The little trees should blossom
Under so much snow.

And there was even a war
With another troop of children but
They left off fighting when they saw
There was no sense in it.

And while they were still battling
For a smashed platelayer’s hut
The story goes one side ran out
Of things to eat and that

When the other side heard of this they sent
Them a sack of spuds because
The side that has not cannot fight
As well as the side that has.

Also there was a court case,
It proceeded uneasily.
By the shining light of two candles
They found the judge guilty.

And there was even a helping hand
(Help never hurt anyone).
A girl in service showed them
How to bath a little one

But she only had two hours
To teach them the things she knew
Because her master and mistress
Wanted seeing to.

And also there was a funeral
Of a boy with a velvet coat.
Two Poles and two Germans
Carried the coffin out.

Protestants, Catholics, Nazis
Were there to close the grave
And a little socialist gave a speech
On the future of those still alive.

So there was faith and hope
And not only bread and meat
And let nobody blame them for thieving
Who gave them nothing to eat

And let nobody blame the poor man
Who turned them from his door:
When it’s fifty it’s not self-sacrifice
You need for them, but flour.

You come across two or maybe three
You help them and gladly
But who can sit them down to eat
When they are so many?

In a shelled and rubbled farmhouse
They found a sack of flour.
An eleven-year-old tied her apron round
And baked hour after hour.

They chopped wood for the oven
Stirred and kneaded the dough
But they couldn’t get it to rise because
None of them knew how.

The best they could, they were heading south.
South is where you see
The sun at noon, it is straight ahead
When there’s any sun to see.

They found a wounded soldier
In a pine wood. There he lay.
They tended him for seven days
So he’d show them the way.

He said they should head for Bilgoray
There was fever in his wound.
He died on them on the eighth day
And they dug him into the ground.

And of course there were still signposts
Though muffled under snow
But all turned round so they didn’t point
The right way to go.

And that was for military reasons
And not in cruel fun
But how should they find Bilgoray
In the wrong direction?

They stood around their little leader.
Snow filled the air.
He peered ahead and pointed:
It must be over there.

One night they saw a fire.
They kept away. And then
Once three tanks went rolling by
With human beings in.

And once when they came near a town
They made a detour round
And hid by day and walked by night
Till the town was left behind.

Where south-east Poland used to be
The fifty-five children
Were seen in drifts and driving snow
And then never again.

When I close my eyes I see them
Trekking on and on and on
From one farmstead to another
Shelled-to-pieces everyone.

And above them in the clouds I see
New larger crowds, they process
Against the cold winds toilingly
Homeless, directionless

Looking for a land of peace
Without thunder, without the fire
Not like the land they are coming from
They are more and more and more

Vast numbers and in the twilight
I see that they have become
The children of every race and clime
Who want peace and a house and home.

In Poland that January
A dog was caught, it had
A cardboard round its scraggy neck
With writing on that said:

Please help us, we are lost.
We can’t find the way anymore.
We are fifty-five, the dog will lead
You to where we are

And if you can’t come, drive him away
Don’t shoot at him, he is
The only living creature
Who knows the way to us.

The writing was a child’s.
Peasants read it aloud.
That was a year and a half ago.
The dog hungered and died.