The Gypsy’s Daughter Enters the Third Reich Synopsis

Sometimes overlooked in discussions of the Holocaust are the conditions of the Gypsies, or Roma, who were subjected to the same attempt at genocide by the Nazi. Over 200,000 Gypsies lost their lives in the Holocaust. This song is the story of a Gypsy father and his nine year old daughter, as they are led towards the ovens in Auschwitz. The lyricist, the poet Ward Kelley, says, “these lyrics came from the saddest poem I ever published, but I thought it important the story of this small family was told. The poem, named the same as the song, was later nominated for the Pushcart award, and became one of my most reprinted poems. Still, I must admit, it’s difficult for me to read or contemplate this story.”

The Gypsy’s Daughter Enters the Third Reich Poem

by Ward Kelley

The billows, the flames and spouts of fire,

the smoky deluge of despair, the stains of tears

wafting, drying, in the oven air . . .

I lift the smallest of my daughter’s fingers

as if such beauty is our final defense

against the ugliness that some generations

surface in the human heart.

 

Her dark eyes appear so beautiful,

even stretched now by fear; her saintly nose

slightly flexes, alarmed, by the acrid scent

in this heartless dry air . . . she is so brave

I yearn to explode my lungs in grief,

but I remain calm so I might steer her

through our final walk together.

 

Her grownup, black eyes mean to ask me

why such volumes of hate invade this world,

so her little life must be exchanged.

She will spare me this impossible question,

and I thank her with my own eyes,

a father’s smile, a kiss of souls, as the soldiers

prod us forward to the stark, concrete building.

 

This is too much bravery for one man to act out,

too much beauty for one daughter to convey

to her father out here in this forlorn night.

I am deeply proud of us both at the end,

and so I lift her little finger with my thick thumb . . .

 

a humble wave goodbye to our sinful world,

then I pray this is the proper response

to this horror . . . to meet it

with the smallest act of beauty.

Poem from histories of souls

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The Gypsy’s Daughter Enters the Third Reich Lyrics

(Whitaker/Kelley 2015)
Verse 1
In this heartless dry air, she’s so brave,
her eyes say it’s me she just forgave,
her nose flexes from the arid scent,
they mean to kill us, they won’t relent,
to kill a child, it’s most deprave,
in this heartless dry air, she’s so brave,

Chorus
Nothing I can do,
I know we’re through,
wish I knew
what to do.

Verse 2
God, this dark world, such volumes of hate
her life must be exchanged to equate
this Nazi formula: lives for greed,
I can only hold her hand, a feckless deed,
And on my lungs, a relentless weight
in this dark world, such volumes of hate.
Instrumental

Chorus
Nothing I can do,
I know we’re through,
wish I knew
what to do.

Ending

And so I lift her little finger
with my callused hand,
a humble wave goodbye
to our sinful world,

and I pray this is the proper response
to this horror . . .
to meet it bravely
with the smallest act of beauty.

Chorus
Nothing I can do,
I know we’re through,
wish I knew
what to do.

to meet it bravely
with the smallest act of beauty.

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