Death List, Poem

Charles Simic in the New York Review of Books Blog:

ScreenHunter_05 Feb. 23 22.18 A strange little book came in the mail the other day. It’s called transcript and is published by the admirable Dalkey Archive Press. Translated from the German by Patrick Greaney and Vincent Kling, its author, Heimrad Bäcker (1925-2003), was unknown to me. He was an Austrian book editor, photographer and concrete poet who as a teenager joined the Nazi party and became an active member in the regional leadership of the Hitler Youth. At a first glance, his book looks like a collection of verbal scraps of uncertain origin, some of which have the appearance of avant-garde poetry, but on examination it turns out to be something entirely different. Bäcker’s “poems” consist of excerpts from documents by Holocaust planners, perpetrators, and victims.

There are quotes from concentration camp files, arrest reports, instructions for operating gas chambers and hanging prisoners, comments by executioners and witnesses, notes on medical experiments and other such material found in the vast files of a regime that was not only busy exterminating millions of people, but striving to micromanage its degrading acts down to the smallest detail:

you are requested to leave the keys in the locks of all furniture, chests etc. as
well as the keys in the locks of all interior doors. if the keys are on a separate
key ring, they are to be taken off and placed in the lock of the receptacle to
which they belong. to the building and hallway keys should be attached a
ribbon and a piece of cardboard on which you are to write your names and
apartment number and identification number. these keys are to be given to
the authorized official. before leaving your residence, the list of assets that
was issued to you is to be

Bäcker doesn’t invent anything.

More here.