Ivan Grozni

Concentration camp monster John Demianiuk was finally convicted of war crimes in Germany. Here is poem I wrote many years ago when he was first exposed, and was living a comfortable life of retirement in Cleveland.

Ivan Grozni,

Tyrant of the Oprichniks

Little Father to the trembling serfs.

Your murders pale, poor Ivan the Terrible,
beside the deeds of a fat old man —

a pensioned auto worker
front porch grandpa in old Cleveland
a beer and pretzel neighbor
picnics and barbecues
ball games on the radio
nodding to sleep before the television.

He is another Ivan, Ivan Grozni,
Ivan the Terrible

lord of Treblinka
counting the days to his

Social Security check,
his numbered entitlement —

As Ivan he numbered his subjects —
gypsies and Jews and misfits,
counted them by the hundred,
gassed them by the thousand,
bookkeeping entries at every

ten thousand mark,
medal from the Fuhrer
for every tenth
of a million exterminated,
numbers on a golden arch of death

Gold watch retirement gift —
good man on the assembly line,
speedy with wrench and rivet —
how many cars did he finish?

A mere few thousand, maybe,
nothing to match

the nine hundred thousand
he prodded in

through the one-way door.

He understood efficiency.
Their slouching gait
from off the boxcars
not fast enough,

he whipped and prodded,
maimed and mowed down
the laggards and lame ones.

(His fat hands picked out
the defective bolts,
dropped them to bin —
nobody’s business where
they went — )

Tried for his crimes
he rallies his wife and family,
hires an attorney to fight
this case of mistaken identity.

He smiles at the battered old Jews
who say they remember him,
call him the Beast of Treblinka,
waves to the courtroom audience
and says in Hebrew — I am innocent.
I am not Ivan the Terrible.

Yet who are these ghosts
that crowd the air,
clotting the room with accusation?
Who are these legion whisperers,
nine tenths of a million strong
chanting like monks at a Tsar’s interment
singing like bells of monotonous iron
one steeple truth in a landscape of lies:

Ivan .... Ivan .... Ivan Grozni.


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