I Shall Betray Tomorrow - Marianne Cohn

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I Shall Betray Tomorrow

Marianne Cohn

Marianne Cohn was born to a left-wing intellectual family of Jewish origin in Mannheim, Germany, in 1922. Her family went to exile in Spain in 1934 and settled in France in 1938.

When World War II started, her parents were detained at a concentration camp, while Marianne and her sister were sent to a farm. Marianne joined the Resistance and actively took part in the clandestine transfer to Jewish children to territories not under German control. She was arrested in May 1944, as she was driving 28 children to the Swiss border.

 

Marianne was tortured in prison and then killed. She was 22 years old.

Marianne wrote this poem before her death in July 1944.

 

I shall betray tomorrow, not today.

Today, pull out my fingernails,

I shall not betray.

You do not know the limits of my courage,

I, I do.

You are five hands, harsh and full of rings,

Wearing hob-nailed boots.

I shall betray tomorrow, not today.

I need the night to make up my mind.

I need at least one night,

To disown, to abjure, to betray.

To disown my friends,

To abjure bread and wine,

To betray life,

To die.

I shall betray tomorrow, not today.

The file is under the window-pane.

The file is not [meant] for the window-bars,

The file is not [meant] for the executioner,

The file is for my own wrists.

Today, I have nothing to say,

I shall betray tomorrow.