W. H. Auden’s poem of despair, misery, and isolation, “Refugee Blues”, describes the hardships faced by two German Jewish refugees attempting to escape Hitler’s Germany. Published in autumn, 1939, Auden is surrounded by the anti-Sematic hatred that is growing in Germany six months prior to the outbreak of World War II. Auden utilizes this environment and the experiences of German Jews to express the abuse of human rights and the sentiments of refugees.
For the near two thousand years that the Jewish people have lived in Europe, they have constantly battled anti-Semitism, having to defend themselves, physically and emotionally, time and time again. In 1920, Jewish people encountered anti-Semitism from the Nationalist Socialist Political Party, the Nazis, lead by Adolf Hitler. As Hitler came to power in 1933, he slowly made laws depriving Jewish people of their human rights. After 1939, the Nazis furthered their restriction of the rights of Jewish people, this time denying their right to live. Death squads and death camps were spread throughout Europe, particularly Poland and Russia, to hunt and kill Jewish people. With war approaching different countries in Europe, German Jewish people faced countless rejections looking for refuge abroad.
Despite the various interpretations poems may include, Auden’s “Refugee Blues”, has a clear main theme, the abuse of human rights experienced by refugees. In the first stanza, Auden explores the displaced and isolated existence of refugees. He expresses this in, “Some are living in mansions, some are living in holes, yet there’s no place for us, my dear” (2-3). This is directly contrasted with the rest of the population, who are living in the filthiest “holes” (1-2), disclosing that refugees are below the poverty line. Moreover, Auden uses an old yew (7) as symbolism in the second stanza. He contrasts the renewable life of a tree with man-made documents that, once lost, can never be recovered: “Old...
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