RSportfolioPOETRYBirthday Parties and Nazis
by Stephanie Liang

Runestone, Volume 1 


Birthday Parties and Nazis 

I would not call myself a Nazi sympathizer—
            What does that word even mean, sympathizer?
But ever since that time in the 4th grade
When my arch nemesis Maureen
Invited me to her birthday party,
I realized I needed to give more people a chance.
You’re probably thinking, well she’s not a Nazi.

Let me explain. In senior year of high school,
We learned a term in psychology called
The Fundamental Attribution Error.
Which was pretty much a fancy way of saying,
When some asshole on the highway cuts you off,
Your first reaction is to blare your horn and scream
            Something along the lines of:
You fucking asshole! You stupid fucking asshole!
Meaning, you think he cut you off because he is
Fundamentally a stupid asshole and not because
His child might be dying in the hospital.

Well since we’re on the subject of dying children—
Imagine yourself, for a moment, in postwar Germany:
One son is dead, your other is dying.
There is never any bread and you come home
To an empty table, an extra chair.
Until suddenly, this God-like man arrives,
Veiled in light, promising to feed your children.
            By God, you want to feed your children.

You notice shops closing, you see the trains running
Out of the city into the horizon until they disappear.
You sometimes hear faint shrieks in nighttime.
But mostly, you notice the bread on the table
            And your son’s fattened ribcage.

On an essay question, I was once asked to answer:
Does silence equal complicity—In other words,
Should the Germans who knew be held equally responsible?
(“Knowing” is a funny word here. There are accounts of
            The stench of burning flesh enveloping the air;
            Choking people like an un-washable fog above the city).

And I answered. Unequivocally. Yes.
They were just as evil as the Nazis themselves. Put them all to death!
            But then I think about Maureen, and I think about driving on the highway,
            And I think about never having enough bread and
            Watching your children die in the war and then
            Watching your children die at home,
And I realize, no one can say for certain that
If given the choice to be a Nazi, they wouldn’t have taken it.


Stephanie Liang

University of Pittsburgh

Stephanie Liang is a rising junior at the University of Pittsburgh studying English literature and economics. She has loved poetry from a young age and is just starting to share her work with the world. She is excited to see her first two works published in Runestone Journal and another one of her pieces will be appearing in Rainy Day Magazine in the upcoming year.


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