Refugee Blues Essay

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Refugee Blues 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…show more content…
Stanza seven focuses on Hitler’s horrific regime, expressed metaphorically. His command for all Jews to be killed is personified as the rumbling of thunder that can be heard just before lightning strikes, and the world descends into the chaos of a political storm. The last stanza of the poem describes Jewish people being hunted, either by death squads or by soldiers looking to put them into labor camps. Throughout the poem, Auden uses contrast to demonstrate the struggle of the inequality of Jewish people. He juxtaposes Jewish people with animals, displaying the disdainful perception of German Jewish refugees through the lines, “Saw a poodle in a jacket fastened with a pin. Saw a door opened and a cat let in, but they weren’t German Jews my dear” (22-23). The speaker reflects that cats were welcomed into open doors, yet they were not. Additionally, the refugee speaks of how he, “Saw the fish swimming as if they were free” (26), and how the fish in the quay are free, yet they were not. Auden shows that animals were treated with more compassion than Jewish refugees. Also, Auden considers one of the most prominent contrasting parts of the poem – the Jews’ condition of hanging between legal and biological death. The legal death that Auden refers to is depicted throughout the poem; describing loss of home (3), country (4), and documentation. In the fourth stanza he describes a consul, violently
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