Topography of Terror: An Emotional Maze

maria 1Photo: Nihad Nino Pusija / Topography of Terror Foundation

12 February 2013 was a chilly and hazy day; I felt an ominous presence as I set foot in the ruins of GESTAPO in the Grey City of Berlin. There stood a modern, immaculate building. My saliva dried out like ashes when faced with the pristine glass cube that stood parallel to what was left of the Berlin Wall and the Nazi headquarters. The place smelled of cleaning products, the taste of bleach was overwhelming – as if they could scrub the horrors displayed in the murals from our minds if they used enough of it. The light coming through the glass windows worked as holophotes, highlighting the darkness of the exhibits in the Topography of Terror.


The chills down my spine had nothing to do with the freezing weather, the heaviness of the place hang above me like a cloud ready to shed its tears and in a never-ending mourning the loss of herds of innocents. The museum was full of people like me, curious wanderers who refused to let the Holocaust be forgotten or treated as anything but mass murder – at least that’s what I’d like to believe; it’s better than tourists ticking a place off their checklist.


What I saw there will haunt me forever. No, I am not Jewish, Romani, Polish, homosexual, or physically debilitated, but like all of the victims, I too am human. I remember pictures of pre-schoolers huddled up for an imminent death, locks of hair displayed as proof that these humans who were wiped out like a stain, once breathed. A Romani woman, immortalised in a photograph, undressed as the day she was born – her body was carved in slashes like a wooden sculpture – bald and bare for the entertainment of the crowd that gathered to watch her humiliation, a performance whose soundtrack was one of joy.


Files were framed in all its glory, the glass free of fingerprints; documents looked preserved, cherished even, in a twisted way. Many of them displayed proudly the signature of Adolf Hitler. The face of the Führer was everywhere, stamped in the walls in photographs some admirers snapped of his famous speeches, his followers looking at him with something akin to worship – ready to follow the footsteps that would stain a nation and destroy Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 9.52.09 ammany others. They would paint a continent in crimson and ash whilst an entire nation would Heil a dictator and wave their weapons like paintbrushes.

More constant than his face though, was the Swastika – it was worn with pride as books were burned, as guards sent thousands into a chamber they would never come out of, as families were split, as the reality of war cut a river of death across the continent. They created chaos to achieve purity in a world that was so hungry for blood that would accept any prey. At first, they were picky with flavour, but then, the famine was such that anything with a spark of defiance would be sacrificed.




You’ve planned everything.


Moving through the checkered bits

you took away everything I once was.


You’ve dismantled my walls,


blew out my defenses.


You were the Knight leaping through my broken pieces

landing on top of my very own essence

in a board-shattering


©Maria Omena


Her eyes were wide open
searching for that spark
she named love at first sight;

Promoted by hormonal variation,
mood and attraction.
Actually, it was but an inbred reaction
that shook her

and made her
sigh deeply,
relax notoriously,

Though like in a ripped rope
the connection was cut.
She realised that right from the start
her eyes were in fact tightly shut.


Reach out.
Stretch your limbs,
your arms, your fingers,
your soul, your essence;
Reach deeper.

Reach into my body.
Grab it, own it, claim it;
Carefully though,
don’t break me.

Reach into my soul,
as if it’s the most wonderful poem you’ve ever heard.
Read between the lines, hear the way my heart beats –
like an overexcited metronome as you hold me.

Reach into my thoughts.
Pull out the poison ivy that has a hold on my brain.
Make my head spin, my hands shake, my heart race…

Make me see colour in a world that was once so grey.


I was floating in the middle of a green field

when I felt cold hands grabbing my waist.

A pocket square covered my mouth –

chloroform had never smelled so bittersweet.


I remember when I told you I liked red,

you said I looked exquisite in it.

Is that why you made me bleed?

So you could paint my body with your fingers,




Crafting and carving on my skin.


I recall when I told you I liked purple,

until I became it.

Your face branded on my eyelids every time I moved,

with your twisted fingers you tattooed me.

The arms around me resembled a cage –

I should have run when I had the chance.


I remember when you said my grey eyes were beautiful.

maybe you liked them so much that you wanted them still.

The gris turned to ice, losing its sparkle.

Orbs always open and never blinking

you would be the last thing I see.


I recall every time you said

you would help me become what I found most beautiful.

I was the only canvas you needed to express your artistry.

you loved me and would transform me into your masterpiece.

I wonder, if I had said I was colour blind, would you have let me be?