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Eugene Wigner Joins the Manhattan Project

Hatred’s homicidal.
Hitler knows. He makes
what most men mean by hate
a tepid sentiment,
though at the time,
no one seemed inclined
to notice, and I wondered,
When will my Hungarians
awaken? I waited
for the Jews to rouse
themselves. But only
slowly were they moved
to anger; even then
most merely said,
“depose the madman.”
Moderation’s suicide.
A whimper while the butcher
spreads fresh paper.
Even in translation
in the Times, he aims
his hate at me, my family
trapped in Budapest.
Our decades-old conversion
meaningless. In Nazi law,
I could become a hausfrau
more easily than Lutheran.
Why should I hesitate
to bend my skills to kill?
My colleagues here
at Princeton wince.
I challenge them
to say which wrong
they disapprove of more:
the braying Nazi donkeys,
or this Jew who has
the questionable taste to corner them.

This poem was published in the May 21, 2007 issue of the magazine.