Four Songs from the Holocaust arranges four selections from We Are Here: Songs from the Holocaust published by the Workmen’s Circle, NY, in 1983. The songs were composed by Jews in the ghettos and concentration camps during World War II or immediately afterwards. The melodies and Yiddish texts (with English translations) are expressions of love, strength, faith, and resistance in the face of the torrent of evil unleashed during the Holocaust.
Close your little eyes (Isaiah Shpigl/David Beyglman)
Isaiah Shpigl survived the Lodz ghetto and Auschwitz. He resumed his writing career in Israel where he has lived since 1950. David Beyglman (1887-1944), a composer for the Yiddish theatre before the war, died in the gas chambers of Treblinka. This soothing melody attempts to calm a sleepy child while the text describes a world of horror.
A Jewish Child (Khane Kheytin-Weinstein)
This song tells the story of a mother who must leave her only child in the care of non-Jews so that he might survive the war. With heartbreaking last words, she instructs him to hide his identity: “Yiddish words can’t come from you, you no longer are a Jew.” It was written after the slaughter of children in the ghettos and concentration camps of Lithuania in March, 1943. The author was deported from the Shauliai ghetto to the Stutthof concentration camp. She survived the war and lives in New York.
Kaddish (Z. Segalovitch/Ben Yomen)
Yiddish poet Z. Segalovitch survived the war as a refugee from Warsaw. After the war he lived in Vilno and Kaunas, later Israel and eventually the United States. Ben Yomen (1901-1969) was an American Jewish composer. Kaddish, written immediately after the war, expresses feelings of tremendous loss. The first two words are the beginning of the traditional Jewish mourner’s testament in Aramaic: “yisgadal vyiskadah,…let us glorify and sanctify….”
Never Say (Hirsch Glik/Dmitri Pokrass)
This song of the Vilna ghetto became the anthem of the underground resistance movement as it spread to other ghettos and partisan divisions. It expresses the courage of the human spirit which, even in the face of overwhelming physical bombardment, can maintain dignity and strength. Hirsch Glik (1922-1944), a member of the literary group Yungvald before the war, was killed by the Nazis in a concentration camp in Estonia. Dmitri Pokrass was a Russian composer.
These songs of strength, dignity, love, and faith are part of a precious legacy of the Jewish people, and represent a victory of spirit over the evil which tried to destroy them.
— Meira Warshauer