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|cd - yiddish music from the ghettos & concentration camps|
"Shtil, di nakht iz oysgeshternt"
Photo: from Dutch TV program "Barend & Van Dorp" talkshow RTL4, may 4th 2005
NOT IN STOCK ANYMORE - SOLD OUT!
The music that was made during the Second World War in the Jewish ghettos and concentration camps is recognizable, penetrating and straight from the heart. Music was played under the most appalling conditions. Musicians, many of whom were well known professionals, were not only summoned to play at parties for the Nazis but also at executions of Jews. This absurd reality left its tracks in what we now know as Yiddish ghetto music: lively dancing notes were interspersed with distressing tones and wry chords. Part of this music included songs that were passed down by word of mouth. The accompaniment was often improvised. A lot of the compositions have therefore been concisely preserved. In some cases only pieces of the melody are known. The music is nevertheless so moving that even without lyrics they unambiguously express the feelings of the composer. The symbolic function of this music was very important for the Jews. Through music they could express what they were forbidden to say. A number of pieces on the cd have been reconstructed from the extremely limited material. We believe that through an entirely instrumental representation of this music the imagination of the listener is intensified. The content of the lyrics and the backgrounds of the composers and writers have been, as far as possible, concisely given.
About this music:
This Yiddish melody was often played in the ghettos due to its dramatic-melancholic atmosphere. This piece is made up of a wry tango enclosed by two strained, slower pieces.
David Beigelman (1877-1942) wrote this music for the Gypsies from the second largest ghetto in Poland, namely the Lodz ghetto. The gypsies did not live very long because the Germans, who regarded them as a barbaric and antisocial element, subjected them to extraordinary torture. The song describes the attempts of the Gypsies to suppress their sorrow through dance and music.
Babi Yar was a place near Kiev where the Germans executed Jews at the edge of a ravine. Babi Yar means "old woman's ravine". Approximately 50,000 were murdered here. The song is about a mother who wants to rock her baby to sleep, but there's no trace of her child. She does not even know where to begin looking for "the bones of her baby". "Help me mothers, help me! Mourn and cry with me...."
A powerful and hopeful song that describes a better future where an end has come to all suffering. The composer, an unknown Hungarian Jew, did not survive the war.
This song describes life in a "Kriuvke", a hiding-place, with the associated fear of being discovered and the longing to be able to live freely. There was such a "Kriuvke" in a forest nearby Mezridz in Poland, which was excavated by Jews who jumped out of the deportation trains to Treblinka. Among them was Elia Magid, the author of this piece. He survived the war.
In this piece, the night is a symbol of the great darkness in which the Jewish people found themselves during the war years. The lyrics describe a person who, in an ominous silence, loses his way at night and aimlessly wanders on.
"Troyer" is a rhapsodic arrangement based upon a Yiddish melody which was particularly popular due to its danceable but also dark character. Its origin is not certain. It is probably a Hungarian waltz.
The place of origin of this song, Börgermoor near Hannover, was, from 1933, a concentration camp for political prisoners. Börgermoor camp was run by the SS and SA, who were assisted by "normal" criminals who were transferred there from maximum security prisons. "Peat bog soldiers" is the first piece that originated from a concentration camp. The song is about the hardship suffered by the prisoners through their forced employment in marshlands and peat bogs. The song was first performed in 1933 during a "cultural evening" ("Zirkus Konzentrani") by the prisoners. The song became quickly well-known in Europe and, as an expression of resistance, sung in many places.
Among the thousands of children in the Vilna ghetto there were many who, as streetvenders, tried to get hold of scarce goods such as food and cigarettes. They risked their lives by leaving the ghettos to steal or to buy goods from gentiles. Many of those children did not survive the ghetto, during their trips they were either arrested or shot. Without the courage of these children whole families would have faced certain death due to the shortage of these necessities of life. "Yisrolik" was an eleven year-old boy who set-off on one such trip to take care of his family's welfare.
"A prisoner in a camp, far away from his beloved, remembers the beautiful olden times. Before, he serenaded her with his violin. He wants to survive, to see her again."
The survivors of Treblinka camp called it the "hell of hells". "Treblinke" describes the deportations, the families that were torn apart and the deceit used to lure the people on to the trains (they were promised bread for one zloty).This song was sung by the forced labour prisoners in the Peterswaldau work camp near Breslau, as a warning to those waiting to be transported.
The Polish poet Mordekhai Gebirtig (1887-1942) wrote "'S brent!" as a reaction to the bloody act against Polish Jews in the village of Przytik. It was and still remains a dramatic warning to the dangers of remaining passive in times of oppression. "Brothers, our village burns! You all just stand and watch. Do something! If necessary, extinguish the flames with your own blood!"
In the spring of 1943, eleven year-old Alec Volkoviski won first prize at a music competition in the Vilna ghetto with this composition. The prize consisted of bread, sugar and egg rations. Kaczerginsky wrote the lyrics for this subdued song. With this song he gave a voice to the pain of a woman whose husband has been taken to Ponar. Ponar was a place of execution where 80,000 people died. The woman in this song tries to soothe her child with the thought that her father will return, but she knows that he will never return. The lyrics for this song were often not sung because the Nazis forbade any mention of Ponar. However, everyone knew the true meaning of this very popular song.
The young Polish poet Hirsch Glick (1920-1944) became very well known with this song, and at the same time, the personification of courage and opti-mism. This song was hummed, played or sung in camps everywhere. In this song Glick gave in a few lines the essence of the Jewish resistance: "Never say, that this is your last road, but always go further. Wherever our blood flows, our courage and strength shall grow stronger."
Kaddish (means: Jewish prayer for the dead) tells of a woman who hopes that her husband survives and quickly returns home. Together with her child, she prays for his life. It is only when the rabbi asks her to attend the next Kaddisch does she realize that her husband is dead. Her sorrow is so great that she is unable to cry. She holds her child close....
This song, set to music by Leon Wainer, was inspired by the great uprising by the Polish Jews against the Nazis in the Warsaw ghetto in 1943. Kaczerginski wrote the lyrics. He was one of the ten resistance fighters who escaped and survived this uprising. He sings of the courage of the many men and women who died during the terrible fighting.
Only when there were no Germans in the area of the ghettos could the people relax. Those who had managed to save their instruments played, whilst others danced in ragged clothes and worn-out shoes. This number was a favourite in Vilna. It is based on a Polish wedding song and made, through mockery and irony, a parody of these ghetto dancers. The writer of the lyrics has never been identified.
This music describes the unbelievable courage of many young women in the Jewish resistance. The Pole Vita Kemper from Vilna, successfully sabotaged a train carrying German weapons and munitions. This inspired Hirsch Glick to write this song. "At night, in the bitter cold when the heavens are full of stars, a girl clasps her weapon. The entire night she holds back the German trains. Her bravery gives everyone the courage to fight for freedom."