Music of the Holocaust: Highlights from the Collection

Songs of the ghettos, concentration camps, and World War II partisan outposts

Partisan Songs

 

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
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Three Jewish partisans in the Wyszkow Forest near Warsaw. Poland, between 1943 and 1944.
Three Jewish partisans in the Wyszkow Forest near Warsaw. Poland, between 1943 and 1944.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Jewish partisans Abba Kovner (left) and Shmerke Kaczerginski after the liberation of Vilna. 1945.
Jewish partisans Abba Kovner (left) and Shmerke Kaczerginski after the liberation of Vilna. 1945.
YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
At the Edge of a Forest
(Dort baym breg fun veldl)

Lyrics by: Petr Mamaichuk and Shmerke Kaczerginski

Music by: Leonid Shokhin

Language: Yiddish

 

Performed by Theodore Bikel with Daniel Kempin, guitar

Strange and wonderful is the picture before me: I see heroes made hard as oaks by life in the forest, strong men who wouldn’t blink an eye when the time came to kill, slaughter, destroy. And here in the twilight, they turn sentimental as women, and pour their feelings of love and longing into songs they created themselves or had refashioned from pre-war tunes. Vanya sang more passionately than the rest—although many had finer voices. From him, I learned a song that I now sing all the time. I even translated it, with slight changes, into Yiddish. Now our other comrades sing it constantly, too.
— Shmerke Kaczerginski, I Was a Partisan

“Vanya’s song,” originally about Soviet partisans, eventually found its way to Palestine where it was popularized as Be-arvot HaNegev (On the Plains of the Negev) during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.

Recording Source:

Rise Up and Fight! Songs of Jewish Partisans USHMM CD-02 (1996) available in the Museum Shop

Related Links:

Armed Jewish Resistance (article in the USHMM’s Holocaust Encyclopedia)

Further Reading/Listening:

Shmerke Kaczerginski. Ikh bin geven a partizan. Buenos Aires, 1952.

Robert A. Rothstein, “Homeland, Home Town and Battlefield: The Popular Song.” In Culture and Entertainment in Wartime Russia, ed. Richard Stites. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995.

 

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