At the Edge of a Forest (Dort baym breg fun veldl)
Lyrics by: Petr Mamaichuk and Shmerke Kaczerginski
Music by: Leonid Shokhin
Performed by Theodore Bikel with Daniel Kempin, guitar
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.
YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
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.
Rise Up and Fight! Songs of Jewish Partisans USHMM CD-02 (1996) available in the Museum Shop