Vilna ghetto, ca. 1943
Lyrics by: Shmerke Kaczerginski
Music by: Yankl Krimski
Performed by Shmerke Kaczerginski, ca. 1946
In the Vilna ghetto, educator Rakhele Pupko-Krinski and poet Shmerke Kaczerginski were members of the “Paper Brigade”a group of intellectuals who risked their lives to conceal Vilna’s Judaic treasures from Nazi vandals. After learning that Pupko-Krinski had hidden her child, Sarah, outside of the ghetto, Kaczerginski wrote The Lonely Child as a tribute to Sarah and all Jewish children who had been forced into hiding by the war. The poem was set to music by composer Yankl Krimski, a theater artist who is believed to have been murdered in an Estonian labor camp toward the end of the war.
Pupko-Krinski's sympathetic Polish housekeeper, Wiktoria Rodziewicz, raised Sarah as her own. Fearing betrayal by acquaintances, Rodziewicz eventually moved to a nearby village where she could live in relative safety. After years spent in the ghetto and several labor camps, Pupko-Krinski reunited with her daughter, who no longer remembered her. Kaczerginski recorded the song in a displaced persons camp in Bavaria ca. 1946, dedicating his performance to Sarah and Rakhele. Some 50 years later, Sarah heard this recording for the first time while visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Wexner Learning Center.
Yad Vashem/USHMM recorded sound archive
Vilna (article in the USHMM’s Holocaust Encyclopedia)
Shmerke Kaczerginski. Lider fun di getos un lagern. New York: Congress for Jewish Culture, 1948.
Rachel Pupko-Krinsky. “Laurel Trees of Wiwulskiego.” In The Root and the Bough, ed. Leo Schwartz. New York: Reinhart, 1949.
David Fishman. Embers Plucked from the Fire: The Rescue of Jewish Cultural Treasures in Vilna. New York: YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, 1996.
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