One Song – Three Pogroms

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The last day of Passover 1903 coincided with Easter that year, and the tragic Kishinev pogrom began on that date. keshenevKishinev, aftermath of the pogrom (YIVO Archives)

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) sang this version of a song about the pogrom which was adapted for other pogroms, or perhaps  was itself already an adaptation of an earlier pogrom song. In this post we note two other pogroms with versions of the song.

A version of the same pogrom song is sung by the actress/singer Miriam Kressyn about Bialystok on the LP record Dos Goldene Land. Kressyn was from Bialystok, and the Bialystoker pogroms took place in 1905 – 1906.  (Thanks to Lorin Sklamberg and the YIVO Sound Archives for providing this recording)

The third pogrom where this song was used was in Volodarka, Ukraine. This pogrom took place in July 1919 amidst the Russian Civil War. The lyrics (as collected by S. Kupershmid) appears in the Tsaytshrift far yidisher geshikhte, demografye un ekonomik literatur-forshung, shprakh-visnshaft un etnografye 2-3 (Minsk, 1928) page 803. It too contains the lines of walking through feathers as through snow in winter, and this emerged as one of the primary pogrom images, as we see in our Kishinev pogrom examples and others.

volodarkaOn the Workmen Circle’s LP “Amol iz geven a mayse”, Sidor Belarsky sings two verses of an abbreviated version of The Kishiniev Pogrom song. The song begins at this link – double click on “Amol iz geven a mayse (cont.)”  and go to 12:30 minutes.

In the chapter “The Pogrom As Poem” in David G. Roskies’ work Against the Apocalypse: Responses to Catastrophe in Modern Jewish Culture (1984) the author examines how the same pogrom song was adapted for different pogroms. He remarks “even when the singer invoked historical facts, the relics of the violence were organized into public symbols and thematic formulas, so that the details were applicable anywhere and only the place-name would have to be changed.”

Transliteration/Translation of LSW’s version:

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman “Lid funem Keshenever Pogrom”, recorded by Leybl Kahn, Bronx, 1954

Akhron Shel Peysekh af der nakht
iz aroys a nayer “rozkaz.”
Az yidn zoln lign bahaltn.
Zey torn zikh nisht dreyen in gas.

Oy, ziser got in himl,
kuk shoyn arop af dr’erd.
Ze nor dem rash un getuml.
Vos hobn di yidn far a vert?

A hoyz fun dray gorn
hot men geleygt biz tsu dem grint.
Betgevant hot men gerisn,
di federn gelozt of dem vint.

In di federn iz men gegangen
azoy vi vinter in shney.
Vayber hot men geshlogn;
mener gerisn of tsvey.
Vayber hot men geshlogn;
Di mener tserisn of tsvey.

Ziser got in himl
kik shoyn arup af dr’erd
Vuz zenen di yidn azoy zindik
Vus zey hobn gur keyn vert?

The last day of Passover
a new regulation was issued.
That Jews should lie hidden;
they aren’t allowed in the street.

Oy sweet God in heaven,
Look already down on the earth.
See the tumult and chaos.
Are the Jews worth anything?

A house three stories high
was destroyed down to the ground.
Bedding was torn apart;
the feathers blew in the wind.

In the feathers they walked
as in winter in snow.
Women were beaten;
men torn in two.

Sweet God in heaven
Look already down to the Earth.
Have the Jews so sinned
that they are of no worth. Lifshe PogromLifshe Pogrom2

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