Archive for displaced persons camp

“Zishe Breitbart” Performed by Yitzchak Milstein

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2020 by yiddishsong

Zishe Breitbart Sung by Yitzchak Milstein
Recorded by Toby Blum-Dobkin, 2/19/1977, Brooklyn NY. 

Commentary by Toby Blum-Dobkin. Song lyrics and transcription appear at the end of the post, including Milstein’s opening and closing spoken remarks. 

About the Singer Yitzchak Milstein

I first recorded Yitzchak Milstein singing the ballad of Zishe Breitbart in 1973, when I interviewed Mr. Milstein for the YIVO Yiddish Folksong Project, directed by Dr. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett. The project team aimed to define and document Yiddish musical specialists and to compose portraits of such individuals [Blum-Dobkin 1975]. I again recorded the song in 1977, when I wrote an article about Zishe as a folk hero. I translated the song into English, and also transliterated it to reflect features of Milstein’s Yiddish pronunciation [Blum-Dobkin 1978].  

MilsteinPhoto

Yitzchak Milstein

I conducted ten interviews with Yitzchak Milstein for the Yiddish Folksong Project, between 2/27/1973 and 9/18/1974.  Each interview lasted approximately 90 minutes. All the interviews were conducted in Yiddish, with some songs and narrative in other languages. I translated portions of the interviews and songs into English, directly from the recordings. Bella Gottesman transcribed all the interviews and songs in Yiddish, also directly from the recordings. 

Mr. Milstein was born in Shidlovtse (Szidlowiec), Poland, in 1914. His mother Rokhl had a booth of ‘galenterye’ at the shtetl market. His father Motek (Mordkhe) was a ‘holts tokazh’ – a wood turner. Yitzchak worked as a tailor in Shidlovtse and seasonally in Warsaw. His childhood home was filled with music. He remarked, “In our home, almost everyone sang. . . were there better entertainments?. . . I remember that my father had a ‘liderbikhl’ – a Yiddish song book..  [with songs about] city girls and farmers’ girls…When my father was young he also acted in the drama circle, in [Goldfaden’s] Di Kishefmakherin – The Sorceress.” Even when Yitzchak’s father became more religious, he did not forbid Yitzchak from attending performances and acting in amateur dramatics. Yitzchak remembered that his father “said it was ‘b’yerushe’ – part of my legacy.”  The family had a mandolin, and Yitzchak learned by observing others.

In 1942 Yitzchak Milstein was forced into labor at the Skarszysko Hasag camp, and was subsequently incarcerated in several other Nazi camps. He was liberated in April 1945 and housed in the Displaced Persons camp in Feldafing, Germany. He emigrated to the the US in 1950 and settled in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, resuming work in his trade of tailoring.  He also resumed his avocation, singing. Mr. Milstein’s other avocation was keeping the memory of his shtetl Shidlovtse alive. He was active in the effort to publish Shidlovtse’s ‘yizker bukh’ – memorial book – for which he created artwork and essays  [Milstein 1974]. For Yitzchak Milstein, it was a matter of pride to reproduce a performance or song ‘genoy’ – as correctly and faithfully as possible. “I am a tape recorder,” he explained to me.

The Song ‘Zishe Breitbart’ 

Yitzchak Milstein had heard the ballad of Zishe Breitbart in the 1920’s from a ‘hoyfzinger’ – a street singer in Shidlovtse. The text of the ballad along with pictures of Zishe Breitbart were sold by street singers in broadside form. I am indebted to Chana Gordon Mlotek for directing me to other versions of the Breitbart song, and for pointing out the elements that the Breitbart ballad had in common with traditional ballads [Mlotek 1974].

PhotoBreitbart

Zishe (Sigemund) Breitbart

Zishe (Siegmund) Breitbart, son of a blacksmith, was born in Lodz, Poland, in 1883. His fame was based both on his physical strength and his unique personality. He toured widely, and in 1923 performed for the Keith vaudeville theaters in New York. The New York Times reported on Breitbart’s 1923 arrival in the United States:

“Among other feats of strength he claims to be able to lift ten or twelve persons with his hands, twist bars of iron like scraps of paper, crack Brazil nuts between his fingers, and haul a wagon with ten persons along the road by his teeth.” The article notes that Breitbart “says he is so sensitive that he would walk into the roadway to avoid trading upon a worm. . . he likes music and writes poems, but doesn’t like prize fighting. He declined an offer received by telegram at the pier to go to Saratoga Springs and have a tryout with Jack Dempsey, the heavyweight champion. ‘For me it is not,’ the strong man of Poland said.” [New York Times 1923].  

Breitbart’s death at the age of forty-two apparently resulted from blood poisoning initially contracted during a performance in Radom, Poland, when he scratched or punctured his leg with a nail.  He died in Berlin in 1925.

Zishe Breitbart’s crowd-pleasing persona and sense of mission as a Jewish hero made a lasting impression [Blum-Dobkin 1978; Bart 2014; Gillerman 2010].  He appeared in the silent film [Der Eisenkoenig 1923] and is the subject of a feature film [Invincible 2001].  It has even been posited that Zishe Breitbart was an inspiration for the character of Superman [Gordon 2011]. 

Milstein Comments

From Khane & Yosl Mlotek’s Song of Generations: New Pearls of Yiddish Song (Workmens Circle, 2004):

Breitbart1Breitbart2Breitbart3

Selected Sources:

Bart, Gary.  Interviewed by Christina Whitney,  Wexler Oral History Project, National Yiddish Book Center, Amherst MA, November 21, 2014.

Blum-Dobkin, Toby.  “Case Study of a Traditional Yiddish Folksinger.” Unpublished paper, 1975.

Blum-Dobkin, Toby.  “Zishe, the Yiddish Samson.”  The Parade of Heroes: Legendary Figures in American Lore.” edited by  Tristram Potter Coffin and Hennig Cohen, Anchor Press, Garden City NY, 1978: 206-213, 557-558.

Der Eisenkönig.  Film directed by Max Neufeld, 1923. 

Gillerman, Sharon.  “The Strongest Man in the World.” YIVO Encyclopedia, 2010.

Gordon, Mel.  “Step Right Up and Meet the World’s Mightiest Human: A Jewish Strongman from Poland who Some Say Inspired the Creation of Superman.”  Reform Judaism, Summer 2011.  

Invincible.  Film directed by Werner Herzog, 2001.

Milstein, Yitzchak.  “Khronik fun khurbn in Shidlovtse.”  Shidlovtser Yizker Bukh/Yizkor Book Szydlowiec, edited by Berl Kagan  Shidlovtser Benevolent Association, NY (1974): 344-368.

Mlotek, Chana Gordon.  “Perl fun der yidisher poezye.” Forverts 1973.The New York Times August 27, 1923.

 

“Af mayn tatns dakh” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2018 by yiddishsong
Af mayn tatns dakh (On My Father’s Roof)
Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (BSG)
recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Bronx 1991.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

From 1947 to 1951 Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (BSG)  lived in displaced persons camps in Vienna. Two of them were Arzberger and Rothschild Hospital where her husband, Jonas Gottesman was the chief physician. She arrived there after two years in Bucharest. Since she was born in Vienna in 1920 (but grew up in Chernovitz) she could legally leave Bucharest at that time, while her husband, mother and brother had to cross into Austria illegally.
DP Beyle Lifsha

In Vienna circa 1949, from left: Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (mother), Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (daughter), friend Mitsi Weininger.

BSG believed she learned this song in Vienna during this time and wrote down the words in a notebook. In 1991 we found that notebook and I asked her to sing the songs she had written down in it.

The first line of the refrain “Sheyn bikh ikh sheyn, sheyn iz oykh mayn nomen” and text of the second verse are better known with a different melody in a  children’s song. Ruth Rubin includes it in her print collection Jewish Folk Songs and recorded it. More recently it can be heard on the CD “Voices of Ashkenaz”, featuring the singing of Svetlana Kundish and Deborah Strauss.

TRANSLITERATION:

Af mayn tatns dakh hengt a gildener krants
hant oder morgn, vu’zhe darf ikh zorgn?

Sheyn bin ikh sheyn, sheyn iz mayn numen,
Vel ikh nemen a khusndl fun same rabunim.

Bay di rabunim iz di Toyre groys,
ikh vel zan a kalele – a  bliendkie royz.

Sheyn bin ikh sheyn, sheyn iz mayn numen,
Vel ikh nemen a khusndl fun loyter rabunim.

Holtz in der kamer, a vaser in hoz.
Ale mise bukhirim fun shteytele aros.

Sheyn bin ikh sheyn, sheyn iz mayn numen,
Vel ikh nemen a khusndl fun loyter rabunim.

Eyner vet zan maner,  a sheyner, a faner,
Zetst zikh nor nit leybn mir, bist nokh nit mit mane.

Sheyn bin ikh sheyn, sheyn iz mayn numen,
Vel ikh nemen a khusndl fun loyter rabunim.

Got vet dir bashern vesti mane vern,
Vesti zetsn leybn mir, vet keyner dikh nisht shtern.

Sheyn bin ikh sheyn, sheyn iz mayn numen,
Vel ikh nemen a khusndl fun loyter rabunim.

Fli feygele fli,  fli zhe tsi man khusn!
Vet er mir shikn a halbn livyusin.

Sheyn bin ikh sheyn, sheyn iz mayn numen,
Vel ikh nemen a khusndl fun loyter rabunim.

TRANSLATION:

On my father’s roof hangs a golden wreath.
Today or tomorrow: so why should I worry?

Pretty, I am pretty and pretty is my name.
I will only choose a groom from among the rabbis.

For the rabbis the Torah is great:
I will be a bride – a blossoming rose.

Pretty, I am pretty and pretty is my name.
I will only choose a groom from among the rabbis.

Wood in the shed, water in the house
All ugly boys – get out of town.

Pretty, I am pretty and pretty is my name.
I will only choose a groom from among the rabbis.

One will be mine – a handsome  and a fine one.
But don’t sit next to me – you’re not mine yet.

Pretty, I am pretty and pretty is my name.
I will only choose a groom from among the rabbis.

God will destine it for you and become mine.
If you will sit next to me, then no one will bother you.

Pretty, I am pretty and pretty is my name.
I will only choose a groom from among the rabbis.

Fly, birdie, fly, fly to my groom.
And he will send me half of the Leviathan.

Pretty, I am pretty and pretty is my name.
I will only choose a groom from among the rabbis.
BSG1BSG2

“Iz Reyzele a meydl” Performed by Chaya Fiyzerman Friedman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 9, 2015 by yiddishsong

Iz Reyzele a meydl
Reyzele is a Girl
Performance by Chaya Fiyzerman Friedman
Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

A student at University of Texas at Austin, Brooke Fallek video recorded her grandmother, Chaya Fiyzerman Friedman (b. 1929, Vilna) in New Jersey, Fall 2014, singing this song about a toy donkey (eyzele) which she learned by sneaking into the Yiddish theater in the Vilna ghetto.

REYZELEFOTO

Picture of a Jewish girl in Poland, 1930s

Fallek writes about her grandmother –  “Her mother hid her in a knapsack at the time of the selection at the closing of the ghetto. They were sent to the Stutthof concentration camp in Latvia. She had to hide in camp since she was a child and should have died A Nazi soldier found her and took a liking to her – he had a daughter her age.

Both she and her mother survived and went to Berlin after the war to a Displaced Persons camp. She came to New York, attended high school and married David Friedman – also a partisan survivor, in 1950. They were married for 53 years until his death. They have 3 children and 8 grandchildren.”

Iz Reyzl a meydl, a shtiferke a bren.
Hot Reyzl in a fentster an eyzele derzen.
Vert Reyzl tsetumlt, zi vil an eyzele vos lakht.
Hot papa ir anumlt fun yard aza gebrakht.

Ay, ay ay Reyzele hot zi an eyzele
mit fislekh kurtsinke, oyern lang.
A kvetsh a knepele, rirt zikh dos kepele,
Shoklen un viglen zikh af yo un neyn.

Oy, an umglik hot getrofn
shloft Reyzl nisht bay nakht.
Der eyzl iz tsebrokhn
iz Reyzl umgebrakht.

Ay, ay ay Reyzele,
hot gehat an eyzele.
mit fislekh kurtsinke, oyern lang.

Reyzl, a girl full of mischief and zeal.
Suddenly spotted in the window a donkey.
So Reyzl gets excited – she wants a laughing donkey.
So papa brought her one from the fair.

Ay, ay, ay Reyzele has a little donkey,
with short legs and big ears.
Push a button and the head moves,
and shakes and rocks to say yes and no.

Oy a catastrophe happened;
Reyzl can’t sleep at night.
The donkey is broken,
so Reyzl got upset.*
[*umgebrakht usually means “killed”, perhaps “oyfgebrakht” is what she meant?]

Ay, ay, ay Reyzele
once had a donkey.
with short legs
and long ears.
reyzl1 reyzl2 reyzl3

There are two professional recordings of this song, one by the singer and collector, Lea Szlanger in Israel on her LP “A Nig’n After My Heart – Mayn eygener nigun”. In Szlanger’s version the donkey “eyzele” becomes a rabbit “heyzele” (thanks to Lea Szlanger for sending the recording and words.)

Lea Szlanger in Song


Transliteration/Translation of Lea Szlanger’s performance:

Iz Reyzele a meydl, a shtiferke a bren.
Hot Reyzele in fentster a hezele derzen.
Un Reyzele zi vil nor, a hezele vos lakht.
Hot ir der foter fun yarid a hezele gebrakht.

Oy, oy, oy Reyzele, hot zi a hezele
mit lange oyerlekh un fislkeh kleyn.
A kvetsh a knepele, shoklt zikh dos kepele;
Shoklt zikh un vigt zikh – yo, yo un neyn.

Men tut a kvetsh a knepele hert zikh a gezang.
Oyfn haldz a glekele, klingt es gling, glang, glang.
Dan fregt zikh Reyzele far vos dos hezele
hot fislekh kurtsinke un oyern lang?

Zi tsertlt im un tulyet; zi shloft mit im bay nakht.
Zi kusht im un zi haldzt im un Reyzele zi lakht.
Un kinderlekh in droysn fun Reyzelen makhn shpot
“Zet nor, zet nor sara groysn heyzl reyzl hot”

Oy, oy, oy Reyzele, hot zi a heyzele
mit lange oyerlekh un fislekh kleyn.
A kvetsh a knepele, shoklt zikh dos kepele;
Shoklt zikh un vigt zikh yo, yo un neyn.

Men tut a kvetsh a knepele hert zikh a gezang.
Oyfn haldz a glekele, klingt es gling, glang, glang.
Dan fregt zikh Reyzele far vos dos heyzele
hot fislekh kurtsinke un oyern lang?

Reyzele is a girl, a scamp, a dynamo.
Reyzele saw a rabbit in the window.
And Reyzele, she only wants a rabbit that laughs.
So her father brought her a rabbit from the fair.

Oy, oy, oy Reyzele, has a rabbit
with long ears and little legs.
Push a button and the head rocks,
Nods and rocks – yes, yes and no.

Just push a button and you hear a song.
On her throat a little bell that rings -gling, glang, glang.
Then Reyzele asks herself why does this rabbit
have such short legs and big ears?

She caresses it and cradles it; she sleeps with it at night.
She kisses it and embraces it and Reyzele, she laughs.
And children outside make fun of Reyzele –
“Just look what a big rabbit Reyzl has!”

Oy, oy, oy Reyzele, has a rabbit
with long ears and little legs.
Push a button and the head rocks,
Nods and rocks – yes, yes and no.

Just push a button and you hear a song.
On her throat a little bell that rings -gling, glang, glang.
Then Reyzele asks herself why does this rabbit
have such short legs and big ears?

reyz1reyzl2reyz3The second recording of the song is by Henny Durmashkin on her LP  “Lider tsu gedenken” – “Songs to Remember” (thanks to Lorin Sklamberg of the YIVO Sound Archives for sending the mp3 and LP cover with photo of singer and biographical information – click image to enlarge). Her version is very close to Szlanger’s.

henny-durmashkin-pic-use

Durmashkin was also from Vilna; her father Wolf Durmashkin was a Vilna conductor before the war and in the ghetto. Henny’s sister Fanny Durmashkin accompanies her on piano. A film on these remarkable sisters was made in 2007 – “Creating Harmony: the Displaced Persons Orchestra at St. Otillien.” An article from the New Jersey Jewish Standard tells the story.

A shortened printed version of the song appears in the Parisian collection, 1948  – “Mir zingen” published by Gezelshaft kinder-fraynt, p. 109. An even shorter recorded version is found in the Ben Stonehill collection.

So this song about a rocking toy donkey (or rabbit) is clearly from Vilna/Vilnius, 1930s or perhaps created in the ghetto; but the author and composer are unknown. Fiyzerman sings a verse, or part of a third verse, that the other versions do not include, about the toy being broken.

Two Children’s Dance Songs from Eastern Galicia Performed by Mordkhe Schaechter

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2015 by yiddishsong

Two Children’s Dance Songs from Eastern Galicia
Sung by Mordkhe Schaechter
Recorded by Leybl Kahn 1954, New York

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

In memory of my uncle, the Yiddish scholar Dr. Mordkhe Schaechter (1927 – 2007), whose yortsayt was last week, we present two short children’s dance songs from Eastern Galicia, from the town known in Yiddish as “Yigolnitse” and today in Ukrainian as “Yahilnytsya” (also written at one time as “Jagielnica, Yagielnitse”), 6 miles from Chortkov.

In earlier posts on YSW of Schaechter’s songs, we told of his collecting folklore in the displaced persons camp in Vienna 1947 – 1950. This post is also part of that project done for YIVO.

Family in DP camp in 1950Schaechter Family in the DP Camp, 1950

A couple of words are unclear: “oltazhe” and “ketse” and David Braun and Janina Wurbs offered suggestions on these words and others. Some are footnoted at the end of the song. Any further clarification from our readers would be appreciated.

In the second song, Schaechter uses the girl’s name “Beyltsye”, his sister’s name, but one is supposed to insert any name at that point in the song.

About this second song one can honestly say – you lose much in the translation. It incorporates German words (Galicia was Austra-Hungary after all) perhaps for comic effect.

Leybl Kahn informs us in the recording that it was printed in an issue of the Seminarist (in the early 1950s) so once that is found, more information on the song might come to light.

Schaechter: This is a dance song from Yigolnitse.

[The boy sings]
Hindele, hindele,
vus zhe klobsti blumen?
az der her vet zen
vet er dekh shlugn.

Hindele, Hindele
why do you gather flowers?
If the gentleman [herr] sees you,
he will beat you.

[The girls answers]
Az der her vet zen,
vel ikh mikh bahaltn,
oyf der sheyner oltazhe*
vel ikh mikh shteln knien.

If the gentleman sees me,
I will hide.
On the beautiful church altar,
will I kneel down.

Kahn: Dos zingt dos meydele?
The girl sings this [the second verse]?

Schaechter: Yo. (Yes.)

Kahn: Dos iz fun Yigolnitse, mizrekh-Galitsye?
This is from Yigolnitse, Eastern Galicia?

Schaechter: Yo… dos iz nisht vikhtik…a Yigolitser mizrekh-Galitsyaner tantslid.
Yes… whatever…..an Eastern Galician dance song from Yigolnitse.

Kahn: Dos lidl iz gedrukt inem “Seminarist”, aroysgegebn funem Yidishn lerer-seminar.
This song was published in the “Seminarist”, published by the “Jewish Teacher’s Seminary”.

Dreyts mer of der ketse**,
vayl di ketse klingt.
Klingt shoyn “ya” vi a nar,
Opgelebt zibtsik yar,
Di zibtsik yar [h]erum,
Beyltsye dreyt zikh um.

Turn [crank up] the ketse more,
for the ketse rings/makes a sound
It rings now “ja” [yes]
like a fool.
70 years of life gone by,
70 years later
Beyltsye turns around.

Di sheyne Beyltsye hot zikh umgekert,
der keyser hot dem grestn vert.
Dreyts mer of der ketse,
vayl di ketse klingt.
Kling shoyn “ya” vi a nar,
Opgelebt zibtsik yar,
Di zibtsik yar [h]erum”…

The pretty Beyltsye turned around.
The emperor has the greatest worth.
Turn [on] the “ketse”
For the “ketse” rings/resounds.
Now it rings with a “ja” like a fool,***
70 years of life gone by,
The 70 years …

Schaechter: Un azoy vayter, un azoy vayter.
And so on and so forth.)

*Probably an altar in a Polish church [suggested by David Braun]
** Perhaps a basket from the German “Kötze” [suggested by Janina Wurbs]. If a basket, then perhaps “ketse” means a gramophone or music box? It makes sense in this context. [suggested by David Braun]

2 galitz 1

2 galitz 2

2 galitz 3

2 galitz 4