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“Es dremlt in geto” Performed by Sara Rosen

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2021 by yiddishsong

Es dremlt in geto / The ghetto is sleeping
A Holocaust song sung by Sara Rosen, recorded by Itzik Gottesman, 1989 NYC.

………[Es dremlt in geto]

Mir zenen farriglt
mit drut un mit krad.
Ikh hob a shtetele, 
s’iż azoy sheyn. 
Ven ikh derman mekh,
es benkt zikh aheym.

…….[The ghetto is sleeping.]

We are locked in 
with wire and with chalk.
I have a small town, 
it’s so beautiful.
When I think of it,
I long to go home. 

Levune, levune, 
vus kiksti mekh un?
Az ikh bin hingerik,
dus geyt dikh nisht un.
Ikh hob a shtetele, 
s’iz azoy sheyn.
Ven ikh derman mekh,
es benkt zikh aheym. 

Moon, moon, 
why are you looking at me?
That I am hungry: 
you don’t care.
I have a small town,
it’s so beautiful.
When I think of it,
I long to go home.

Az m’et kimen fin arbet,
hingerik in mid,
Ervart indz dus esn,
kartofl mit gris. 
Ikh hob a shtetele,
s’iż azoy sheyn 
Ven ikh derman zikh,
es benkt zikh aheym.

When we’ll come from work, 
hungry and tired,
Food awaits us:
potato and grits
I have a small town,
it’s so beautiful.
When I think of it,
I long to go home. 

………   [ עס דרעמלט אין געטאָ]

מיר זענען פֿאַרריגלט
.מיט דראָט און מיט קרײַד
,איך האָב אַ שטעטעלע
.ס’איז אַזוי שיין
,ווען איך דערמאַן זיך
.עס בענקט זיך אַהיים

,לבֿנה, לבֿנה
?וואָס קוקסטו מיך אָן
,אַז איך בין הונגעריק
.דאָס גייט דיך נישט אָן
,איך האָב אַ שטעטעלע
.ס’איז אַזוי שיין
,ווען איך דערמאַן זיך
.עס בענקט זיך אַהיים

,אַז מע’ט קומען פֿון דער אַרבעט
,הונגעריק און מיד
,ערוואַרט אונדז דאָס עסן
.קאַרטאָפֿל מיט גריס
,איך האָב אַ שטעטעלע
.ס’איז אַזוי שיין
,ווען איך דערמאַן זיך
.עס בענקט זיך אַהיים

Biography of the Singer Sara Rosen by Mickey Rosen:

Sara Landerer Rosen was born in Krakow, Poland in 1925 into a Chasidic family.  She experienced an idyllic childhood until September 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland, initiating World War II. The war truncated Sara’s formal education at the end of eighth grade but it didn’t stop her thirst for learning. Sara took advantage of every opportunity available; in the ghetto, in British Mandate Palestine and later, in the State of Israel and finally in the USA. In 1977, Sara graduated from Fordham University with a BA in Philosophy.  

Sara Rosen

Sara was a prolific write, publishing her memoir My Lost World in 1993. In 2008, she published Prisoner of Memory, the life story of Itka Greenberg. Itka saved about 50 Jews during World War II, with Sara and her mother being two of the fortunate survivors. In between these two books, Sara translated the songs of Mordechai Gebirtig from Yiddish to English. Sara loved speaking and singing in Yiddish and remembered many of poems and songs from her youth.

Sara emigrated to the USA in 1956 with her husband, Joseph and two sons. Her family grew in the USA with the birth of a daughter. 

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman:

Es dremlt in shtetl

This song is a Holocaust adaptation of the popular 1920s-30s song “Ven es dremlt in shtetl” (also known as “Es dremlt/drimlt dos shtetl” or “Es dremlt dos shtetl”); text written by Yoysef Heftman (1888 – 1955), music by Gershon Eskman. There are several recordings of this song, among them by Sarah Gorby, Michele Tauber, Willi Brill, Violette Szmajer, Sheh-Sheh, Zahava Seewald. Here is a link to a recording by the singer Rebecca Kaplan and tsimbler Pete Rushefsky from their CD On The Paths: Yiddish Songs with Tsimbl.

Ruth Rubin recorded a version from a “Mrs. Hirshberg” in 1947. It is called “Es dremlt a shtetele” and here is the link to the song in the Ruth Rubin Legacy: Archive of Yiddish Folksongs at the YIVO Institute. 

Es dremlt in turme

Before the war, there already was a “parody” version of this song about languishing in prison. “Es dremlt in turme” [The prison is sleeping]. The words and music are printed in the “Anthology of Yiddish Folksongs” edited by Sinai Leichter, scans of this song are attached.

Ruth Rubin sings a version of this prison song in YIVO’s Ruth Rubin Archive.

Es dremlt in geto

Sara Rosen learned this song in Bucharest after she escaped from the Bochnia ghetto near Krakow. Though she forgets the first two lines, it is cleary an adaptation of “Es dremlt in shtetl”. There are several versions of this song using the same melody, but they all differ so significantly from each other, that to call them versions of the same song is a stretch. Meir Noy wrote down a version “Shtil is in geto” in his notebooks that can be found in the National Library in Jerusalem. Another version can be found in the collection “Dos lid fun geto: zamlung” edited by Ruta Pups, Warsaw, 1962. A scan of this version is attached. A third version was printed in the collection “We Are Here: Songs of the Holocaust”, edited by Eleanor G. Mlotek et al, 1983.

Special thanks for this post to Mickey Rosen, Rachel Rosen, Michael Alpert, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, her grandchildren the musicians Benjy Fox-Rosen, Avi Fox-Rosen.

I was introduced to Sara Rosen in 1989 by the Yiddish/Hebrew singer Tova Ronni z”l  (d. 2006) who lived in the same Upper West Side apartment building in NYC. That same day she introduced me to another singer in the building, David Shear, who sings “An ayznban a naye” on this blog. 

From Anthology of Yiddish Folksongs” edited by Sinai Leichter:

From Dos lid fun geto: zamlung, edited by Ruta Pups, Warsaw, 1962:

“Fun vanen nemen zikh di libes?” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2019 by yiddishsong

Fun vanen nemen zikh di libes? / How do romances begin?
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded by Leybl Kahn 1954, The Bronx, New York City

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Though once fairly well-known and found in field recordings and several printed collections, I do not believe this lyric love song was ever recorded commercially other than on the CD Bay mayn mames shtibele, sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman’s (LSW’s) daughter Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman. Here we present a version by LSW herself.

Lifshe1972Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, 1972

In the I. L. Cahan collection (1957) there are three versions of the song (#26, 27, 28) from the Kiev region, the Vilna region and Podolia region; so the song has been “traveling” over a wide area for a while. One of the verses in those versions (#27)  continues the counting of excuses:

Dem dritn terets zolstu zogn,
du host dikh gelernt shvimen.
Dem fertn terets zolstu zogn,
az du host dayn tsayt bakumen [bakimen]

The third excuse you should give
is that you were learning how to swim.
The fourth excuse you should give
is that you are having your period.

Thus making this the only Yiddish song I have found so far that mentions menstruation.


Fun vanet nemen zikh di libes
fin deym shpeytn in fin dem lakhn.
Indzer libe hot zikh geshlosn,
in eyne, tsvey of der nakhtn.

How do romances begin?
From mocking and from laughing.
Our love was sealed –
during one, two evenings.

Tsvelef shlugt zikh shoyn der zeyger.
Fir mekh up aheym.
Vus far a terets vel ikh zugn
Bay mayn mamen in der heym?

The clock has already rung twelve.
Take me home.
What excuse will I say
at my mother’s at home?

Dem ershtn teyrets zo’sti zugn,
az di host geneyet shpeyt.
Dem tsveytn teyrets vesti zugn –
az di host geblondzet dem veyg.

The first excuse you should give
is that you sewed late.
The second excuse you should give
is that you got lost on the way.

Vus toyg mir dayne teyritsem.
Fir mekh up ahem.
Di mame vet dus tirele farshlisn,
in droysn vel ikh blaybn shteyn.

What do I need your excuses for?
Take me home.
Mother will lock the door
and I will be stuck outside.