Archive for Lodz

“Vu iz dus gesele?” Performed by Malka and Josef Lubelski

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 8, 2021 by yiddishsong

Vi iz dus gesele? / Where is the street?
A Holocaust adaptation written and sung by Malka and Josef Lubelsksi recorded by Abraham Lubelski, Bronx 1967

On the Lubelski family by  Abraham Lubelski

Malka (Male, Molly, Minska) Lubelski (1920 – 1996) was born in Lodz, Poland. She and her husband, Laibish Holcman, left Lodz in 1939, as the Nazis were invading, and headed East to the Soviet Union. With them was Malka’s sister, Chana, and her brother, Yasha. They were attempting to find Malka’s uncle in Ukraine.

They were diverted by Soviet authorities to Siberia, ending up in the town of Magnitogorsk. Here their son, Abram [Abraham], was born. They were finally given permission in 1941 to travel to their uncle’s home in Ukraine, arriving in Kharkov just as the Nazis invaded. They never reached their uncle and he was never heard from again. Laibish Holcman disappeared in 1941, soon after joining to fight with the defending Soviet Army.

They left behind their mother, a younger sister Ruth (Rivka) and three younger brothers, Motel, Laibel and Avrom. Malka, Chana, Yasha and Rivka survived the Holocaust. Their mother, Nacha, was taken from the Lodz ghetto and never heard from again. The three younger brothers also did not survive; one died in the ghetto and the other two died after being transported to Auschwitz. The four surviving siblings were reunited in 1946 in the Displaced Persons camp. All emigrated with their new families to the US in ’49-’50.

From Siberia, Malka and her son traveled on to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where Malka met Josef Lubelski (1906 – 1972) originally from Kalisz, Poland. Malka’s siblings, Chana and Yasha, also were able to travel to Tashkent. From there they returned west at the war’s end, searching for surviving family, Malka, Josef and Abram eventually making their way to the DP camp in Berlin. They transferred and were reunited with Rivka in the Leipheim, Germany DP camp. In the camp, Josef established a troupe and directed an ensemble of friends and actors. Josef and Malka sang duets and performed Yiddish monologues and Shakespeare. They were legally married in the DP camp in 1948.

As their son (Abram) I remember sitting in the front row of the theater watching their vaudeville performances and dramas with awe. Josef did classic “retsitatsyes” [recitations] often dressed like Charlie Chaplin or as a Jewish peddler making the audience laugh as he magically pulled things out from his long black overcoat and tried to sell a chicken here, pots and pans there or a “valgerholts” [rolling pin] with which to beat husbands.  They traveled to DP camps performing on week-ends and I cried if they left me behind so eventually they had me come along as the child actor in one or two Yiddish plays.

In 1950 they emigrated to the US. and performed their songs occassionaly at Workmen’s Circle gatherings. In 1967 I recorded Josef’s monologues and Molly and Josef singing duets. I remembered my mom sitting alone on the stage dressed in black mourning singing “Vu iz dos gesele,” “Tsen brider” and “Akhtszik er un zibetsik zi”, …. Never forgetting the warming spirit trying to revive the people around them.

More on the Lubelski family can be read in the two memoirs The Cage (1980) and To Life (2000) by Ruth Minsky Sender. 

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Today’s post is the first of three songs performed by Molly and Josef Lubelski that we will post. We thought it particularly appropriate to post “Vi iz dus gesele” to mark Kristallnacht on Nov. 9th. Though these songs were recorded in 1967, two decades after the war, they still convey the emotional performance of the artists.

The Lubelskis sing a Holocaust themed adaptation of a popular song “Vu iz dos gesele”. Their son Abraham believes they created the text. I have not found it in collections of Holocaust Yiddish songs. The words and music to the original song can be found in the Mlotek collection Songs of Generations. There are also Ukrainian, Russian and Hebrew versions of the older song. 

Here is a link to an orchestrated version of the original song “Vu iz dos gesele” sung by Jan Peerce:

TRANSLITERATION, TRANSLATION & TRANSCRIPTION 
Folksong with new words by Malka and Josef Lubelski

Vi iz dus gesele? Vi iz di shtib?
Vi iz mayn mishpokhe, vus ikh hob azoy lib?
Nishtu shoyn dus gesl, tsebrokhn di shtib
farbrent mayn mishpokhe vus ikh hob azoy lib.
Nishtu shoyn dus gesl, tsebrokhn di shtib,
farbrent mayn mishpokhe vus ikh hob azoy lib.

Where is my street? Where is my house?
Where is my family that I onced loved?
The street is no more.The house is broken.
Burned up is the family that I loved so much.

Vi zenen di zingendike, tantsndike kinder?
Vi zenen zey ale atsinder?
Tserisn, tseshtokn, tsetsoygn.
Der mamen, der mamen, der mamen in di oygn. 
Tserisn, tseshtokn, tsetsoygn.
Der mamen, der mamen, der mamen in di oygn.

Where are the singing, dancing children?
Where are they now?
Torn, stabbed and pulled apart 
in their mothers’, their mother’s eyes.

Vi iz di shil? mitn gildenem orn-koydesh?
Der shabes, der yontif? rosh-khoydesh?
Farbrent iz di shil, farbrent oykh di sforim;
fun gantsn shtetl, geblibn iz bloyz kvorim. 
farbrent iz di shil, farbrent oykh di sforim,
fun gantsn shtetl, geblibn iz bloyz kvorim. 

Where is the synagogue with the golden Holy Ark?
The sabbath? The holiday? The beginning of each month?
The synagogue is burned down, as well as the holy books.
Of the whole town, only graves remain. 

Gekumen iz der tug far nekume far dem blut
far yedern gesl, far yederer shtub. 
Ot iz der tug – azoy zet er oys.
Ober der khezbn, der khesbn iz tsu groys.
Ot iz der tug – azoy zet er oys.
ober der khezhbn, der khesbn iz tsu groys.

The day for revenge has come for this blood,
for every street, for every house.
The day has come – this is how it looks.
But the reckoning, the reckoning is too great.

געזונגען און באַאַרבעט פֿון מלכּה און יוסף לובעלסקי

רעקאָרדירט פֿון אַבֿרהם לובעלסקי, בראָנקס 1967

?וווּ איז דאָס געסעלע? וווּ איז די שטוב
?וווּ איז מײַן משפּחה, וואָס איך האָב אַזוי ליב
,נישטאָ שוין דאָס געסל, צעבראָכן די שטוב
.פֿאַרברענט מײַן משפּחה וואָס איך האָב אַזוי ליב
,נישטאָ שוין דאָס געסל, צעבראָכן די שטוב
.פֿאַרברענט מײַן משפּחה וואָס איך האָב אַזוי ליב

?וווּ זענען די זינגענדיקע, טאַנצנדיקע קינדער
?וווּ זענען זיי אַצינדער
,צעריסן, צעשטאָכן און צעצויגן
.דער מאַמען, דער מאַמען, דער מאַמען אין די אויגן
,צעריסן, צעשטאָכן און צעצויגן
.דער מאַמען, דער מאַמען, דער מאַמען אין די אויגן

?וווּ איז די שיל מיטן גילדענעם אָרון־קודש
?דער שבת? דער יום־טובֿ? ראש־חודש
.פֿאַרברענט איז די שיל, פֿאַרברענט אויך די ספֿרים
.פֿון גאַנצן שטעטל געבליבן בלויז קבֿרים

,געקומען איז דער טאָג פֿאַר נקמה פֿאַר דעם בלוט
.פֿאַר יעדערן געסל, פֿאַר יעדערער שטוב
.אָט איז דער טאָג ־ אַזוי זעט ער אויס
.אָבער דער חשבון, דער חשבון איז צו גרויס

Urke Nakhalnik’s “Din-toyre” Performed by M. Bauman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2010 by yiddishsong

This week’s Yiddish Song of the Week, Urke Nakhalnik’s Din-toyre, was recorded by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman in the Bronx, 1980s. The singer was a neighbor, M. Bauman, from either Lodz or Warsaw.

Urke Nakhalnik (1897-1942?) was a convicted criminal and after his release from prison in 1933, he became  a writer in Yiddish and Polish writing a hit book based on his experiences in the Jewish underworld. During the Second World War, living in Otwock, he died a hero’s death. His life was truly amazing. See Edward Portnoy’s entry on him in The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, but even better, see Portnoy’s article on him in Tablet in which he discusses the play Din-toyre (a “din-toyre” is a case before a rabbinic court) produced in Warsaw 1933. Portnoy believes this song was sung by the character who played Urke.

Urke Nakhalnik

Another Yiddish song that refers to a din-toyre is Levi-Yitskhok Bardichever’s 19th century “A din toyre mit Got” and one wonders whether this one is dialogically connected to the earlier one.

Bauman does not have a strong voice, and is barely on key, but he nicely captures the theatrical nature of the song– particularly his “Rex Harrison/My Fair Lady” spoken lines in the middle of the performance. The fine line between the underworld and revolutionaries is underscored in the text.

 Finster khoyskhek shpet bay nakht 
Tir un toyer zenen farmakht 
Krikh ikh, zikh ikh broyt far vayb un kind 
Sʼvert nor tinkl af der gas 
Nemt zi bald dem shvartsn pas*
In a vinkl, gants tinkl 
Farkoyft zi dort ir layb.

Dark, gloomy late at night, 
Door and gate are locked 
I crawl, I search a piece of bread for wife and child 
As soon as it gets dark on the street
She takes out her black pass*
In a corner, quite dark 
She sells her body.

Oy vi biter iz dos lebn fun a nash brat
Finster khoyshekh iz dos lebn fun undzers a yat. 
Es felt keyn mol key mure-skhoyre, skhoyre 
Shtendik nor in shrek, in moyre, moyre 
Vi shver kimt undz on dos trikn shtikl broyt.

Life is bitter for a fellow in crime 
Dark and gloomy is the life of one of us lads.
Gloom is never short in supply,
Always fearful, afraid, afraid,

How hard it is to get a piece of bread [to make a living]

Farvos kimt aynem raykhkayt farmegn 
dem tsvaytn nisht?
A din-toyre vil ikh fregn 
An entfer git.

Why is one rewarded with riches and wealth, 
and not the other?
I want a lawsuit [before a rabbinic court]
Give me an answer.

Farvos kimt aynem raykhkayt, ashires, ashires, 
Lukses oysgeputste, dires dires, 
Un azoy fil lebn in tsores un groyser noyt?

Why is one rewarded with wealth and riches 
luxurious decorated apartments,
and so many live with troubles in great poverty?

Ikh trakht un ken dos nisht farshteyn 
Farvos men halt undz far gemeyn 
Shpasn, undz hasn,
ver git zey dos rekht?

I think but I canʼt understand 
Why we are considered so vulgar,
Mocked, hated,
who gives them the right?

Farvos iz haynt aza min velt? 
As shtark iz der vos nor hot gelt
hipokritn, banditn,
men shekht, men blaybt gerekht. 

Why do we have such a world today? 
Where only the one with money is strong? 
Hypocrites, bandits,
They slaughter and are considered just.

Zey zaynen dos di faynste mentsn,
zey, alts far zey 
Far zey horoven oreme mentshn,
 far zey, alts far zey.

Hey are the finest people,
everything goes to them
 
Poor people slave for them,
everything goes to them.

Kleyne ganovim hengt men, hengt men. 
Groyse ganovim, shenkt men, shenkt men, 
Un azoy iz dos lebn, tomid ayngeshtelt. 

Small thieves get hanged 
Important thieves are rewarded
Thatʼs how life has always been.

Un azoy geyen di teg un di yorn
shnel, gikh farbay.
freg keyn kashes, un keyn khasroynes 
shtil ayngeshvaygt.

And so the days and years go by
 fast, quickly,

Donʼt ask questions, and see no faults, 
still, remain quiet.

Se helft kayn veynen un keyn trern, trern, 
keyner vil dem krekhts nit hern, hern, 
zey zaynen dos di faynste mentsn 
zey alts nor zey. 

Your crying and tears wonʼt help, 
No one wants to hear your groaning 
They are the finest people, 
All goes to them, only to them.

*shvartser pas = black permit. In interwar Poland, prostitutes could legally work with a “black permit”

Notes by Itzik Gottesman