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“Tsen brider zenen mir geveyzn” Performed by Molly and Josef Lubelski

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Tsen brider zenen mir geveyzn / We were ten brothers
A Holocaust adaptation. Text by Israel Ashendorf. Sung by Molly and Josef Lubelski. Recorded by Abraham Lubelski, Bronx 1967

The Lubelski Troupe performing in a German D.P. camp

Transcription and Translation (Yiddish text after the commentary below)

Spoken by Josef Lubelski: “Tsen brider zenen mir geveyzn. An alt folkslid ibergearbet fun Ashendorf un Zigmund Taytlboym.”
“We Were Ten Brothers”, an old folksong adapted by Ashendorf and Zigmund Taytlboym

Tsen brider zenen mir geveyzn 
in frayd in in payn. 
Iz eyner gefaln inter Kutne
zenen mir geblibn nayn.

Ten brothers were we
in joy and in suffering.
When one of us fell near Kutne
we remained nine

Yidl mitn fidl, Berl mitn bas,
zingen aykh a lidl, oy, in mitn gas.
Yidl mitn fidl, Berl mitn bas.

Yidl and his fiddle, Berl and his bass
sing a song for you in the middle of the street.

Nayn brider zenen mir gevezn
yeder bay zayn mi in fakh.
Iz ayner gefaln inter Varshe
zenen mir geblibn akht. 

Nine brothers were we
we traded in cargo.
One fell in Warsaw
and eight remained.

Akht brider zenen mir geveyzn
tsezayt in tsetribn
farpaynikt eynem in Oshvyentshin [Oswiecim]
zenen mir geblibn zibn.

Eight brothers were we,
scattered and driven off.
One was tortured in Auschwitz
so seven remained.

Zibn brider zenen mir gevezn
in groylteg un in shrek. 
en eynem in Vin gehongen,
zenen mir geblibn zeks.

Seven brothers were we
in the days of horror and fear.
When one of us was hanged
we remained six.

Zeks brider zenen mir geveyzn
fartribn vayt in Krim. 
Iz eyner dortn imgekimen
zenen mir geblibn finf.

Six brothers were we
driven away to the Crimea.
When one of us died
we remained five.

Yidl mitn fidl, Berl mitn bas
zingen aykh a lidl, oy, in mitn gas.
Yidl mitn fidl.  Berl mitn bas

Yidl and his fiddle, Berl and his bass
sing a song for you in the middle of the street.
Yidl and his fiddle; Berl and his bass.

Finf brider zenen mir gevezn
un sonim un a shir. 
hot men eynem in Prag geshosn
zenen mir geblibn fir.

Five brothers were we
with countless enemies.
When they shot one in Prague
we remained four.

Fir brider zenen mir geveyzn 
in teyg fin bombes in blay. 
Iz eyner gefaln in Vilner geto
zenen mir geblibn dray. 

Four brothers were we
during days of bomb and lead.
One died in the Vilna ghetto,
leaving three

Dray brider zenen mir gevezn
eyner in der bafrayter armey.
iz er gefaln vi a held,
zenen mir geblibn tsvey.

Three brothers were we,
one in the liberated army.
He died a hero
and two were left.

In di tsvey ver zay zenen
vilt ir avade hern: 
Ayner fun zey is Yidl
in der tsveyter Berl. 

And who the two remaining are
you know of course:
one of them is Yidl
and the second one Berl.

Yidl mitn fidl. Berl mitn bas
zingen aykh a lidl,
nokh der tsayt fun mord un has.
Yidl mit dem fidl, Berl mitn bas.

Yidl with the fiddle, Berl with the bass
sing for you a song
in the time of death and hatred.
Yidl with his fiddle, Berl with his bass.

O-ho, o-ho, o-ho
o-ho o-ho o-ho
ho ho ho hoh hohhoho
hoh hoho hoho hohohoho

Zoln ale itstert hern,
un zoln ale visn
mir veln nokh vi frier shpiln
af khasenes un brisn.

Let everyone now hear,
let everyone should know:
we will still play for you as before
at weddings and circumcisions.

Oy veln mir nokh kindlen.
frukhtbarn zikh in mern, 
vi di zamd in yamen,
un oyf dem himl shtern. 

Oh will we have children,
be fruitful and multiply,
like the sand in the seas
and the stars in the sky.

Yidl mitn fidl. Berl mitn bas
Yidl with his fiddle. Berl with his bass.

Nor a kleyne bakushe 
hobn mir tsu aykh yidn.
in der heym gedenken
zolt ir undz in fridn.
 
Just a minor request
we ask of you all.
In your homes you should remember
us in peace.

A khasene, a simkhe
betn undz tsu gast. 
mikh –  yidl mit dem fidl
in mir [mikh] – Berl mitn bas 

For a wedding, a party
invite us as guests.
Me – yidl with his fiddle.
and me – Berl with his bass.

Oy, vet men in ayer hayzer 
gertner vet men flantsn. 
Vider vet men lider zingen
vider vet men tantstn.

O in your houses
gardens will be planted.
Once again we’ll sing songs,
once again we’ll dance.

oy, veln mir nokh shpiln,
vayzn vos mir kenen. 
Az far veytik veln platsn
di strunes in di sonim. 

O, will we play,
and show what we are capable of.
Let our enemies and music strings
explode out of pain [envy].

Yidl mitn fidl, Berl mitn bas. 
Yidl with his fiddle; Berl with his bass.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This is the third song that our blog is presenting from the repertoire of Molly (Male/Minska) and Josef Lubelski who traveled to Displaced Persons (D.P.) camps in Germany after the war to perform songs, skits and recitations. For more on their biography see their previously posted songs.

Versions of the popular folksong “Tsen brider zenen mir geven”, upon which this version is adapted, can be found in the Ginzburg/Marek Collection of 1901 and a short history of the folksong, words and music, can be found in the Mlotek collection Perl fun der yidisher poezye, p. 121 (see scans below).

Itzik Manger used the refrain for his song “Yidl mitn fidl”.  In the Lubelski version, the music changes from the folk version when the number of brothers is reduced to two. The text at that point becomes more explicit on the plight and future of the Jews, rather than the demise of the brothers. Singer and compiler Shoshana Kalisch included a different Holocaust adaptation of “Tsen brider” in her collection of Holocaust songs –  Yes, We Sang! – with words and music.  One can hear that song at this link.

The author of this Lubelski version is Israel Ashendorf (1909 – 1956) but I could not find the text in his printed collections. In his introduction, Josef Lubelski mentions Sigmund Teytelboym as the musical adapter but I could not find any details on him. There is a 78 RPM recording of the Ashendorf song entitled “Yiddl [sic] mitn fidl” sung by I. Birnbaum and E. Zewinka, arranged by R. Solomon on the “Le Disque Folklorique Yiddish label”. There Ashendorf is credited as the author, spelled “Aschendorf”. A link to listen to the recording is here.

The Lubelski version is very close to the Birnbaum/Zewinka version but without instrumental accompaniment the Lubelski duo surely captures the sound and feeling closer to what the performance was like in the D.P. camps. One interesting change is that on the Birnbaum/Zevinka recording they sing “Royte armey” [Red army] and the Lubelskis sing “Bafrayte armey” [Liberated army]. Thanks this week to Alex Ashendorf, Abraham Lubelski for the recording and photo and to Eliezer Niborski for transcription help.