Yad Vashem Heartstrings. Music of the Holocaust

Introduction

A drawing of a klezmer trio

The songs that were created during the Holocaust in ghettos, camps, and partisan groups tell the stories of individuals, groups and communities in the Holocaust period and were a source of unity and comfort, and later, of documentation and remembrance.

These compositions link the periods of Jewish cultural life before, during and after the war.  They express the experience, ideology, and hope shared by their listeners, both individually and collectively. After the war, these compositions took on the further aspects of remembrance and commemoration.

The songs presented here are taken from the earliest recording conducted by Shmerke Kaczerginski who documented folklore and music for the Central Historical Commission in Munich in 1946. The collection of songs is preserved in the Yad Vashem Archives.

This music collection includes 60 songs.  Some of them were published in Kaczerginski’s book of songs; some were never published or performed in any other context.

The twenty songs chosen for this virtual exhibition include street entertainment of the Lodz and Kovno Ghettos, professional popular music culture of the Yiddish theater in the Vilna Ghetto, and songs of the partisans of Vilna.  In addition, the prophetic song “Es Brent” [Our Town Burns] which was performed in the Ghettos and camps, is included.

The collection also includes two songs written after the Holocaust by Kaczerginski that portray the mood and ideology of the survivors.

All the songs are presented here in the original Yiddish.

For more information about music in the Holocaust, including bibliographic references, click here.

The online exhibition was made possible through the generous support of:

Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany works to secure compensation and restitution for survivors of the Holocaust.

Since 1951, the Claims Conference - working in partnership with the State of Israel - has negotiated for and distributed payments from Germany, Austria, other governments, and certain industry; recovered unclaimed German Jewish property; and funded programs to assist the neediest Jewish victims of Nazism.