Yad Vashem Heartstrings. Music of the Holocaust

Geto Lebn – Ghetto Life


The song has 14 verses; the two last lines of each are repeated.

Like many of the songs recorded for the Central Jewish Historical Commission in Munich in 1946, there is no mention of the performer, either in the recording or in the accompanying material. The song is from the Kovno ghetto.

The song appears in Lider fun di Getos un Lagern with two versions of the lyrics: the version on pp. 125-127 (sung here), and the one on pp. 128-129 containing other descriptions of ghetto life. The melody was not published. The lyrics also appear in Min Hametsar Karati (1954: p. 105) with Hebrew translation.

This song is in the style of the street songs of the Lodz and Kovno ghettos: the number of verses changes according to the events, without any connection between the verses. The song is a satire, a cabaret, on life in the ghetto, and was probably composed at different periods. The author is unknown.

The song describes daily life in the Kovno ghetto: the overcrowding, the hunger, the cold, and the fear of the “Yaales” (the Nazis). The song uses humor and grotesque descriptions of daily life in the ghetto. In Kovno, like in other ghettos, several families lived together in one apartment, a fact that caused friction and quarrels among the neighbors, described in the song. The last verses express hope that one day, God willing, “we will return to our homes and raise a glass to the end of the kingdom of the ghetto, and we all – homeowners and tenants – will live in peace and harmony.”

The music is based on a Yiddish folk melody.


Geto Lebn

Es voynen in eynem dray fir shkheynim,
Un kinderlekh –gor a mekhaye,
Yede vayle vert a yayle,
Un a krig a naye.

Zeltn vu es felt fun der untervelt
Mitvoyner in a dire.
Men hert nor taynes, men shlogt heshaynes,
Men makht zikh di pegire.

Der iz nit erlekh, der iz shlekht, geferlekh,
Un ot di zaynen stam gnides.
Di zaynen bareyder, zogn oys fun kheyder,
Un di hobn faynt di deyes.

Bay nakht hot a khoyle gemakht in keyle –
Iz aroys mit kloles bashke.
Nem tsu dayn tsore, vert a kapore!
Zi entfert mit a fraske!

Es patert mikh di mad, mit ir roykh un Tshad,
Men darf yenem oykh mitfiln!
Ver fregt do oykh deyes, shrayt zi nerveish,
Zi nit ayntsushtiln.

In der tsayt fun kokhn vil yeder shokhn,
Makhn frier zayn onbaysn,
Di trogt holts in kikh, di shtelt tsu gikh,
Men heybt zikh on tsu raysn.

Men hert a klole es vert a behole,
Es ken shoyn tuml klekn.
Di vayzt gvure, tsedrapet di tsure
Di tsveyte arbet mit a shtekn.

Ven es kumt bay nakht, vert a naye shlakht,
Es kumen tsugeyn di mener.
Dan vert di dire, ful mit mesire,
Men pikt zikh vi di hener.

Du khazer-freser, makhst treyf mayn meser,
A ruekh in dayn zeydn!
Du shtik moser, vilst esn kosher,
Trog zikh in gan-eydn.

Dayn betl iz tsu lang, shter nit in durkhgang,
Du shmuts nit ayn di diln!
Ir tumlt shoyn vider mit ayere lider,
Mit ayer kortn-shpiln!

Der halt zikh in razirn, a forunkl bashmirn,
Di elektre vert oysgeloshn!
Hot ver fun oylem gemakht in di keylim,
Es hersht dort foyst un loshn.

Der hust un sopet, der shloft un khropet,
Er shrayt: oy lozt mir shlofn!
Er khapt mit kaas a shukh a kalosh
Un glaykh in shoy getrofn.

Ober got vet gebn mir veln derlebn
Tsu kumen in di alte heymen.
Yeder tsu zayn kamer, mashin un hamer
Un tsu zayn kikh un koymen.

Un makhn a koyse un take a groyse
Tsum siem fun geto-melukhe.
Un ale in eynem, balebos un shkheynim
Veln lebn in nakhes un menukhe.

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