Yad Vashem Heartstrings. Music of the Holocaust

Shotns – Shadows

Lyrics: Leyb Rosental
Melody: Popular Tango

The song is performed by Betty Segal, accompanied by Akiva Daykhes on the accordion.

The song was written by Leyb Rosental, who perished in 1945, for a review show of the Vilna Ghetto Theater entitled “Korene Yorn un Veytsene Teg” (Corn Years and Wheat Days), performed in 1943. The title is a play on the words “veytsene” – pronounced here as  “vey tsu”– a cry of pain.

The song describes life in the ghetto as shadows, haunted by their destiny. The Jewish shadows – ghetto residents – live as corpses, as others continue their lives giving no thought to their pain and suffering. The lonely man – nobody listens to his cries. But one day in the future, “the shadows will disappear, and from the horrors you will see, soon, how the shadow passes and the sun shines a clear light.” The song ends in hope, as do many of the songs performed for the suffering population in the ghetto.

The sweet melody of the tango reinforces the contrast between the somber words and the song’s message, and joins them and us together – a disparity that appears in many songs from the Vilna ghetto. The tango was very popular in easy listening music in Eastern Europe and other places in the interwar years.


Shotns

Kh'kler: mentshn haven hin un her,
Yeder mentsh iz zayn bager
Vert fun goyrl getribn,
Nor vos zhe kumt aroys derfun?
Khotsh in lebn alts geton,
Host geyogt zikh nokh der zun
Un in khoyshekh farblibn.
Du gist a freg,
Iz di velt bloyz a milkhl?
Tsu vos dos geyeg,
Ot dos narishe shpilkhl?

Vayl mir zaynen vi shotns,
Blondzhn shtil durkh der nakht,
Vayl in lebn on likht
Veyst nit ver vu er krikht,
Fremd zayn eygn gezikht...
Yede tir, yeder lodn
Iz far undz haynt farmakht...
Verst fun umet geyogt,
Keyner fregt vos dikh plogt,
Tsi a harts in dir shlogt!
Zukhst dayn gezikht, dayn eygn ikh
Nor kenst es nit gefinen.
Kumst mit der nakht
Un verst in nakht tserunen.

Vayl mir zaynen vi shotns
Vos di nakht hot tseshpreyt,
Nor zi eyne farshteyt
Vu ahin yeder geyt,
Ver tsum lebn – ver tsum toyt.

Haynt host getrofn mikh do, fraynt.
Zest mayn freyd, vos hot geshaynt,
Shoyn farshvenkt fun geviter.
Kh'bin elnt, hefkerdik aleyn,
Afn veg – a hoyler shteyn,
Keyner hert nit mayn geveyn,
Keynem art nit mayn tsiter.
Vi oft ikh farges,
Az in mentsh kh'bin gerotn:
Mir dukht kh'bin a mes
Oder gor bloyz a shotn.

S'veln shotns farshvindn,
Vest in groykayt zen bald,
Vi fun shotn vos falt
Teylt zikh oys a geshtalt,
Vi di zun hel tseshtralt.

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.