Performed by Betty Segal, the song was recorded for the Jewish Historical Commission, Munich, 1946.
The song was written by the author and poet Katriel Broydo (1907-1945), Director of the Vilna Ghetto Theater. The song was published in Lider fun di Getos un Lagern (1948, lyrics – p. 16 melody – p. 365), and in Mir Zaynen Do (1983, p. 44).
The song describes the Vilna ghetto and life therein. The residents live in a small, narrow quarter, hungry, humiliated and toiling for the Nazis. While they suffer, others – the non-Jewish residents of Vilna – continue with their normal lives, even benefiting on the Jews’ account. In the chorus, the composer asks, “Does it have to be this way?” but he has no answer.
The melody is a tango written before the war. The beat reinforces the contrast between the past and the present, and between them and us.
Di zelbe gasn un tromvayen
Numern elf un fir.
Di zelbe yinglekh loyfn, shrayen:
"a tsaytung koyft zhe, koyft bay mir".
Der zelber himl, nor nit enlekh –
Der mentsh vos unter im,
Es shaynt di zun alts nit farshtendlekh,
Ikh her es fregt in mir a shtim:
Tsi darf es azoy zayn?
Tsi muz es azoy zayn?
Az far eynem iz glik bashert
Un far dem tsveytn iz alts farvert.
Ver hot es ayngeshtelt,
Azoy zol zayn di velt?
Es fregt un vekt dos harts mayns:
Tsi darf azoy zayn?
Tsi muz azoy zayn?
Far zey di skvern un bulvarn,
Far mir aza kvartal.
Far vos zol yener mikh alts narn?
Far vos far mir a trern-kval?
Far vos der oyfshrift afn bretl:
"farvert iz vayter geyn?"
Far vos far zey mayn heym, mayn betl –
Un mayn geleger hart vi shteyn?
Tsi darf azoy zayn?...
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.