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  • Avreml the Pickpocket

    Song

    Mordecai Gebirtig, born in 1877 in Krakow, Poland, was a Yiddish folk poet and songwriter.

    Gebirtig had three daughters, for whom he wrote and performed his poems. The words were set to improvised melodies, and most of his songs resemble entries in a diary. Many of Gebirtig's poems contain themes of eastern European Jewish life in the 1920s and 1930s. The lyrics to "Avreml the Pickpocket" address two social issues, crime and the collapse of family life, arguing that both find their roots in poverty and need.

  • Forward, You Witnesses!

    Song

    Musician Erich Frost was a devout Jehovah's Witness active in the religious resistance to Hitler's authority. Frost was caught smuggling pamphlets from Switzerland to Germany and was deported to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin. There, he composed this song in 1942. Frost survived the war and died in 1987. This translation is taken from the Jehovah's Witness Songbook.

    Simone Arnold Liebster, who sings the English version of the song, was born in 1930 in Mulhouse, French Alsace. After the incorporation of Alsace into the German Reich during World War II, Liebster's family suffered increasing harrassment from the Nazis for following the Jehovah's Witness faith. Eventually both her father (Adolphe Arnold) and mother were arrested and sent to concentration and detention camps while she was placed in a correctional institution for "nonconformist" youth. Liebster has published an autobiography, Facing the Lion: Memoirs of a Young Girl in Nazi Europe.

  • Moments of Confidence

    Song

    This piece was written in Krakow on October 2, 1940. Mordecai Gebirtig wrote this song to raise the spirits of the persecuted Jewish community in Krakow. The poet's reference to "Haman" alludes to the ancient Persian enemy of the Jewish people.

  • Moments of Despair

    Song

    Yiddish folk poet and songwriter Mordecai Gebirtig was born in Krakow, Poland, in 1877. "Moments of Despair" was written in Krakow in September 1940 on the first anniversary of the German invasion of Poland. The lyrics to this piece comment upon a year of persecution and the uncertainty of the future.

  • My Dream

    Song

    Yiddish folk poet and songwriter Mordecai Gebirtig was born in Krakow, Poland, in 1877. In 1940, he was forced to flee from German-occupied Krakow to nearby Lagiewniki. There, in May 1941, he wrote "My Dream"—in which he dreams of peace and revenge. In March 1942 Gebirtig was forced into the Krakow ghetto, where he was killed in June 1942.

  • Our Springtime

    Song

    Mordecai Gebirtig, Yiddish folk poet and songwriter, was born in 1877 in Krakow, Poland. Gebirtig was confined in the Krakow ghetto in March 1942. He wrote "Our Springtime" in April 1942. The lyrics describe the bleakness and despair of ghetto life.

  • Our Town is Burning

    Song

    Mordecai Gebirtig, born in 1877 in Krakow, Poland, was a Yiddish folk poet and songwriter.

    He wrote "Undzer shtetl brent!" in 1936, following a pogrom in the Polish town of Przytyk. During the war, the song became popular in the Krakow ghetto and inspired young people to take up arms against the Nazis. It was sung in many ghettos and camps, and translated into Polish and several other languages. Gebirtig was killed in June 1942 during a roundup for deportation from the Krakow ghetto.

    Today, "Undzer shtetl brent!" remains one of the most performed commemorative songs.

  • Rejoice, Make Merry, Children

    Song

    Mordecai Gebirtig, born in 1877 in Krakow, Poland, was a Yiddish folk poet and songwriter.

    Gebirtig had three daughters, for whom he wrote and performed his poems. The words were set to improvised melodies, and most of his songs resemble entries in a diary. Many of Gebirtig's poems contain themes of eastern European Jewish life in the 1920s and 1930s. The lyrics to "Rejoice, Make Merry, Children" contain a springtime motif that recurred in other Gebirtig works. In the lyrics, an elderly narrator urges children to play on and not waste a single day, for it is "only a cat's leap, you know, from spring till winter comes."

  • Shifrele's Portrait

    Song

    Yiddish folk poet and songwriter Mordecai Gebirtig was born in 1877 in Krakow, Poland.

    He wrote "Shifrele's Portrait" was written in Krakow in December 1939, shortly after the outbreak of World War II. Gebirtig's eldest daughter, Shifre, lived in Lvov, and was separated from her family when the Soviets annexed Lvov. In this brief song, Gebirtig, gazing at his daughter's photograph, imagines himself in conversation with her. She assures him that the war will end soon, and that parent and child will be reunited.

  • Stand Fast

    Song

    Erich Frost (1900–87), a musician and devout Jehovah's Witness, was active in the religious resistance to Hitler's authority. Caught smuggling pamphlets from Switzerland to Germany, he was imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin where he composed this song in 1942. Later deported to a labor camp at Alderney, Channel Islands, Frost survived the war and returned to Germany to serve the Watchtower Society. "Fest steht," reworked in English as "Forward, You Witnesses," is among the most popular of Jehovah's Witness hymns. This performance, evoking some of the song's original spirit, took place under Frost's direction at an event held in Wiesbaden, Germany, during the 1960s.

  • Tolling Bells

    Song

    Yiddish folk poet and songwriter Mordecai Gebirtig was born in Krakow, Poland, in 1877.

    In 1940, he was forced to flee from German-occupied Krakow to nearby Lagiewniki. There, in October 1941, he wrote "Tolling Bells"—in which he envisions the end of persecution and occupation.

  • Your Kitten is Hungry

    Song

    Mordecai Gebirtig, born in 1877 in Krakow, Poland, was a Yiddish folk poet and songwriter. Gebirtig had three daughters, for whom he wrote and performed his poems. The words were set to improvised melodies, and most of his songs resemble entries in a diary. Many of Gebirtig's poems contain themes of eastern European Jewish life in the 1920s and 1930s. The lullaby "Your Kitten is Hungry" dates from the early 1920s. The lyrics, addressed to a hungry child, evoke the themes of hunger and deprivation.

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