Chava Albertstein [born in 1947 in Szczecin, Poland], an Israeli singer and champion of Yiddish, sings the famous Zog Nit Keyn Mol (“Never Say”), also called “Hymn of the Partisans.”
This song has long been considered the anthem of Holocaust survivors. You can hear one such person sing [here] and another, Annie Lederhendler [here], during a reception for Abraham Sutzkever [1913–2010], former partisan and Yiddish poet, at the Jewish Public Library of Montreal on April 17, 1959.
You can also listen to a version [here] by American singer Paul Robeson during a visit he made to the USSR in June 1949. While there, Robeson met briefly with Itzik Feffer, one of the Yiddish poets that Stalin ordered to be executed in what is called “The Night of the Murdered Poets” (see below). Robeson decided to keep the meeting secret, not revealing what Feffer told him in “so many words.” Or rather, so little words.
Hirsch Glick (1922, Wilno, Poland–1944, Estonia), a Jewish poet and partisan, wrote the lyrics to the song while he was being held in the Vilna Ghetto during the Nazi occupation; he was 21. A fine history of the song is provided by the site, Songs of My People, by Josephine Yalovitser:
The news from the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising inspired Hirsch to write the lyrics. In 1937, Dmitry and Daniel Pokrass wrote the song “Terek Cossacks.” Hirsh uses the melody for his lyrics. “Zog nit keynmol” became a symbol of defiance against Nazi murderers of the Jews, the Holocaust and The Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Jewish partisan fighters from The Warsaw Ghetto, Naliboki forest, Minsk Ghetto, Lodz Ghetto... sang this song to fortify their courage, and to celebrate “their victories” against the Nazis.
Glick attempted to escape from the Vilno Ghetto, however, he got re-captured and put near Riga (Estonia) in a concentration camp where he got executed.In Yiddish, Vilna is Vilne. It is now called Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Hirsch lived a short time, yet this song, and another that he wrote, Shtil di nakht iz oysgeshternt (“The silent night is full of stars”), in the summer of 1942, inspired many. This song is about the heroic action of a female partisan, Vitka Kempner-Kovner [1920; Poland–2012; Israel], a founding member, along with her husband Abba Kovner, of the Fareynigte Partizaner Organizatsye, or FPO (United Partisan Organization). I plan to post this song shortly.
Zog Nit Keyn Mol
by Hirsh Glick
[YIVO Institute for Jewish Research]
The Night of the Murdered Poets
Here is a public service announcement regarding “The Night of the Murdered Poets,” from Talia Zax of the Forward, who writes in an article (“65 Years Ago, The USSR Murdered its Greatest Jewish Poets. What’s Left of Their Legacy?” August 11, 2017):
No one seems to know exactly how many Soviet Jews were secretly executed by the Soviet Union in the basement of Moscow’s Lubyanka Prison on August 12, 1952.
A 1970 New York Times report on the fate of Yiddish in the USSR claimed the victims numbered around 30. A 1972 volume commemorating the event, released by the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, had the number at 24. The Jewish Virtual Library lists the names of 13 victims, a number corroborated by the The Jerusalem Post and Haaretz, but the Jewish World Review has their number at 15, as, with a caveat, does a chronicle of the Stalinist Soviet Union’s anti-Semitic turn, “Stalin’s Secret Pogrom,” published by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Yet it’s largely agreed that five of those figures were poets and writers, some of them high-profile figures both at home and abroad.
The poet Perets Markish was the only Soviet Yiddish writer to receive the Order of Lenin, one of the U.S.S.R.’s most high-profile honors. (He was awarded it in 1939.) Dovid Bergelson, who published articles and fiction in the Forverts from Berlin in the 1920s, was thought by some to be the fourth great pillar of Yiddish literature, after Mendele Mokher Sforim, Sholem Aleichem and I.L. Peretz. In 1922, Dovid Hofshteyn published a collection of poems about Ukrainian pogroms called “Troyer” — in English, “Mourning” — that was illustrated by Marc Chagall.
Yet the full cultural cost of the massacre now known as the Night of the Murdered Poets remains, as evidenced by the confusion over who, exactly, was killed, unclear.By this time, the writing was on the wall for Soviet Jews: it was time to get out, to a safe haven. Once they were permitted to leave, no easy task by any means, Israel provided such a welcoming place for the majority of Soviet Jews. Israel’s establishment decades earlier, in 1948, ensured this reality.
In a 2015 video for the Forverts, Boris Sandler described the Night of the Murdered Poets as marking the end of Jewish hopes for a future in the Soviet Union.