The Lost Yiddish Songs of World War II

Yiddish Glory: The Lost Songs of World War II

Yiddish Glory: The Lost Songs of World War II – Sergei Erdanko, Collaboration (Six Degrees Records, released February 23rd, 2018)

“Yiddish Glory” was released last winter. As it is a collection of songs from the Second World War, a few more months may not be relevant, and so a review telling prospective listeners that it is available is still pertinent. As explained by producers, the record “tells the remarkable story of folklorists in the Soviet Union who risked their lives collecting songs from Jewish Red Army soldiers, Jewish refugees, victims and survivors of Ukrainian ghettos.

Following the war, the researchers were arrested by Stalin; their work was confiscated, and they died thinking the collection was lost to history. But the songs were later discovered in unmarked boxes stored in the basement of the Ukrainian National Library, and brought to life through painstaking research, for the first time in 75 years.”

Perhaps the most striking feature of this anthology of Holocaust victims’ musical memories is their normality. While the lyrics address genocide, brutal destruction and a terrible conflict against Evil, the songs themselves are delivered as small ensemble tunes based on traditional melodies. These patterns were used for popular songs, weddings, local celebrations and private gatherings for many decades prior to the war. They are no more dramatic, no more agonized, no more pontification about great, universal truths than any other Yiddish songs. And no less. They are solace and distraction from an extremely harsh world.

It is a world so harsh that Stalin looked good; better, at least, than Hitler. Concerning the latter, as is sung in “Happy New Year 1944,” “Some peace and joy around the world / Just to spite those silly little Germans / Hitler will be thrown around in fiery and icy hells / And he can kiss our asses.” It is a world where every Russian victory and every German non-victory, even inconclusive battles where neither side gained anything but casualties, is cause for hope and celebration. Soldiers say goodbye to girlfriends, the exploits of Jewish soldiers are told, Polish Jews resettled in Kazakhstan after fleeing the Nazis thank their new host home, a list of failed historical oppressors of the Jewish people is counted, and Hitler “can kiss our asses.”

This is not grim lamentation. It is human. It reminds us that the Nazis’ victims were human, and that we all are.

Author: Arthur Shuey

Arthur has been reviewing music for publications since 1976 and began focusing almost exclusively on world music in 2012.

His musical background includes past presidencies of the Cape Fear Musicians Association and Blues Society of the Lower Cape Fear, founding membership in nine other blues societies, service on 17 music festival planning committees, two decades of teaching harmonica to individuals and groups, operating a small recording studio and performing solo and in combos for 30 years.

Arthur has written professionally since 1975, pieces ranging from short fiction to travel articles, humor to poetry, mainly for local and regional entertainment media. His blog,” Shuey’s World,” is featured at www.accesswilmington.com.

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