The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

The Songs of the Jews during the Holocaust as a Means of Transmission, Socializing, and Survival

The songs of the Jews during the Holocaust as a means of transmission, socializing, and survival.

From the first days of the Occupation in Europe Jews sang and created songs: Jews from all the corners of Europe: women, children and men, religious or assimilated, from all the political spectrum, in all the languages the Jews spoke at that time. They sang everywhere from the cities and villages to the concentration and extermination camps, ghettos and transit camps, in hiding places, and in the partisans. Some sang while dying in the gas chambers.

During the Holocaust songs were created to tell the story, personal or of the people as a whole; to ensure that it would not be forgotten, at a time when Jews did not have access to radios, telephones, could not hide their writings, and even could not write for fear of death. A song flies over the barbed-wire and does not need to be written to be learnt and transmitted. Songs were first and foremost a way of communicating. At a time when everything was done by the Germans to eradicate the Jewish people from the earth and any trace of the genocide, songs were used to tell the story. It was also a way to express feelings of despair and hate, longing and torture in front of the void created by the absence of G-d. All these were all part of the transmission and part of the will to live and not let go. We get clues from the story that goes along the song, if it is known; its “birth”, who sang it, when and where was it sang? On what melody? Many times those songs were written on melodies known from before the war. Is there a link between the old song to the Holocaust one?