The Song Remains

People of the Warsaw Ghetto merged with a map of the Nazi occupation of Poland

דאָס ליד איז געבליבן

Welcome to our collection of Yiddish poems with English translations from Nazi German occupied Poland. We’ll be publishing one new poem per week into 2027, so be sure to subscribe to get free weekly updates.

  • Sholem Zhirman

    I owned a bunch of negative critiques
    in songs of battle courage and spite
    a nobody with hardly a worthy thought
    but today a wealth of treasured “capital”

    I recall in prison when I took the book into my hands
    and silently embraced the wealth of ideas
    a holy shiver trembled in me
    when opening Karl Marx’s “Das Kapital”

    Like melted spider webs the prison bars dissolved
    and brave I swam from generation to generation
    stabbing, breaking through walls
    and capturing fortress after fortress

    Past heavy days of dark depressing hours
    I stood before a stubborn barrier wall
    looked past the bars to see sky blueness
    and struggled to understand it all

    I struggled hard to figure out what happened
    the hardest part was struggling with myself
    until I scraped the rust from my brain
    and with my teeth grated away the barrier shelf

    On pages, as on skies shine bright starry letters
    when eyes drink in the wondrous red shine
    of bright light, will, and desire
    the genius shines its eternal sign.

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  • Sholem Zhirman (1909-1941) was born in Vilnius, and worked as a carpenter in his father’s workshop. He published his first poems in Warsaw’s Literarishe Tribune, and later published in a number of Yiddish newspapers and journals. He was jailed on several occasions for his activities in the revolutionary movement, and was later confined in the Bereza Kartuska concentration camp between 1933 and 1939, where he contracted tuberculosis and became deaf. He was murdered by the Gestapo with his wife in Paneriai (now in Lithuania) in late 1941.

    Source: Congress for Jewish Culture

  • Yakov (Dzhek) Gordon

    Great writer, our writer
    bright eyed so deep the shine
    On your mild and tender smile
    there is a shadowed quiet cry.

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  • Yakov (Dzhek) Gordon was born in Bialystok in 1914. He was killed as a partisan in the woods around Białystok. Several of his poems were published in the anthology Lider fun di getos un lagern (Poems from the ghettos and camps). Not much is known about his life.

    Sources:

  • Kalman Lis

    What does this old gray Jew want from me
    who comes to me to visit every night
    and weighs me down with sadness and dark fears
    with eyes black holes with tears

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  • Kalman Lis (1903-1942) was born in Kovel, Volhynia, in modern day Ukraine, to a family with rural roots. Lis studied in a traditional kheder, then in a Polish gymnazie, and in Vilnius and Warsaw high schools. He specialized in the care of Special Needs Children. From 1937 until his death, he was in charge of the Tsentos Institution for Defective Children in Otwock, near Warsaw. He began publishing in his school years. He moved to Warsaw in 1927. His first book in 1930 in Warsaw was Woliner Shliakhn, (“Roads of Volhinia”). His book, Ershte Internatsionale Antologie fun Yiddishe Lider, (“First International Anthology of Yiddish Modern Yiddish Poetry”) was to have been published in Warsaw, 1939 but never came out because of outbreak of WWII. In 1939 he won the I.L. Peretz Award for Young Poets from the Yiddish Pen Center in Warsaw. He was wounded in his feet during the bombing of his Childrens Institution on September 1, 1939. He recovered in a Warsaw hospital, then returned to the Otwock Childrens Institution. When it was attacked by Germans in 1942, he and some of the children ran away. His hiding place was found and he was shot and killed together with the children.

    You can find more poetry by Kalman Lis on our companion site, Poetry in Hell.

  • Miriam Ulinover

    Miryem (Miriam) Ulinover née Hirshbein (1890-1944) was born in Łódź, educated traditionally and finished Folkshul. She was one of a very few Orthodox Jewish women poets in her time. As she was orphaned young, she was raised by her beloved Grandmother. Ulinover was a very popular poet in Łódź, who wrote about everyday things. She was published in newspapers and produced one book of poetry called Mayn Bobes Oytzer, (“My Grandmother’s Treasure”), Warsaw, 1922. That book was a favorite among Łódź readers. Shayevitch mentions his love of it in his final poem. Ulinover remained productive in the Łódź Ghetto and encouraged young writers in a salon at her home. She was transported to Auschwitz during the liquidation of the Łódź ghetto, and was gassed and incinerated a few days later.

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  • Y L Kohn

    My way through life, was through
    years of injustice and bitter suffering and anger
    In my young life I struggled through
    years of epidemics and hunger

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  • Y L Kohn

    Y L Kohn (1905-1940) was born in Warsaw, and worked as a metal worker. He wrote children’s literature as well as poetry, mainly in publications of the Bund. He was killed in Russia in 1940.

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  • M Goldshteyn

    My friend the dreaming poet
    is full of sunset wine,
    On his flute he sadly plays
    the song of loss of better days and time

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