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DER YIDDISH-VINKL February 20, 2004

Shmerke Kaczerginski was a Jewish poet who died 50 years ago. To commemorate the anniversary, the Yiddish Forward devoted one of its columns last month, “Pearls of Yiddish Poetry” to his life and his works. What follows are fragments of his work cited in the Yiddish Forward. The transliteration is by Goldie Gold. The English versions are by Gus Tyler.

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Shmerke’s poem “Shtiler, Shtiler,” sometimes called “Ponar,” a shtetl near Vilna where thousands of Jews were slaughtered, was written to music created by a 10-year-old boy who had won a music contest in the ghetto.

Shtiler, Shtiler

Shtiler, shtiler, lomir shvaygn

Kvorim vaksn do.

S’hobn zey farglantst di sonim

Grinen zey tsum blo;

S’firn vegn tsu Ponar tsu,

S’firt keyn veg tsurik,

Iz der tate vu farshvundn,

Un mit im dos glik.

Quiet, Quiet

Quiet, quiet, let’s be silent

Graves are growing here.

By our foes these graves were planted

They grow and with them grows our fear.

A path does lead unto Ponar

There is no avenue of return

A dear old father disappears

There’s naught to do but yearn and burn.

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This one is probably Kaczerginski’s most popular song and was often sung by the youth in the Vilna Ghetto.

Yugnt-Himen

Undzer lid iz ful mit troyer,

Dreyst iz undzer munter-gang,

Khotsh der soyne vakht baym toyer,

Shturemt yugnt mit gezang.

Yung iz yeder, yeder, yeder ver es vil nor

Yorn hobn keyn batayt

Alte kenen, kenen, kenen oykh zayn kinder

Fun a nayer, frayer tsayt.

Youth Hymn

Yes, our song is full of sorrow

Although the way we march is bold.

Our foes say they control tomorrow

We shout, our future’s still untold.

Young, oh young, is everyone

The years that pass don’t mean a thing.

Yes, each and every single one

A better freer world will bring.

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