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DER YIDDISH-VINKL December 5, 2003

The 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City is still making history, just as the Forward expected when it wrote of the Triangle company: “With blood this name will be written in the history of the American workers’ movement and with feeling will this history recall the names of the strikers of this shop — of the crusaders.”

The classic text on the fire was written by Leon Stein, editor of Justice, the publication of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. Published in 1962, Stein’s book was the last word on the subject — until this year, when a Washington Post journalist, David Von Drehle, published his “Triangle: The Fire That Changed America” (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2003).

What follows is a Yiddish version of a popular song about the fire as published in Chana and Yosl Mlotek’s “Pearls of Yiddish Songs.” It was written by Anshel Schorr (1871-1942); the English version is by Gus Tyler.

Lid Fun Trayengl-Fayer

Es rayst dos harts fun der shrekhlekher plog

S’yidishe folk klogt un veynt, un brekht di hent

Es brekht oys a fayer, oy, in heln tog

Un hunderter arbeter, zey vern farbrent.

Di vos zaynen fun fayer antrinen

Hobn shpringendik zey’r toyt gefinen

Di “morg” iz fil

Men vert shir dil

Vi a mame klogt dort in der shtil.

REFRAIN

Oy, vey, kindenyu!

Rayst zikh bay di hor di mamenyu,

— Tsulib dem shtikl broyt

Hot a shrekhlekher toyt

Geroybt mir mayn eyntsik kind.

Toyt ligt mayn meydele,

Takhrikhim shtot a khupe kleydele.

* * *|

A damned disaster tears my heart apart

The Jewish people weep and wring their hands

Amid a springtime day, a fire did start

Consuming human beings with its brands.

And those who sought to flee the deadly fire

Leaped from the windows to a painful pyre

The morgue is filled

Yet more are killed

The weeping never will be stilled.

REFRAIN

Woe to me, my dearest child

I feel that I am going wild

To earn a piece of bread

You now, dear child, are dead.

They robbed me of my precious daughter

The only child I had they slaughter.

So now she’ll wear a burial shroud

And not a wedding gown so proud.

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