The Partisans’ Song – Triumph Over Adversity

April 9, 2018 by Eli Rabinowitz
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Yom Hashoah will be commemorated on 11/12 April at which the Partisan Song, Zog Nit Keynmol will be sung in Yiddish at ceremonies held around the world.

Eli Rabinowitz with Lithuanian Holocaust survivor, Heiny Ellert, 95.

Hirsh Glik, a young poet, wrote the poem for the FPO, the United Partisan Organisation, in the Vilna Ghetto in 1943.

Music was added – the melody taken from a march composed for a 1937 Russian film, Sons of the Working People written by brothers Dmitry and Daniel Pokrass.
Zog Nit Keynmol soon became the hymn of the Jewish Partisans – the rallying cry to never give up hope and to continue fighting – a declaration of resistance to the Nazi’s persecution of the Jews.
An estimated twenty to thirty thousand Jews  fought bravely in resistance groups across Nazi occupied Europe.
The song also became the anthem of those incarcerated in the ghettos and camps, and was recited or sung by the many Jews on their way to their deaths.
Glik was murdered by the Nazis in Estonia in 1944. He was 22.
Since the Shoah, it has been sung around the globe as the Holocaust Survivors’ anthem.
It was also adopted by non-Jews as a protest song – the most famous being Paul Robeson, who sang it as an encore in Yiddish at his concert in Moscow in 1949, broadcast live across the entire USSR.
In 1953, author of “They Fought Back” Yuri Suhl wrote on the 10th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising: “Thus a Yiddish song, written by a young Jewish partisan in the Wilno ghetto and adopted by the partisans of this ghetto as their official battle hymn, has reached out to the far corners of the globe to become a battle song for peace for millions of people.
For the message of this song, the warning it sounds, is as timely and vital for us today, when nazism is being restored in Western Germany became a battle song for peace for millions of people, as it was to the embattled Jews of the ghettos and the fighting Jews in the woods.
In these days, when the architects of war pacts and the cold war use every device to sow gloom and despair in the hearts of the people, every expression of strength, courage and reaffirmation of faith in democracy is a rallying force. Hirsh Glik’s Zog nisht kaynmol is, in this sense, a weapon in the arsenal of democracy.
In 1972 author Leyzer Ran wrote: “Glik wrote a poem dedicated to the Jewish catastrophe, resistance and perseverance.
Now the poem belongs to the young post-war generations of proud Jews who accept the torch of Jewish continuity and survival into their hands.”
In 1972 there were 11 language translations. With my research, I have managed to increase this number to 24.
The Partisan Song Project – enabling the next generation to embrace the legacy.
In January 2017 I was invited by the King David Schools in Johannesburg, South Africa to address their 1000 high school students to explain the meaning and significance of the Partisans’ Song. As it is recited in Yiddish at their ceremonies, the meaning is lost.
This was the start of The Partisans’ Song Project. Using short video clips, I enabled the students to understand and embrace the song.
World ORT supported the project by encouraging their students to make videos of their performances of the song. Other schools participated in an online collaboration.
This project is not limited to Jewish schools. In February I presented the program to 300 mostly black students at Muizenberg High School in Cape Town. It resonated with these students as many of their family members had been part of the anti-Apartheid struggle.
This week the project is being introduced to student teachers at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia.
The project will be the subject of my lecture at the IAJGS International Conference in Warsaw, Poland in August:
As we experience increased levels of antisemitism around the world, this song is now a symbol of our survival as the Jewish people and of our hope for peace and for a better world for all.
With this in mind, I have compiled this short 5:38 minute video:

Included are clips from a Holocaust survivor and a Yiddish teacher in Melbourne, Australia, a cantor in Los Angeles, a school choir in Cape Town and seven schools in the Former Soviet Union.
We encourage you to share this video with your community, students and families so that we can sing and embrace Zog Nit Keynmol, with renewed meaning and vigour.
For more details on the Partisans’ Song Project, visit:

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