One of the most popular worker songs written in America in 1889 by the labor poet David Edelstadt (1866-1892). The song became the beloved hymn of Jewish workers everywhere. It was absorbed into Yiddish folk song, and later was sung in the Yiddish schools. A year after it was published a contemporary poet, Morris Rosenfeld, mentioned it in one of his poems: “Sing us the song ‘In Kamf’-Let the Marseillaise thunder.”
Rudolf Rocker described a memorable experience in London: “It was the day in which thousands of Jewish workers marched in thick ranks to Hyde Park, where a mammoth protest demonstration was to take place against the horrible pogrom of the Jews in Kishinev (in 1903). As we marched through the city streets, thousands gazed in mute surprise upon the strange procession. . . When the mass singing of Edelstadt’s In Kamf was heard, the onlookers became very solemn and took off their hats to the marchers.”
We are driven out and despised
we are tormented and persecuted
and all just because we love
the poor and haggard people
We are shot and hanged,
robbed of our lives and our rights,
because we demand the truth
and freedom for the poor slaves.
Shackle us in iron chains,
tear us apart like bloody beasts;
you can only kill our bodies,
but never destroy our divine spirit.
You can murder us, tyrants,
but time will bring new fighters,
and we will fight and fight until
the whole world is free.
Mir vern gehast un getribn,
Mir vern geplogt un farfolgt;
Un alts nor derfar vayl mir libn
Dos oreme shmakhtnde folk.
Mir vern dershosn, gehangen,
Men roybt undz dos lebn un rekht;
Derfar vayl mir emes farlangen
Un frayheyt far oreme knekht.
Shmidt undz in ayzerne keytn,
Vi blutike khayes undz rayst;
Ir kent undzer kerper nor teytn
Nor keyn mol undzer heylikn gayst.
Ir kent undz dermordn, tiranen,
Naye kemfer vet brengen di tsayt;
Un mir kemfn, mir kemfn biz vanen
Di gantse velt vet vern bafrayt.
מיר װערן געהאַסט און געטריבן,
מיר װערן געפּלאָגט און פֿאַרפֿאָלגט;
און אַלץ נאָר דערפֿאַר װײַל מיר ליבן
דאָס אָרעמע שמאַכטנדע פֿאָלק.
מיר װערן דערשאָסן, געהאַנגען,
מען רױבט אונדז דאָס לעבן און רעכט;
דערפֿאַר װײַל מיר אמת פֿאַרלאַנגען
און פֿרײַהײיט פֿאַר אָרעמע קנעכט.
שמידט אונדז אין אײַזערנע קײטן,
װי בלוטיקע חיות אונדז רײַסט;
איר קענט אונדזער קערפּער נאָר טײטן
נאָר קײן מאָל אונדזער הײליקן גײַסט.
איר קענט אונדז דערמאָרדן, טיראַנען,
נײַע קעמפֿער װעט ברענגען די צײַט;
און מיר קעמפֿן, מיר קעמפֿן ביז װאַנען
די גאַנצע װעלט װעט וערן באַפֿרײַט.
Song Title: In Kamf
First published in 1972, Mir Trogn A Gezang: Favorite Yiddish Songs was reprinted six more times (in 1977, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988, 2000) due to popular demand. The songs in this anthology represent a sampling of beloved folk and well-known Yiddish songs, many of which are scattered in various song collections; some appear in very rare and inaccessible collections; and some were never before published. Folk songs comprise about a third of this volume and were selected mainly on the basis of popularity and sometimes for their historic significance. Needless to say, they are only representative of the vast, rich treasure of Yiddish folk material. The selection was made not only on the basis of personal preference, but in the knowledge they are favorites of many who sing these songs. Most of the songs represent the repertoire that was sung at Yiddish summer camps, May 1st demonstrations and at social gatherings. Many songs were introduced to American Jewry by Jewish immigrants who came to the United States after World War II, for whom these songs had been favorites in Poland and other East European communities destroyed by the Nazis.