Itzik Vitnberg

Itsik Vitnberg
איציק װיטנבערג

On July 16, 1943 the Gestapo arrested ltsik Vitnberg, the commander of the partisan forces in the Vilno ghetto. A group of partisans freed him on the way to prison. The next day the Gestapo threatened to liquidate the entire ghetto population if Vitnberg did not surrender. To avert the imminent bloodbath, Vitnberg sacrificed his life and surrendered. Words are by Shmerke Kaczerginski (see note about author in Friling); the melody is based on a Russian song.

Illustration of musical notes from the books


Somewhere crouching, hiding
The foe, beastlike, biding,
The mauzer keeps watch in my hand
Suddenly the Gestapo
Leads one whom they’ve trapped oh!
Through darkness, it’s our commandant.

With lightning the night
Tears the ghetto with fright,
There’s danger about and fears mount.
Dear friends so devoted,
Chains must be exploded,
And vanish must our commandant.

Night faded, it tore us,
As death stood before us,
The ghetto in fever did pant.
In turmoil the ghetto
Commands the Gestapo:
It’s death or it’s your commandant.

Then spoke up our ltsik
As quick as a blink is
“I must heed this edict, that’s clear.
I’ll not forfeit your lives
To the tyrants “cruel knives.”
To death he goes without fear.

Again, crouching. hiding
The foe, beastlike, biding,
Again mauzer guards in my hand.
Now you’re dear to me,
My savior you must be,
Now you must be my commandant.

S’ligt ergets fartayet
Der faynd vi a khaye,
Der mauzer er vakht in mayn hant.
Nor plutsem geshtapo,
Es firt a geshmidtn
Durkh fintsternish dem komendant.

Di nakht hot mit blitsn
Dos geto tserisn,
“Gefar!” — shrayt a toyer, a vant.
Khaveyrim getraye
Fun keytn bafrayen
Farshvindn mit dem komendant.

Di nakht iz farfloygn,
Der toyt far di oygn,
Dos geto es fibert in brand.
In umru dos geto.
Es drot di geshtapo:
“Toyt — oder dem komendant!”

Gezogt hot dan ltsik —
Un durkh a blits iz —
“lkh vii nit ir zolt tsulib mir
Darfn dos lebn
Dem soyne opgebn”. . .
Tsum toyt geyt shtolts der komandir!

Ligt vider fartayet
Der faynd vi a khaye,
Vakhst vider, mayn mauzer in hant,
ltst bist mir tayer,
Zay du mayn bafrayer,
Zay du itster mayn komendant!

ס׳ליגט ערגעץ פּאַרטײַעט
דער פֿײַנד װי אַ חיה,
דער מאַוזער ער װאַכט אין מײַן האַנט,
נאָר פּלוצעם געשטאַפּאָ,
עס פֿירט אַ געשמידטן
דורך פֿינצטערניש דעם קאָמענדאַנט.

די נאַכט האָט מיט בליצן
דאָס געטאָ צעריסן,
געפֿאַר — שרײַט אַ טױער, אַ װאַנט.
חבֿרים געטרײַע
פֿון קײטן באַפֿרײַען,
פֿאַרשװינדן מיט דעם קאָמענדאַנט.

די נאַכט איז פֿאַרפֿלױגן,
דער טױט פֿאַר די אױגן,
דאָס געטאָ עס פֿיבערט אין בראַנד.
אין אומרו דאָס געטאָ,
עס דראָט די געשטאַפּאָ:
טױט — אָדער דעם קאָמענדאַנט!

געזאָגט האָט דאַן איציק —
און דורך אַ בליץ איז —
„איך װיל ניט איר זאָלט צוליב מיר
דאַרפֿן דאָס לעבן
דעם שׂונא אָפּגעבן“. . .
צוס טױט גײט שטאָלץ דער קאָמאַנדיר!

ליגט װידער פֿאַרטײַעט
דער פֿײַנד װי אַ חיה,
װאַכסט װידער, מײַן מאַוזער, אין האַנט,
איצט ביסט מיר טײַער,
זײַ דו מײַן באַפֿרײַער,
זײַ דו איצטער מײַן קאָמענדאַנט!

Song Title: Itzik Vitnberg

Composer: Unknown
Composer’s Yiddish Name: Unknown
Lyricist: S. Kaczerginski
Lyricist’s Yiddish Name: ש. קאַטשערגינסקי
Time Period: Unspecified

This Song is Part of a Collection

We Are Here Book Cover with Illustrations of a red rising sun

We Are Here: Songs of the Holocaust

Compiled by sisters Malke Gottleib and Chana Mlotek, this collection of 40 songs, issued on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, reflects the suffering, despair, longing, as well as the strength, hope and courage that led the last remnant of enfeebled Jews to take up arms against the mammoth Nazi war-machine. Save for five songs, this compilation comprises songs that were actually written or sung in the ghettos and concentration camps. Four exceptions written after the war: “Babi Yar,” “Moyshelekh un Shloymelekh,” “Kadish,” and “Mayn mame hot gevolt zayn oyf mayn khasene” are often presented at commemorative gatherings and were therefore included. The fifth song “Am Yisroel Khay” was written in a D.P. camp and is an affirmation of the will of the survivors to build new lives for themselves, holding high their belief in the endurance of the Jewish people. To enable readers and singers not conversant with the Yiddish alphabet to utilize this collection, We Are Here! Songs of the Holocaust provides parallel transliterations and singable English translations by Roslyn Bresnick Perry.

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