I’ll be playing a new song from the Yiddish Glory Project on the radio program airing this weekend. Thanks to Dan Rosenberg, producer of the project, for sharing the song with me. The song is called “I Am A Typhus Louse” and was found by Anna Shternshis, Professor of Yiddish Studies at the University of Toronto, when she was researching songs about past epidemics. Here’s what they say about the song:
During World War II, typhus became rampant as Jews and other prisoners were victims of forced starvation and horrific living conditions. Typhus, which is spread by lice, killed hundreds of thousands, especially the malnourished with weak immune systems.
Some used music and humour to document these types of experiences. In 1942, L. Vinakur composed this comedic song, “I Am a Typhus Louse,” in a ghetto in Transnistria (a region that is now part of Moldova and Ukraine).
The piece is written from the perspective of a louse that had already ravaged the Jewish population, forced thousands into quarantine and wants to target Nazi soldiers.
The music was composed by violinist, composer and conductor David Beigelman (1887-1945). In 1912, he became the director of the Łódź Yiddish Theatre. In 1940, he was sent to the Łódź ghetto (where he conducted the ghetto’s symphony). In 1944, he was deported to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, where he died the following year just before the end of the Holocaust.(From the information on the YouTube page for the video of the song, linked below.)
Here’s the video for the song, which includes English subtitles.
Around the same time that this song was shared with me, I had also heard an enlightening story on NPR about the typhus epidemic that swept through the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland during World War II. It is especially poignant given the current global coronavirus pandemic. You can read that story here: “The Warsaw Ghetto Can Teach The World How To Beat Back An Outbreak.”
I’m glad to hear that there’s more music from the Yiddish Glory Project coming our way in the future!