Ironic Inversions: Rare Soviet Yiddish Songs of WWII

[From In Geveb]

At the international symposium “Global Yiddish Culture: 1938-1949,” held at the University of Toronto this spring, singer-songwriter Psoy Korolenko of Moscow and U of T Professor Anna Shternshis brought to life lost Yiddish songs of the Holocaust in an all-new concert and lecture program.

During and immediately after World War II, the Kiev Cabinet for Jewish Culture, led by philologist Elye Spivak and folklorist Moshe Beregovski, began collecting and transcribing original songs composed by Soviet Jewish Holocaust refugees and survivors. But in 1949, before the Cabinet could publish their collection, these rare Yiddish artifacts were confiscated by the Soviet government and hidden from the public. Until recently, that is, when Shternshis found the collection while doing research at the Manuscript Department of the Ukrainian National Library. Shternshis then teamed up with Korolenko to reinterpret and present these songs to new audiences. The Toronto conference was their first time performing this old-new repertoire. Shternshis opened the program by unfolding the dramatic story of this major postwar Soviet collection project, as unfamiliar to many academics in the house as to the rows of community members. As Shternshis told the story of the Cabinet and the Soviet Jews whose songs they recorded, Korolenko interpreted select archival lyrics on vocals and keyboard.

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Filed under Holocaust in the news, Knowledge entries, Listening materials

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