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100th anniversary of Hirsch Glick

Updated: Apr 7, 2022

April 24, 2021 (date not exactly confirmed) marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Hirsch Glick. There are very few people who, with such a short life, were able to leave such a significant mark in history.

Hirsch lived only twenty-three years, but the words of his songs will sound forever, not only in Yiddish, but also in dozens of other languages. Worldwide fame was brought to him by the words of the Hymn of the Jewish partisans "Zog nit keymol, az du geist dem lestn veg ..." (do not say that you are going on your last journey ...). But besides this, his most famous song, he managed to create many other poetic works.

In the pre-war literary Vilna, he was called the brightest flower that bloomed in the field of the Vilna. He was born in Shnipeshki, a poor suburb of the city, into a poor family. By the age of thirteen he was already writing poetry, at sixteen he was one of the most active members of the youth group of Vilna Jewish writers "Jungvald", at twenty-one he became the author of the famous Partisan anthem, and at twenty-three, after escaping from an Estonian concentration camp, he died in forest.

Hirsch studied at the famous Hebrew gymnasium "Tarbut" and did his first attempts in writing poetry in Hebrew, but soon switched to his native Yiddish. Before the war, the young man managed to publish about thirty poems.

In his pre-war poem "Amol" (once) there is a phrase that was destined to become prophetic:

Ih hob amol getroymt

Tsu zain a held fun a legend ...

I once dreamed

To become a hero of the legend ...

Not only Hirsch himself was destined to become a legend, but his short life and work were overgrown with a considerable number of legends, assumptions and versions.

Since the beginning of the German occupation of Lithuania, the young poet tried to escape to Russia, but was captured by the Germans, imprisoned in several prisons and camps, and then ended up in the Vilna ghetto. There he became one of those who, with his poems and songs, encouraged and strengthened the fortitude of both ordinary Jews imprisoned in the ghetto walls created by the Nazis, and the fighters who united in FPO (fareynikte partisan organization - the united partisan organization), and, as best they could, tried to resist the fate prepared for them by the Nazis.

For his poems, Hirsch selected well-known melodies - Russian, Polish, Jewish, and these songs instantly became folk songs, received immense popularity.

This happened with the song "Calm, di nakht iz oysgesternt" (quietly, the night is covered with stars). Hirsch wrote these words in 1942 after the Vilna partisans managed to blow up a German train. The words were successfully matched to the music from the song "Oh, klezmer" by the famous Krakow troubadour Mordechai Gebirtig.

As for the Partisan Anthem, opinions differ.

Shmerke Kocherginsky, Avrom Sutskever, Dr. M. Dvorzhetsky claimed that H. Glick wrote these words for the "spring" gathering, which took place on May 1, 1943 on Shavlskaya Street in the Vilna ghetto, when news of the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto reached the prisoners ... Aba Kovner, and others, argued that the song was written much earlier, on the anniversary of F.P.O.

Hirsch adjusted his heartfelt poem to the music of brothers Daniel and Dmitry Pokras, created for the Soviet documentary "Sons of the Working People" in 1937. The original text for this melody was written by the poet Alexei Surkov and was called "Terskaya marching".

This song had such an impact that it became a real anthem of the Jewish partisan movement. It has now been translated into dozens of languages. In many languages, such as Russian or English, there are many translation options. It has been performed and performed by countless singers.

Particularly significant was the performance of the Partisan anthem in the original language - Yiddish - at a concert in Moscow in 1949 by the famous American singer Paul Robson, in the midst of the Stalinist anti-Semitic campaign and the defeat of Jewish culture in the USSR.

H. Glick was transported in 1943, before the final destruction of the Vilna ghetto, to Estonia, where he was imprisoned, one by one, in at least four concentration camps. There are recollections that there he continued to create, whenever possible raising the spirit of the prisoners. His poems were memorized. There is evidence that in December 1943, in a camp in Narva, he managed to organize a Hanukkah celebration for the prisoners. Even in those terrible conditions, the Hanukkah fire burned, traditional songs were sung, and Hirsch recited his poems. In the summer of 1944, he was transferred to the Goldpiltz camp in Estonia. He and eight other prisoners managed to escape into the forest as a result of a daring operation, but the Nazis tracked them down, and all nine, including Hirsch, died in an unequal battle. Words from the Partisan Anthem - “the people among the falling walls fought with revolvers in their hands”- acquired symbolic meaning, even in the last moments of the life of this hero of the Jewish people.

* Many data on the life and work of H. Glick remain to this day controversial and finally unconfirmed, we relied on the information given in the monograph of Dr. M. Dvorzhetsky "Hirsch Glick", Paris, 1966.

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