Partisans of Vilna: The Songs of World War II Jewish Resistance

Review | Songlist

Other Yiddish folk recordings reviewed on these pages:

Adrienne Cooper / Dreaming in Yiddish

Miriam Dvorin / Grandma Soup

Di Goldene Keyt / Mir zaynen do tsu zingen!

Janice Rubin & Friends / Feels like Family

Gerry Tenney & Betty Albert Schreck / Lomir Zingen a Yiddish Lid

and others on the list of reviews

Album cover: Partisans pose with weapons. Partisans of Vilna
The Songs of World War II Jewish Resistance
produced by Henry Sapoznik and Josh Waletzky
Flying Fish, FLY 450, 1989
now distributed by Rounder Records

When I was growing up, there were two truths: Jews went passively to the gas chambers and Israel was God's answer to the Holocaust. This is not the place to address the second of these, but it has been clear for many years that the first proposition, too, is patently false. And just as David Biale's "Power and Powerlessness in Jewish Life" proved intellectually that the myth of Jewish impotence in the "Diaspora" was ... myth, movies such as Josh Waletzky's Partisans of Vilna reclaimed the memory and efforts of those Jews who did organize and fight back against the Nazis.

So, you're obviously going to run out and purchase this album simply because the movie is such a wonderful expression of ethnic pride. How empty would be that pride if there weren't more. And happily there is. Waletzky and Sapoznik assembled a group of friends (and Waletzky's son, David)--wonderful voices such as the incomparable Adrienne Cooper and Michael Alpert (all alums or current members of Kapelye), plus Yiddish poet/Holocaust survivor Irena Klepfisz. Together, they craft an affirmation of spirit and hope.

The arrangements are impeccable and perfect. No slickness here, that would be an anathema to the times and to the songs. But neither is there sloppiness or poor singing. Instead the singers manage just the right sensibility and listenability, and the arrangements behind them show all to perfect effect. Expected songs such as "Zog nit Keynmol" are here, of course, but so are songs new to me such as "Tsu Eyns, Tsvey, Dray" (It's One, Two, Three) and poems such as "Blayene Platn (Lead printing plates). Liner notes are likewise impeccable.

This is more than good music. It is music and poetry that affirm Jewish spirit. Having said that, I can say no more.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow 5/26/96. Revised 1/1/98 to note that the album was produced by Henry Sapoznik and Josh Waletzky.


  1. S'Iz Geven A Zumertog (It was a summer day) / (words: Rikle Glezer; music: trad.)
  2. Yisrolik / (words: Leyb Rozenthal; music: Misha Veksler)
  3. Unter Dayne Vayse Shtern (Under your white stars) / (words: Abraham Sutzkever; music: trad.; arr. Josh Waletzky)
  4. Yid, Du Partizaner (You Jewish partisan) / (words: Shmerke Kaczerginski; music: trad.)
  5. Blayene Platn (Lead Printing Plates) / (Abraham Sutzkever)
  6. Itzik Vitnberg / (words: Shmerke Kaczerginski; music: trad.)
  7. Shtiler, Shtiler (Queit, quiet!) / (words: Shmerke Kaczerginski; music: Alexander Volkoviski)
  8. Zemlyanka (Dugout) / (words: Alexei Surkov; music: Konstantin Listov)
  9. Tsu Eyns, Tsvey, Dray (It's one, two, three) / (words: Leyb Rozenthal; music: trad.; arr. Pete Sokolow-Josh Waltzky)
  10. Dos Meydl fun Vald (The girl from the forest) / (Abraham Sutzkever)
  11. Shtil Di Nakht (A quiet night) / (words: Hirsh Glik; music: trad.)
  12. Zog Nit Keynmol (Never Say) / (words: Hirsh Glik; music: trad.; arr.: Pete Sokolow-Vladimir Heifetz)

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