The Partisan’s Song: A Lesson Plan

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Teaching The Holocaust Through Poetry

Lesson Plan

Grades 9-12

Duration: Two class periods

Subjects: History, Language/Arts, Media, Social Studies

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Zog Nit Keynmol –  A  Poem by Hirsh Glik 1943

The title, “Zog Nit Keynmol”  means ” Never Say” and was derived from the  first line of the poem  written in 1943 by Hirsh Glik, a young Jewish inmate of the Vilna Ghetto.

Plaque in Yiddish, Hebrew & English at Yad Vashem.

Introduction

This lesson plan has been designed to engage learners with the meaning, inspiration and  context of The Partisan Poem, written in Yiddish by Hirsh Glik, 20, in the Vilna Ghetto in 1943.  This is arguably the most important and enduring poem written during the Holocaust. It focusses on hope, heroes and resistance at the darkest time for the Jewish people. It is about the ghettos, camps and the forests. After music was added to the poem, it became the anthem or hymn of the survivors. It has been sung, mostly in Yiddish or Hebrew at the conclusion of Yom Hashoah ceremonies as well as other Holocaust commemorations for the past 75 years.  Hirsh Glik continues to provide a strong and relevant message for our youth today through his powerful use of word and images.

The Big Picture

In studying the words of Glik’s poem, students will learn about hope,  inspiration and spirited resistance juxtaposed with the realities of the Holocaust – that of death, total destruction and the uncertainty of any future. Students will look at how poetry and other art forms such as music, drawing and video can influence what we learn from history and mould their own hopes for the future. By studying and understanding the meaning and context of the words, students will have the opportunity to determine whether their generation, and future generations, will embrace this legacy of the survivors.

The Format of the Lesson Plan

1. Historical Context

2. The Partisans

3. Hirsh Glik

4. The Poem

5. Recitation

6. The Questions

7. Why The Poem Is So Important

8. As Art

9. As An Anthem

10. As A Protest Song

11. In Memorials And Plaques

12. Additional Resources

13. Further Activities

 

1. Historical Context

by William R. Ferneke

ZOG NIT KEYNMOL  Poem by Hirsh Glik 1943

With Yiddish words by Hirsh Glik and music by Dmitri and Daniel Pokrass, “Zog Nit Keynmol” became the anthem of the Jewish underground resistance movement in World War II. Hirsh Glik’s lyrics were combined with a march melody from the 1938 Soviet film Son of the Working People to create the inspiring song “Zog Nit Keynmol.” Following the end of World War II “Zog Nit Keynmol” has frequently been sung at Holocaust commemorations worldwide, particularly on Yom Hashoah.

The words to “Zog Nit Keynmol” reflect the author’s strong belief in Jewish armed resistance to Nazi oppression. Like many other partisan songs, “Zog Nit Keynmol” served to reinforce Jewish identity and maintain camaraderie in an environment where heroism was required and death was commonplace. Refusing to admit defeat or accept the possibility that Jewish life in Europe was doomed, the song’s lyrics are defiant and optimistic.

Knowing that Jewish communities in Eastern Europe were being destroyed all around them, Jewish partisans employed armed resistance to oppose Nazism. Glik’s lyrics to “Zog Nit Keynmol” helped to sustain the partisans as they risked their lives, while forging another link in the long tradition of Jewish poetry dedicated to maintaining unity against hostile outside forces.

Zog Nit Keynmol Poetry by Hirsh Glik, 1946.Reference Guide to Holocaust Literature. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Sep. 2017<http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

2. The Partisans

Videos

Jewish PartisanS education Fund Video

Jewish Partisans- JPEF

Source: youtu.be/B6AwAUNC8h4

Navahrudak Secondary School #8

Jewish Partisans – The Bielskis

Navahrudak Secondary School #8 – Jewish Partisans

Source: youtu.be/mxrRTUTwHOI

3. Hirsh Glik

 

Hirsh Glik was born in Wilno (now Vilnius) in 1922 which was then in Poland. He began to write poetry in Yiddish in his teens and was a co-founder of Yungwald (Young Forest), a group of young Jewish poets. Hirsh Glik entered the Vilna Ghetto after the Nazi assault against the Soviet Union. He involved himself in the ghetto’s artistic community while simultaneously participating in the underground movement and took part in the 1942 ghetto uprising. Hirsh wrote the poem in early 1943. He managed to flee when the ghetto was being liquidated in October 1943 but was recaptured . He was later deported to a concentration camp in Estonia. During his captivity he continued to compose songs and poems. In July 1944, with the Soviet army approaching, he escaped but was never heard from again. It is presumed he was again captured and executed by the Nazis in August 1944.

4. The  Poem

Never say this is the end of the road.

Wherever a drop of our blood falls, our courage will grow anew.

Our triumph will come and our resounding footsteps will proclaim: We are here!

From the land of palm trees to the far off land of snow,

We shall be coming with our torment and our woe.

And everywhere our blood has sunk into the earth, our bravery and vigor will blossom forth!

We’ll have the morning sun to set our days aglow.

Our evil yesterdays will vanish with the foe.

But if time is long before the sun appears, let this song go like a signal through the years.

This song was written with our blood and not with lead.

It’s not a song that summer birds sing overhead.

It was a people amidst burning barricades that sang the song of ours with pistols and grenades.

So never say you go on your last way.

Though darkened skies may now conceal the blue of the day.

Because the hour for which we hungered is so near.

Beneath our feet the earth shall thunder: We are here!

5. The poem – recited by Freydi Mrocki

Aaron Kremer’s English version recited by Freydl Mrocki of Shalom Aleichem College, Melbourne, Australia.

6. Questions and Topics to consider and discuss:

** Who was Hirsh Glik?

** Discuss the context of the poem: Where and when was it written? Who is his poem about and who was he talking to? Who were the Jewish Partisans?

** Optional – Isaac Rosenberg, Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke were WWI poets, from England. Describe how their experiences in WWI differed from Hirsh Glik’s in WWII.

** WH Auden, an English poet, wrote a poem called Refugee Blues. How does Glik and his poem differ from WH Auden and his poem? What do you think are the essential differences especially with respect to the timing of the poems and their context? Why do you think it’s important to compare the two? [HG wrote his poem to survive, to inspire, to defy… WHA’s poem was written to describe, to warn…]

** Zog Nit Keynmol has been described as an anthem or hymn. What is meant by this? [The poem & song is the anthem of those who lived through the Holocaust and became the anthem of the survivors.]

** What do you discover when  you compare the poem to the song?

** The poem has been translated from Yiddish into other languages. Why and where was Yiddish spoken in Europe? 

** The poem has been adopted by others in different genres. [Teacher to give some examples, such as the graphic cartoon, the interpretations by various singers and bands, its adoption as a universal protest song.] 

**  The song has been adopted by others as a protest song. How relevant is this poem to the world today? Is it effective as a protest song?

** What do you think the future of this poem will be or should be? 

** Language of the poem: The strong themes of the poem are those of hope, optimism, courage, bravery, defiance and resistance. Confronting their harsh reality impacts on the messages to inspire and reinforce heroism are also clear. It also deliberately uses words conveying violence and death. Pick out the images (words and phrases) that illustrate these themes. 

Identify how often the future tense is used, such as “will grow” and “will come” which suggests optimism and hope.

Find the two lines that end with the poem’s cry We are here! How are they linked? Are they powerful? [images of feet suggest resistance, not moving away, being rooted, being present and defiant, impact of the present tense.]

Idyllic scenes conveyed by images such as “resounding footsteps”, “blossom forth”, “morning sun…aglow” suggest a feeling of hope and continuity.

And the words “torment”, “woe”, “evil yesterdays”, “burning barricades” and references to blood convey violent deaths. 

7. Why The Poem Is So Important

Phillip Maisel, a Holocaust Survivor and friend of Hirsh Glik, tells us why.

8. As Art 
Reprinted from Radical Yiddish with permission of Joel Schechter.

The Girl with the Yiddish Tattoo

The Girl with the Yiddish Tattoo

Graphic Art   The Girl with the Yiddish Tattoo A near-indecipherable tattoo on a woman’s leg helps unravel a mystery surrounding the 1943 anthem of the Jewish resistance. Source: mosaicmagazine.com…

Source: elirab.me/art/

9.  As An Anthem

Herzlia Vocal Ensemble Sings Zog Nit Keynmol

Herzlia Vocal Ensemble Sings Zog Nit Keynmol

Herzlia High School in Cape Town, South Africa on 8 February 2017 hosted an online meeting with the ORT schools in Vilnius, Kiev and Chisinau and state schools in …

Source: youtu.be/lt_2Xi6m-Jw

Zog Nit Keynmol – ORT Compilation

Zog Nit Keynmol – ORT Compilation

Contributions by ORT schools in the FSU for Yom Hashoah 2017

Source: youtu.be/Fe2uPgyz4cI

10. As A Protest Song

As a Protest Song

Paul Robeson – Russia Yiddish From Wikipedia Itzik Feffer meeting and concert in Tchaikovsky Hall (June 1949) In June 1949, during the 150th anniversary celebration of the birth of Alexander …

Source: elirab.me/protest/

11. In Memorials And Plaques

Memorials – Warsaw Cemetery; Givatayim;  Yad Vashem; Bat Yam Jewish partisans memorial in Bat-Yam Words of the partisan song in Hebrew and Yiddish: “Don’t say this is my last way”  אנ…

Source: elirab.me/memorials/

 12. Additional  Resources

elirab.me

World ORT

Yad Vashem

USHMM

YIVO

JPEF

Facing History

Wikipedia

FCIT

HMD UK

Florida Holocaust Resource Center

13. Further Activities

Don’t Give Up Hope Project

Don’t Give Up Hope Project

Zog Nit Keynmol – The Partisan Poem & Song JOIN US Spread the song ’s powerful and positive message and, at the same time, establish a bridge between the gene…

Source: youtu.be/PzO3nMIl6OE

Creative Writing

 

A POSTHUMOUS LETTER TO Hirsh Glik

A POSTHUMOUS LETTER TO Hirsh Glik

(Inspired by Irene Lilienheim Angelic’s letter to Leonard Cohen) 18 July 2017

Source: elirab.me/letter/

Defiance – the movie about the Bielski Partisans

Defiance Trailer

Compiled by Eli & Jill Rabinowitz and Mervyn Danker

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