The Song of
the Murdered Jewish People

Icchok Kacenelson

Translated from Yiddish by Judie Ostroff-Goldstein

How can I sing – so that the world will know?
How can I play with broken hands?
Where are my dead? G-d, I am searching for my dead,
In every hill of ash: - Oh, tell me, where are they?

Shout out from the sand, from under every stone,
From all the dust, shout, from all the flames, from all the smoke –
It is your blood and sap, it is the marrow from your bones,
It is your body and your life! Shout, Scream, loud!

Shout out from animal entrails in the forest, from fish in the river –
I want a shriek, an outcry, a voice from you,
They ate you. Scream from the lime kiln, scream small and big,
Scream murdered Jewish people, shout out!

Oh, alas, my people appear. Raise your hands
Out of the deep, mile long graves and sealed shut,
Layer upon layer, doused with lime and burned,
Up! Up! Ascend from the obstacle, the deepest layer!

Everybody come, from Treblinka, from Sobibor, from Ostrolenka,
From Belzec come, come from Ponar and from others, from others, from other!
With eyes torn open, raise a cry and without a voice,
Come from the swamps, from deep in the mud, from Poland -

Come, you who are drained, ground down, crushed. Come. Stand up,
In a circle, a large circle around me, one large ring –
Grandfathers, grandmothers, mothers with babies in their wombs –
Come, Jewish babies of powder, of a bit of soap.

I am the man who watched, who saw
How men threw my children, my wives, my young, my old
Into wagons, like stones you were flung in there, like discards,
And they beat you without pity and spoke to you as wantons.

And now? You see wagons, trucks now, you watch,
You silent witness of such burdens and of such pain and of such distress!
Silent and closed, you watched, Oh, tell me wagons, where
You are traveling to. You the people, the Jewish people, have departed to death?

The first killed were the children, forlorn, little orphans. They are called
The best of the world, the most beautiful that the dark earth possesses!
Oh, from the loneliest little orphans and children's homes should grow our comfort, from the cheerless, mute, little faces, the gloominess will not be allowed to take us!

They were the first to be taken to their deaths, the first ones on the wagon,
Men threw all of them in the wagons, like a handful of garbage, like rubbish –
And took them away, murdered them, destroyed them, there is no trace
Of them, of my best, no more remains! Akh, alas, woe is me!

The sun will rise once more over small villages in Lithuania and Poland never to meet a Jew again
A light in the dark, an old man, a man reciting a chapter of Psalms, a man going into the synagogue -
After all, the peasants will travel in wagons on all the roads, they will travel to the fair after all,
So many gentiles – good gracious! Yet more than before! And the market, the market is dead. The market is full and is not full!

There is no longer a Jew to beautify the fair for great distances around, they are no longer lively, there is no longer any spirit
And no longer will a Jewish long, black coat flap over the market with a sack of potatoes, flour and grain, and a Jewish hand
Will no longer raise a pot, a soft chicken, caress a calf…the peasant a drunk, whips
His horse in grief pulls the full wagon back to the village… gone! Gone, there are no longer any Jews in the country!

And Jewish children – they will not wake up from sleeping, from dreams, every one of them bright in the morning –
They will no longer go to school, no longer let their minds wander, no longer play pranks, no longer play in the sand,
Oh, you Jewish youngsters, oh, bright eyes! Little angels…where are you from? From here, in this town? And not from here!
Oh, beautiful young girl, your brightness, your neatness, everything in order, your little face is not messy.

They are gone already! Oh, on the other side of the ocean, do not ask, do not search in Kasrylewka, nor in Jehupiec…leave it alone!
Do not search for any one…not the Menachem-Mendels, the Tuwia Milkhikers, the Szlama Nagids, the Motke ganefs, oh, do not search!
Like your prophets, Jeshaja, Jermia, Jehezkiel, Hosza and Amos, from the eternal Bible
They will cry out to you from Bialik, speak to you from Scholem Aleichem, from Scholem Ash, from one of their books.

It is that lost voice from the Torah no longer heard from any yeshivas, from any study house and pale yeshiva students,
Noble in learning, poring over the Talmud,deep in thought…no, no, not pale, there is such a glow!
Already extinguished…rabbis, heads of yeshivas, Jews studying, geniuses thin, dry, weak and full of Talmud,
With post Talmudic commentators, small Jews with large heads, with high foreheads, clear eyes, they are already gone, they will no longer be.