In 1948, an American Jew recorded a rare collection of over 1,000 songs that Jews in Europe used to sing before and during the war.

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Over 70 years after the end of World War II, rare recordings of Holocaust survivors singing songs during their time in the ghettos and death camps are still chilling. Two of the three songs in the video were recorded in New York in 1948, by Ben Stonehill- an American Jew who recorded the survivors when they arrived in the US. The third song was recorded in 1953.

In 1948, the admirer of Yiddish and Jewish culture heard that a large group of Jewish refugees were gathering in the Hotel Marseilles in Manhattan. Stonehill quickly took advantage of the opportunity and arrived at the location with heavy, professional recording gear. He recorded over 40 hours and 1,000 songs that were almost lost during the war.


Auschwitz Photo credit: Bild, Bundesarchiv

The survivors sang mostly in their native language-Yiddish. However, some songs in Hebrew, Russian and Polish are also found. They were so excited that in some of the recordings, crying and laughter can be heard in the background.  

The first song heard in the video was written in the Polish Vilna Ghetto, after a 3-year-old child managed to escape from Nazi murder into a nearby forest. The next song that’s heard is a song of longing for childhood by a girl who heard it from her mother.

Even in the displaced persons camps where Holocaust survivors stayed after the war, songs of better times were sang. The third song is from a 1953 recording, and singer Emma Scheiber is singing to the Jewish refugees.