Multilingual Yiddish Song
León Wajner was born in 1898 in Lodz. He came from a family of cantors and was himself a renowned musician before the war. When the war began, he was conscripted into the Polish Army, then impressed by the Russian Army in Rovno, Volinia. During the war, he organized choral groups of Jewish men, which toured nearly all of Russia, including Birobidzhan; when he returned to Poland he learned that his wife and daughter had died in the Warsaw Ghetto. He eventually moved to Buenos Aires, where he lived with his second wife, singer Rivka Klinicki, until his death in 1979.
Gezangen fun gerangl un oyfkum [Songs of Struggle and Resurgence], or Cantos de Lucha y Resurgimiento, was published in 1962 in Buenos Aires. This collection of songs arose from Wajner’s best coping mechanism—music. The songs are original compositions by Wajner. The lyrics come from the poets who inspired him with their words of lamentation, disappointment, and, ultimately, their hope for a better future.
The poems that Wajner chose are often riddled with gruesome imagery depicting the horror felt by Jews in Eastern Europe during the war. But what is perhaps most surprising about the collection is the chilling optimism that lies at the heart of many of the poems. Remaining positive in times of strife is never easy, but Wajner demonstrates Jewish resilience in the wake of great tragedy.