The Lost Yiddish Songs of the Soviet Holocaust, Revived

As a matter of policy, the USSR suppressed efforts to commemorate the Holocaust as an event distinct from the suffering of the Soviet nation as a whole. Thus a remarkable trove of songs and poems written by Jews caught up in the Final Solution was long kept in obscurity—until last month, when a professor and a musician teamed up to perform them in Tel Aviv. Aron Heller writes:

As the war raged, a group of Soviet Jewish ethnomusicologists led by Moisei Beregovsky recorded hundreds of Yiddish songs detailing the Holocaust and Jewish resistance to fascism. . . . Beregovsky planned to publish an anthology after the war, but the project was shut down in 1949 at the height of Stalin’s anti-Jewish purge, and Beregovsky was arrested on suspicion of promoting Jewish nationalism. His documents were seized and he died thinking his work had been destroyed.

Only after the fall of the Soviet Union did a librarian stumble upon fifteen unmarked boxes containing the collection. She catalogued them, but it was another decade before [the historian Anna] Shternshis came upon the trove of handwritten poems in the Ukrainian National Library [and] decided to put them to music with the help of Russian-American musician Psoy Korolenko, who was responsible for what he called “melodic solutions” to the newly discovered lyrics.

[One song], “Yoshke From Odessa,” tells the story of a Jewish soldier in the Red Army—one of a half- million—who slices his enemies into pieces like a butcher. “My Machine Gun” invokes the pride another otherwise helpless Jew felt at being armed.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Holocaust, Jewish music, Soviet Jewry, Soviet Union

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy