A survivor from Warsaw

Set by Arnold Franz Walter Schoenberg (1874 - 1951), "A survivor from Warsaw", op. 46 (1947), first performed 1948 [ narrator, men's chorus, and orchestra ]  [sung text checked 1 time]

Note: this setting is made up of several separate texts.

I cannot remember ev'rything.
I must have been unconscious most of the time.
I remember only the grandiose moment
when they all started to sing as if prearranged,
the old prayer they had neglected for so many years
the forgotten creed!

But I have no recollection how I got underground
to live in the sewers of Warsaw for so long a time.

The day began as usual: Reveille when it still was dark.
Get out! Whether you slept or whether worries kept you awake the whole night.
You had been separated from your children, from your wife, from your parents;
you don't know what happened to them; how could you sleep?

The trumpets again --
Get out! The sergeant will be furious!
They came out; some very slow: the old ones, the sick ones;
some with nervous agility.
They fear the sergeant. They hurry as much as they can.

In vain! Much too much noise; much too much commotion -- and not fast enough!
The Feldwebel shouts: 
»Achtung! Stilljestanden! Na wirds mal? 
Oder soll ich mit dem Jewehrkolben nachhelfen? 
Na jutt; wenn ihrs durchaus haben wollt!«

The sergeant and his subordinates hit everybody:
young or old, quiet or nervous, guilty or innocent.
It was painful to hear them groaning and moaning.

I heard it though I had been hit very hard,
so hard that I could not help falling down.
We all on the ground who could not stand up were then beaten over the head.

I must have been unconscious. 
The next thing I knew was a soldier saying:
»They are all dead«,
whereupon the sergeant ordered to do away with us.
There I lay aside half-conscious.
It had become very still -- fear and pain.

Then I heard the sergeant shouting: »Abzählen!«
They started slowly and irregularly: one, two, three, four
»Achtung!« the sergeant shouted again,
»Rascher! Nochmal von vorn anfangen!
In einer Minute will ich wissen,
wieviele ich zur Gaskammer abliefere!

They began again, first slowly: one, two, three, four,
became faster and faster, so fast
that it finally sounded like a stampede of wild horses,
and all of a sudden, in the middle of it,
they began singing the Sema' Yisroel.


Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , "Un survivant de Varsovie", copyright © 2013, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Guy Laffaille [Guest Editor]

שְׁמַע, יִשְׂרָאֵל: יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ, יְהוָה אֶחָד
וְאָהַבְתָּ, אֵת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ
וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁךָ וּבְכָל-מְאֹדֶךָ
וְהָיוּ הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה
אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם--עַל-לְבָבֶךָ ּ
וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ, וְדִבַּרְתָּ בָּם, בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶּרֶךְ, וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ וּבְקוּמֶךָ
וּקְשַׁרְתָּם לְאוֹת, עַל-יָדֶךָ; וְהָיוּ לְטֹטָפֹת, בֵּין עֵינֶיך
כְתַבְתָּם עַל-מְזֻזוֹת בֵּיתֶךָ, וּבִשְׁעָרֶיך


Sh'ma Yisraeil, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad.
V'ahavta eit Adonai Elohecha b'chawl l'vav'cha 
uv'chawl nafsh'cha, uv'chawl m'odecha. 
V'hayu had'varim haeileh, asher anochi m'tsav'cha hayom, al l'vavecha. 
V'shinantam l'vanecha, v'dibarta bam b'shivt'cha b'veitecha, 
uvlecht'cha vaderech, uv'shawchb'cha uvkumecha. 
Ukshartam l'ot al yadecha, v'hayu l'totafot bein einecha. 
Uchtavtam, al m'zuzot beitecha, uvisharecha.

Researcher for this text: Guy Laffaille [Guest Editor]