May 5, 2006, - 9:40 am
By Debbie Schlussel
Since we recently celebrated “Yom HaShoah,” or Holocaust Remembrance Day, it was moving to receive an important, recently-discovered (2002) 1945 BBC recording of reporter Patrick Gordon Walker at the liberation of Bergen Belsen concentration camp from my cousin, Dan K.
Both sides of my family were mostly wiped out in the Holocaust, and my maternal grandparents, Holocaust survivors, were liberated from their last camp, Bergen Belsen. My mother was born at Belsen after the war (it became a Displaced Persons/Refugee camp, where my grandparents lived until they left for the States). Belsen was also the camp where Ann Frank was taken and perished at the hands of the Nazis.
The recording, now at the Smithsonian Center for American Folklife, can be heard here. Just under four minutes, the broadcast is presented as a feature on NPR (transcript here). And, for once, “National Palestinian Radio” gets it right. (A broken clock is right twice a day.)
For those who do not know Hebrew, the song that is sung mid-way through, “HaTikvah” (“The Hope”), became Israel’s national anthem and is known to Jews everywhere. (There is more after the song, so please keep listening even if you don’t care to hear the song.) The song was written in 1886 by Naphtali Herz Imber, from Galicia–an area of Poland, from which my family emanated.
It is especially touching to hear these Holocaust survivors sing the song, when many were close to death and had already seen their entire families murdered by the Nazis. In English, here are the lyrics:
As long as within our hearts, the Jewish soul sings;
As long as forward to the East, To Zion, looks the eye;
Our hope is not yet lost.
It is two thousand years old; To be a free people in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.
Here is a photo of my grandmother and her friends, before they were either sent to their deaths, to Bergen Belsen, or to some other horrible fate. As you can see, they were forced to wear the yellow stars and, expectedly, none of them are smiling. They were slave labor seamstresses, forced to sew and repair Nazi uniforms and clothes. Then, they were sent to the camps. (My grandmother is third from the left, middle row.)
Tags: Ann Frank, BBC, Bergen Belsen concentration camp, Camp For, Dan K. Both, Debbie Schlussel, Displaced Persons/Refugee camp, Holocaust Day, Israel, Jerusalem, Naphtali Herz Imber, National Palestinian Radio, Patrick Gordon Walker, Poland, Remembrance Day, reporter, Smithsonian Center for American Folklife, Zion