Jillian Tallmer sang this powerful song at Camp Harmony in the San Francisco area this week. I thought I'd post it.
SHTIL DI NACHT
| Shtil, di nacht iz oysgeshternt,|
Un der frost - er hot gebrent;
Tsi gedenkstu vi ich hob dich gelernt
Haltn a shpayer in di hent.
A moyd, a peltsl un a beret,
Un halt in hant fest a nagan,
A moyd mit a sametenem ponim
Hit op dem soynes karavan.
Getsilt, geshosn un getrofn
Hot ir kleyninker pistoyl,
An oto a fulinkn mit vofn
Farhaltn hot zi mit eyn koyl.
Fartog fun vald aroysgekrochn,
Mit shney-girlandn oyf di hor,
Gemutikt fun kleyninkn n'tsochn
Far undzer nayem, frayen dor.
| The starry night is silent,|
And the frost is sharp and crisp;
Do you remember when I taught you
To hold a pistol in your hand.
A girl, a short coat and a beret,
Holding a pistol firmly in her hand,
A girl with a face as soft as velvet
Guards the enemy's caravan.
She aimed, fired and found her mark
With her little pistol,
A truck full of ammunition
She stopped with one shot.
At dawn, creeping out of the woods
With snow garlands clinging to her hair,
She was encouraged with her tiny victory
For our new, free generation.
This song tells the story of two partisans who blew up a German military transport on the outskirts of Vila in 1942. The two partisans engaged in this act were Itzik Matskevitsch and Vitke Kempner. It is interesting to note the poet's use of three words, shpayer, nagan, pistoyl, to denote the same object, and automatic pistol. A former resident of the Vilno ghetto gave this explanation for the poet's license:
"Shpayer was common in the Vilno region; nagan was the Russian word; pistoyl was the German term. The use of all three within one song demonstrated the presence of Jews from all over Europe, often herded together by the German occupationists within one ghetto, one concentration or death camp." (Source: Voices of a People: The Story of Yiddish Folksong, Ruth Rubin, 1979)