sovay: (Viktor & Mordecai)
sovay ([personal profile] sovay) wrote2019-02-04 11:09 pm

If I could have crossed, I wouldn't know what I'd have lost

I accept that I didn't know Ben Hecht was Jewish until I read The New Yorker on his recent (and attractive-looking) biography, but I really feel I should have known that during World War II he wrote and organized, with Kurt Weill and Moss Hart, a memorial pageant to the mass-murdered Jews of Europe—a celebration of those who fought and an outcry for the rescue of those still surviving—called We Will Never Die. There's partial audio of the version performed at the Hollywood Bowl on July 21, 1943. That was after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising had been incorporated into the script. It's astonishing. It's not a subtle piece of art, but it's not meant to be, and it knows the extermination camps by name; it's open about Jewish resistance in a way I thought had to be reclaimed from the popular reception of the Holocaust, not predated its formation. I had no idea.
cmcmck: (Default)

[personal profile] cmcmck 2019-02-05 01:30 pm (UTC)(link)
The camps and the resistance were known about long before most people realise.

It's one of the great shames of the history of that period that things were known and little was done.
cmcmck: (Default)

[personal profile] cmcmck 2019-02-05 07:33 pm (UTC)(link)
The BBC were reporting it during 1942.

You know my background- all of this was kept from me by 'well meaning' people and I'm still working through the consequences of that to this day.
negothick: (Default)

[personal profile] negothick 2019-02-05 08:14 pm (UTC)(link)
You're right--it IS as though the "official histories" taught in schools represent an alternate history. The "memory hole" Orwell wrote of in 1948 was active at that time in the US: the conversion of the Soviet Union from "our valiant ally against the Nazis" to "our enemy." To do that, history had to be rewritten as you indicate to show instead that "We have always been at war with the Soviet Union" and too many of those who were trying to save European Jewry were--like the ones you list--also "Communists or fellow-travelers." The Fireside Book of Folksongs, found in every school and camp, looked very different in the 1944 edition (which I have) than it did in later ones. In 1944, songs of the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War can be found alongside translations of war songs of the heroic Russians.
negothick: (Default)

[personal profile] negothick 2019-02-05 11:04 pm (UTC)(link)
I just read about this recording in connection with the Grammy nomination. I had not heard the songs.It's one of those "saved from the rubble of history" stories.
ethelmay: (Default)

[personal profile] ethelmay 2019-02-05 10:35 pm (UTC)(link)
The edition of the Fireside Book of Folk Songs that I have says 1947 and doesn't indicate that there was any previous version (mine is a sixteenth printing and may well have different contents, though). Is it possible you're thinking of a different well known collection? Or did they actually suppress the existence of the previous version?
negothick: (Default)

[personal profile] negothick 2019-02-05 11:01 pm (UTC)(link)
Does yours have the Spanish Civil War songs? And "Song of the Great Wall" (Chinese) or "Meadowlands" (Russian)? Not to mention "Joe Hill" (American). Just dug mine out, and you're right--it's copyright 1947, and mine says Third Printing. I misremembered, because the introduction to the "Songs of Valor" (war section) is written as though the War is currently raging, not as though it were past.
ethelmay: (Default)

[personal profile] ethelmay 2019-02-06 03:17 am (UTC)(link)
It has "Song of the Great Wall," "Meadowlands," "Joe Hill," and "Los Cuatros Generales" (can't see any other Spanish ones). I rather think it was a Christmas present to me in the early 1970s, but am not positive -- it may have been older and been knocking around the family for a while.
negothick: (Default)

[personal profile] negothick 2019-02-06 03:45 pm (UTC)(link)
Those are the songs! I had (though no longer have) a more recent edition and I think those songs are gone, but can't confirm that memory.