It is a song that is sung around the world to signal courage, and resistance, and resilience. It is a song we include every year at New York’s Annual Gathering of Remembrance. It is a song about the past that is also a song about tomorrow.

The song, “Zog Nit Keynmol” (Never Say), was inspired by the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The poem, written by Hirsh Glik and set to the music of Soviet composer Dmitry Pokrass, became the official hymn of the Vilna Partisan Fighters and is often referred to as “Partisan Song” or “Hymn of the Partisans.”

 

Hirsh Glik was a Yiddish poet and editor, born in Vilna in 1922. In 1941, Glik was sent to the Vilna Ghetto, where he became part of the underground resistance, as well as the Ghetto’s artistic and intellectual community. Glik took part in the Vilna Ghetto Uprising of 1942, one of the first organized resistances in the Nazi Ghettos.

Glik was able to flee the Vilna Ghetto in 1943 as it was being liquidated, but he was caught and later sent to a forced labor camp in Estonia. In 1944, as the Soviet army neared the Estonia camp, Glik escaped, never to be heard from again. Many accounts say he was shot dead while escaping the camp, but other accounts have him dying in combat in the nearby forest.

The English translation of the lyrics is below:

Never say this is the final road for you,
Though leadened skies may cover over days of blue.
As the hour that we longed for is so near,
Our step beats out the message – we are here!

From lands so green with palms to lands all white with snow,
We shall be coming with our anguish and our woe,
And where a spurt of our blood fell on the earth,
There our courage and our spirit have rebirth.

The early morning sun will brighten our day,
And yesterday with our foe will fade away
But if the sun delays and in the east remains –
This song as password generations must maintain.

This song was written with our blood and not with lead,
It’s not a little tune that birds sing overhead.
This song a people sang amid collapsing walls,
With grenades in hand they heeded to the call.

Therefore never say this is the final road for you,
Though leadened skies may cover over days of blue.
As the hour that we longed for is so near,
Our step beats out the message – we are here!