Songs give new life to Holocaust victims' poetry

FILE PHOTO: A visitor places a flower next to the name of a former concentration camp as he visits the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial during Holocaust Remembrance Day in Jerusalem April 24, 2017 REUTERS/Amir Cohen

TEL AVIV (Reuters) – A Holocaust memorial project in Israel is turning poetry written by Jews during the Nazi genocide into songs, hoping the new music will amplify poignant echoes of the past for future generations.

At a recording studio in Tel Aviv, Israeli musician Lee Biran performed a song he composed from words penned by Yiddish poet and Holocaust survivor Abraham Sutzkever.

“Literature is stronger than death,” Sutzkever’s grand-daughter, Hadas Kalderon Sutzkever, said as she listened in the studio to poetry he had written in 1942 while confined to the Vilna Ghetto in Lithuania.

“I long to say a prayer, to whom I do not know,” sang the 29-year-old Biran, one of 10 Israeli artists who volunteered to compose the songs.

Rabbi Avraham Krieger, director of the Israeli Shem Olam institute sponsoring the project, said collecting the poems of Holocaust victims and turning them into contemporary music was a way to reach out to today’s youth and generations to come.

Kalderon Sutzkever, 43, said she would sit for hours listening to her grandfather recount his experiences, which included the murder of his mother and infant son by the Nazis.

The poet, who was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize for literature in 1985, died in 2010 at the age of 96.

“When you sing this song, it gives it new life after so many years,” Kalderon Sutzkever told Biran.

Israel’s annual Holocaust Remembrance Day begins at nightfall on Wednesday. A siren on Thursday morning brings the country to a halt for two minutes to commemorate the six million Jews who perished.

Reporting by Elana Ringler, Writing by Jeffrey Heller, Editing by William Maclean

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