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Booklet for Major Alexander Rosenbaum from Kibbutz Buchenwald

Kibbutz Buchenwald booklet 1945
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
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tags: Displaced Persons music Zionism

type: Album

Scholars have offered varying explanations for the appeal of Zionism in Jewish Displaced Persons (DP) camps. Some have argued that support for a Zionist program emerged spontaneously among Jewish DPs, who came to see the establishment of a Jewish state as the only solution to the problem of their displacement and persecution as well as a central part of their postwar Jewish identities.1 Others have suggested that Zionism was promoted among Jewish DPs by eager emissaries from Palestine who sought to recruit support for a Jewish state.2 Whatever its origins, so-called "DP Zionism" helped shape the politics and the daily life of the Jewish population in the camps.3

Zionist political factions in the DP camps actively sought to convert other Jewish DPs to their cause. They considered the most appealing potential immigrants to be young people ready willing to join in the struggle for independence. Many of these had already participated in prewar Zionist movements, while others only joined the movement after the war. Some were drawn to the kibbutz movement, which organized training for potential settlers in occupied Germany. These agricultural settlements taught members farming techniques that they would presumably use in Palestine. Kibbutz members also prepared for their transition by learning Hebrew and Jewish history.

Three former members of the Zionist youth pioneer movement Hashomer Hatzair—Arthur Posnansky, Yechezkel Tydor, and Eliyahu Gruenbaum—formed Kibbutz Buchenwald near Eggenberg, Germany in the spring of 1945.4 All three were survivors of concentration camps concerned with both the practical and philosophical needs of the members. Practical questions included how to acquire enough food and how to care for the orphaned. On a philosophical level, they reflected upon their dedication to religious practice, questioned the ethics of cultivating German soil, and understood the kibbutz as a mere temporary stop on the way to emigration. 

The members of Kibbutz Buchenwald made the featured booklet by hand for a US Army officer named Alexander Rosenbaum in recognition of his efforts on their behalf. A Jewish American from a Yiddish-speaking family, Rosenbaum's personal interest in the wartime fates of his fellow Jews inspired him to active service.

The booklet is printed in English, German, Hebrew, and Yiddish—a reflection of the group's own language skills as well as an acknowledgement of Rosenbaum's linguistic abilities. It cites wartime sources, including the famous "Buchenwald song" (Buchenwaldlied), as well as the famous ghetto song, "It's Burning" (Undzer shtetl brent!) by Mordechai Gebirtig. The former song was composed under coercion from the SS staff at Buchenwald during the war. The latter appeared as a response to a pogrom in Przytyk, Poland before the Holocaust. Finally, the booklet contains a statement in English and a poem in Yiddish that marks the occasion of the group's emigration to Palestine on August 27, 1945. The final image in the booklet is a photograph taken on the eve of their departure.

See Zeev Mankowitz, Life between Memory and Hope: The Survivors of the Holocaust in Occupied Germany (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

See Idith Zertal, From Catastrophe to Power: The Holocaust Survivors and the Emergence of Israel (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998). Avinoam Patt seeks a middle ground between Mankowitz's and Zertal's positions. See Avinoam Patt, Finding Home and Homeland: Jewish Youth and Zionism in the Aftermath of the Holocaust (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2009).

The diversity and disagreement among different Jewish political organizations demonstrates some of the varied visions for the future of the Jewish people in the postwar years. Many prewar Zionist groups attempted to reconstitute themselves in 1945. Movements such as Hashomer Hatzair, a socialist Zionist youth movement, ran its own schools and kibbutzim (collective farms); a labor party, Mapai (whose leader, David Ben-Gurion, would become the first prime minister of the new State of Israel in 1948), conducted similar activities. The orthodox Agudat Israel (Agudas Yisroel), which had rejected Zionist ideals in the prewar period, called for a Jewish state based on an understanding of the biblically based "promised land." In sharp contrast, the Revisionist Party held strongly right-wing, irreligious views that called for a proactive, military stance in establishing a state.

For more on Kibbutz Buchenwald, see Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz, Kibbutz Buchenwald: Survivors and Pioneers (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1997).

This page is written in Hebrew and followed by an English translation. 

This song is in German.

This song is in Yiddish. 

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[Translator's note: sections that are in English in the original are presented here in italics]

 

"What is the use of doing my work?"
"Never mind, do it!"
—(from a book)

[In star:] The Jewish people live on

For our friend and patron, Major A. Rosenbaum.
Kibbutz "Buchenwald."

For our friend major A. Rosenbaum. Kibuc Buchenwald.

Gehringshof, Elul 1945

Gehringshof, August 1945

 

Isaiah 21:12

Watchman, what of the night?
Watchman, what of the night?
The watchman said:
The morning cometh,
And also the night—
If ye will inquire,
Inquire ye;
Return, come.1

 

"Buchenwald." K.Z.
P. Brand.

[sheet music]

"Buchenwald"

When the day breaks and the sun laughs
Columns of men march in the grim morning
Towards the toils of the day
And the forest is black and the sky is red
And in our sacks we carry a small piece of bread
And in our hearts—in our hearts our troubles.

Chorus:

Ah, Buchenwald, I cannot forget you
Because you have become my fate
He who leaves you realizes for the first time
How wonderful freedom is.
So, Buchenwald, we do not complain and moan
And whatever happens to lie in our future
We say "yes" to life, in spite of it all,
Because one day we will be free.2

 

Concentration camp Buchenwald. We are free. The dream of 6 years is a reality. But, are we free indeed? No, the camp robbed us of our dignity and morality, deprimated [sic] everything that was good and human. Work—there is only hatred for it. Work was the mean[s] to kill us.

But we are free.—No!! We do not want to be drown[ed] in the deeps of life, while we escaped from the deep of death. We are anxious to go to Eretz Israel, Home. Our homes are destroyed, Palestine is our home. But, we want to go there prepared.

On Friday, May 25th 1945 we erected in Eggendorf the "Kibutz-Buchenwald." Now we like our work. We create, build—there is something already achieved. Difficulties again. Some political changes. The territory is occupied by the Russians. We must move. We have to start another time. It is hard. We take hold of Gehringshof. No bed, no table, no locker, no tools to do some work. In our depression appears major Rosenbaum. Like a brother—he offers his helpful hand. He talks a little but does!!! There are already beds, lockers, food enough. Quickly, but quietly. We do not see him much—only his carefull [sic] hand is felt everywhere.

But there has come a sorrowful day in our life. Our major is leaving. We see him in the last moment. "What do you need?" And supplies anything we ask for, to continue our work smoothly. Major!! We shall never forget you! You wrote you name deep in our hearts. We are thankfull [sic] to you for your concrete work, but much more for the hope that there are many brothers of your kind, who feel for us and will give a hand, to save us from being drown[ed].

 

Here is the group of our pioners [sic], who went to Eretz Israel on Monday August 27th, '45.

[photo] 

"A state cannot be created by decree, but by the forces of a people and in the course of generations. Even if all the governments of the world gave us a country it would only be a gift of words. But if the Jewish people will go and build Palestine, the Jewish state will become a reality—a fact."

—Ch. Weizmann

 

A song from the Krakow ghetto

By Gebirtig

It's burning, brothers, it's burning
Our poor village is burning
Vicious winds with their ire
Whistle, tear, and blow about
And the vicious winds are hissing
Everything’s already burning.

And you stand and look around you
With your folded arms.
And you stand and look around
While our village burns.

It's burning, brothers, it's burning
The moment may come, God forbid
The whole village, and us too,
Will go up in ash and flames
And only black, empty walls remain
As if after a battle.

And you stand and look around you. (refrain)

It's burning, brothers, it's burning
Our poor village is burning
If our village means anything to you
Take your vessels, put out the fire
Extinguish it with your own blood
Show us that you can.

Don't stand there, brothers, like you are now,
With your folded arms
Don't stand there brothers, put out the fire
Because our village is burning.3

 

 

The Song of Kibbutz Buchenwald

P. Brand

We are the comrades of Kibbutz Buchenwald
The remnant left from the Hitler beast
We move forward into a new life
And take with us rays of hope.

Here, the Buchenwald-camp kibbutz
Works on the fields of the Thuringian forests
We are no longer aware of pain
We are no longer aware of troubles
We wish only to arrive soon in the Land of Israel.

The Hitler beast wanted to destroy us
Now he himself has been destroyed
His cities are in ruins, his homes dismantled
Only piles of stones remain from his land.

And so, brother, hold on! Don't make a fuss.
Away with the worries and away with the pain
We will make every effort
We will travel to Zion
Speedily in our own days, and let us say Amen!

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Accession Number 1996.15
Date Created
August 1945
Author / Creator
Posnansky, Arthur
Tydor, Yechezkel
Gruenbaum, Eliyahu
Kibbutz Buchenwald
Language(s)
English
German
Hebrew
Yiddish
Location
Gehringshof, Germany (historical)
Document Type Album
How to Cite Museum Materials