Advanced Search

Learn About The Holocaust

Special Collections

My Saved Research

Login

Register

Help

Skip to main content

Rocking an empty cradle : a psychological study of Yiddish Holocaust lullabies / by Lisa S. Duhl

Publication | Library Call Number: PN56.H55 D84 1999

This study, informed by psychoanalytic, hermeneutic, and literary theories, investigates the possibility that Yiddish lullabies written and sung during the Holocaust may have helped people to cope with massive psychic trauma. Holocaust lullabies are located within the traditional Jewish literature of catastrophe and the Holocaust experiences of families. Twenty-two Yiddish lullabies were identified from surviving Holocaust writings. The author's history and the lyrics, provenance and fit to the Yiddish folk lullaby genre formed the basis for inclusion. These and related Yiddish Holocaust writings were translated. Writings of Isaiah Spiegel and Chava Rosenfarb from the Lodz ghetto were interpreted. Holocaust lullabies were written in ghettos and camps, in occupied France, and in flight in the Soviet Union. Thirteen authors, including two women, were identified. Five were fathers, four of small dead children. Fathers of murdered sons wrote as bereaved parents singing to a dead child or its representation. Other authors wrote in varied voices singing to children unborn, born, and orphaned; wife; mother; the Jewish people; and the wind. The lullabies contain explicit Holocaust themes of persecution, death, abandonment, quilt, and mourning. Isaiah Spiegel's life and writings illuminate specific personal meanings in his two lullabies written within eight months of his little daughter's ghetto death in August, 1940. Problematic elements are reflected in his lullabies' imagery of loss. This imagery is sufficiently universal that, theoretically, people hearing and singing these proscribed lullabies could use them to manage and psychologically integrate aspects of their own Holocaust trauma. These songs, survival attests to this possibility. Chava Rosenfarb, protegee of poet Simkhe-Bunem Shayevitsh, wrote her lullaby during the Lodz ghetto liquidation in August, 1944. Rosenfarb's lullaby is read in conjunction with ghetto experiences, other Holocaust poetry, and her writings immediately following liberation. Although Rosenfarb's manuscripts were taken at Auschwitz, she rehearsed her memorized ghetto poems continuously to block out intolerable realities of captivity. The readings of these Yiddish Holocaust lullabies appear to support the premise that they were written and sung to sustain the spirit, support the psychological structure, and integrate the traumatic loss of a people threatened with psychic disorganization during the Holocaust.

Format
Book
Author/Creator
Duhl, Lisa S.
Published
1999
Includes bibliographical references (p. 429-449) and abstract
Language
English
Expand all
 
Record last modified: 2018-05-22 11:47:00
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/bib65477