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In Dinaverke

Analysis and contextual notes by D. Zisl Slepovitch.
All songs transcribed, translated, scored, arranged, and produced by Dmitri Zisl Slepovitch.


Lily M. (HVT-1711) was born in Vilna, Poland in 1924. She recalls an assimilated, affluent home; antisemitism beginning in 1935; her father losing his state job; moving to a village; her mother’s death from cancer; Soviet occupation; German invasion in June 1941; ghettoization with her father and sister and other relatives in Vilna; obtaining essential jobs; attending music and poetry performances; a woman who escaped mass shootings in Ponary (she went mad); singing partisan songs at work at Porobanek airfield; deportation with her aunt, sister, and cousins to Kaiserwald; seeing her father once (she never saw him again); transfer to a slave labor camp; a friend who wrote songs (she sings one); transfer to Stutthof; her aunt’s and one cousin’s death; a death march in winter 1945; assisting friends (“we were dead souls walking”); liberation by Soviet troops; convalescing in Sopot; traveling to Łódź; moving to Leipheim displaced persons camp, then to Italy; hearing from her uncle in Argentina; marriage in 1947; emigration to Argentina; the births of two children; and emigration to the United States in 1956. Mrs. M. discusses reluctance to burden her children with her past and loss of dignity and identity in the camps.

Unedited Testimony

In Dinaverke (In Dünawerke)

Music and lyrics: supposedly Tosia (see notes below); arrangement: D. Zisl Slepovitch.

Lily M. (HVT-1711) was born in 1924 in Wilno (Vilna, now Vilnius), then in Poland. In her testimony, Lily recalls growing up in an assimilated, affluent home, as well as the rise of antisemitism from 1935. At some point, Lily was transported to the external slave labor camp Dünawerke (Dinaverke, in Yiddish) in Kaiserwald, outside of Riga, Latvia. The camp was based at the former rubber factory Provodník and was run by the semi-government Organisation Todt. According to Lily’s testimony, her friend Tosia had escaped with her parents from Lodz to Vilna in 1939 and composed and sang the song. Lily characterized Tosia as "a very talented poet." Tosia did not survive the war. Lily believed she may have died of typhus in Germany around the time of the liberation in 1945.

The song has a feeling of a slow waltz and employs repetitive patterns. One is based on grasping the initial wide interval (octave) and narrowing down the melodic line to the unison, followed by the ascending melodic minor tetrachord, V–VI#–VII#–I. Fragmented phrasing, repetitive structure, heavy walking feel (despite the 3/4 time), and the melodic pattern generate associations with the cadence of Allegretto (2nd movement) in Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.

A variant of the song was performed and recorded by Tova Ben-Zvi on her album 'And We Shall Remember: Songs from the Ghetto and Holocaust Days, Sung in Yiddish and Hebrew by Tova Ben-Zvi,' with an additional verse and a different ending, as well as the Hebrew translation, "Bedinaverke."

In Dinaverke arum taykh un vald
Zaynen do yidn fun gor der velt
Arbetn ale shver oyf der kelt
In droysn nokh fintster
Der glok tsu der arbet ruft.
Es tsien zikh reyen,
Es shoyshlt der vint
Yidn farmishpet far vemes zind.

Der tog sheym fort iber
Di zun lang fargangen.
Zey geyen tsurik zikh
Mit langzame trit.
Fun gantsn tog arbet
Zaynen zey mid.

Nor yidn, zayt munter,
Es vet nokh kumen di tsayt
Un mir veln arbetn far undz in eygn land.
Un mir veln arbetn far undz in eygn land.

In Dinaverke, near the river and the woods,
There are Jews from all over the world.
They all are working hard out in the frost.
It’s still dark outside,
The bell is calling to work.
Rows of people are lining up,
The wind is whispering.
The Jews are accused of someone else’s sins.

The day passes by swiftly.
The sun has long set.
They return together slowly.
They are tired
After a long workday.

But, fellow Jews, cheer up,
The time will yet come,
And we shall work for ourselves in our own country.