Es geyt a yeke

At the close of the summer of 1941, Jews from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Luxembourg, were brought to the ghetto.  Unlike their Eastern European brethren, who were used to shortages and poor hygiene even before the war, these Western European Jews came from a comfortable, bourgeois environment.  These Jews had difficulties in adjusting quickly to a new culture and language, and most of them perished shortly after arriving in the ghetto.   


The Ghetto’s 'troubadour', Yankele Hershkowitz, like the inhabitants of the Łódź Ghetto, was sympathetic to the plight of the German Jews, yet nevertheless treated their destiny as a source of humour.  When the ‘yeke’ cannot obtain decent food, for example, he 'takes a visa to Marysin'.  Marysin was the forest area in Łódź where the graveyard was located, and the final resting place of the German Jews.


This song is described in the Chronicles of the Łódź Ghetto for 5 December 1941.  The  author of the entry claims that the melody comes from a German marching tune.  Other scholars claim it comes from a Yiddish tune, and that it resembles the Yiddish Zionist song 'Ffort a kholutsl' (A pioneer goes away).


The entire song was lost, with just  the refrain recalled by the survivors interviewed.

The song’s lyrics were composed by Yankele Hershkowitz, and adapted to a popular marching tune.  It is sung here by Yaakov Rotenberg and was recorded by Gila Flam in 1984.

Es geyt a yeke
Lyrics: Yankele Hershkowitz
Es geyt a yeke
Mit a teke
Er zikht piter, margarin.
Beshim oyfn
Nishtu tsi koyfn
Nemt er a vize nokh Marishin.

There Goes a Yeke
Lyrics: Yankele Hershkowitz

There goes a yeke
With a briefcase,
Looking for butter or margarine.
No way,
There’s nothing to buy.
He gets a visa to Marysin