Geto getunya

'Geto getunya' is a commentary on events that took place in the Łódź Ghetto during late summer 1940.  The burdens of distress and lack of work caused the ghetto inhabitants to protest against Rumkowski, and they held public demonstrations.  Rumkowski, whose life was threatened, decided to establish a Jewish police force for his personal protection, the Sonderkommando, which was detailed for internal affairs.  To this special police section he appointed all the physically strong men he could find in the ghetto.

Full of irony, the refrain pays tribute to a woman.  The small, weak woman, however, symbolizes the ghetto inhabitants, while the strong men are the Sonderkommando, there not to protect the woman but simply to keep themselves alive, strong, and happy.  The strong man gets 'the nicest and the best of everything, he also gets a position of the highest order,' while the 'poor intellectual' man 'walks around like a corpse.'

What is left for the inhabitants? Singing.  In every language they cry that they want to eat.  In this song the whole situation is described in negative terms.  The verse uses a number of ghetto slang words, such as kolacja (Yiddish: kulatsye), a Polish word for 'dinner', which here refers to a meal given as a prize to the best workers once every fourteen days at the public kitchens in the Łódź Ghetto.

The melody of this song is probably of Jewish origin.  It is reminiscent of a Jewish cumulative song built of short melodic motives to which one could add ever increasing numbers of sequences.

The song was composed and sung by Yankele Hershkowitz in the ghetto.  It was recalled and sung by Yaakov Rotenberg and recorded by Gila Flam in 1984.

English Translation

Ghetto, Little Ghetto
Lyrics: Yankele Hershkowitz

Refrain:
Ghetto, little ghetto, oh ghetto my love,
You are so small and so corrupt.
Whoever has a strong arm,
Whoever wears a ‘badge’,
Gets the nicest and the best of everything,
Even a position of the highest order.
But if you’re an intellectual,
Without a cent,
You drag yourself around like a corpse
Without bread and without an address,
And sing to yourself in Turkish
Oh eat! (Oh yes!)

Verse 1:
The girls are all ashamed:
No make-up, no eyelashes,
No bed, nothing!
No rouge, no perm,
No lunch, no dinner,
No soap to wash with.
But, poor things
Just don’t be all cheap tits and ass
And everyone sing the refrain along with me

Refrain:
Ghetto, little ghetto...

Verse 2:
Don’t worry and don’t fret:
Things will be fine again here.
There will even be potatoes!
The day is almost upon us.
We’ll have sponge cake for the holidays
And drink Carmel wine made from barley.
But, poor things
Just don’t be all cheap tits and ass
And everyone sing the refrain along with me

Refrain:
Ghetto, little ghetto...

Yiddish Transliteration

Refrain:


Geto, getunya
Getochna kochana
Tys taka malutka, i taka szubrana
Ver es hot a hant a shtarke,
Ver es hot of zikh a marke
Krigt fin shenstn in fin bestn,
Afile a postn oykh dem grestn
Ven di bist intelligent
Un a sent,
Drayste zikh arim vi a mes
Un a broyt in un adres
In di zingst of terkish zikh
O yes!
 
Vers 1:


Maydlekh zikh ale shymen
Nisht ka’ shminke nisht ka’breyment,
Nisht ka’ tabarin nisht ka’ fayf,
Nisht rush kayn ondulatsye
Nisht ka mitik, ka’ kulatsye
Zay hubn tsi vashn nisht ka’ zayf,
Nor zmartwione, zayt nisht tstitsi-pulkes
In yede zingt  mit mir dem refrain, oy ,oy,  oy
 
Refrain:  Geto Getunya…
 
Verse 2:


Nisht zorgn in nisht klern
S’vet bay indz git nokh vern,
S’vet nokh kartofl oykh du zayn.
Men iz shoyn kurev –meykakh
Yontef vet men esn leykakh
Trinken fin gropn karmel vayn
Nor zmartwione , zayt nisht tstitsi-pulkes
In yeder zingt mit mir dem refrain, oy,oy, oy…
 
Refrain: Geto Getunya