Leyb Rozental, circa 1940. Courtesy of Naava Piatka www.naava.com.
Portrait of Leyb Rozental

Leyb Rozental, born in 1916, was the oldest child in a highly cultured Vilna Jewish family.  His parents, Fruma and Nohum Rozental, and his two sisters, were all artistic and well educated. His youngest sister Khayele was a talented singer and actress, and was to find her first success performing her brother’s compositions.  Leyb himself was a poet, publishing his first poetry book at the age of 14.  In the Vilna ghetto he became one of the most successful writers of musicals and theatre revues. The powerful lyrics of his productions 'Peshe fun Reshe' (Peshe from Reshe) and 'Moyshe Halt Zikh' (Moyshe Hold On) captivated their audiences. In addition to his work for the theatre, Rozental wrote many independent songs, both for his sister and for other singers in the ghetto. For historians, these songs offer a precious window onto the realities of daily ghetto life.  When the final liquidation of the Vilna ghetto took place in 1943, Rozental was sent to the Estonian concentration camp Klooga.  He died there in January 1945, probably drowned in the Baltic Sea.

Sources

Freund, F., Ruttner, F. & Safrian, H. eds., Ess Firt Kejn Weg Zurik.: Geschichte und Lieder des Ghettos von Wilna, 1941-1943, Vienna: Picus.  

Silverman, J., 2002. The Undying Flame: Ballads and Songs of the Holocaust, Syracuse University Press.