Carol Tellerman was born on 15 December 1922 in Chelm Lubelsky, Poland. She is the oldest survivor of the renowned Hazomir Chorale of Lodz, Poland. A Jewish choir, Hazomir was founded in 1899 and was the pre-eminent choir in Poland, singing classical repertoire including Beethoven's 9th Symphony, Handel's Samson, Verdi's Requiem and La Traviata (in Yiddish), and Vivaldi's Four Seasons. The last remnants of the choir performed in the Lodz Ghetto in 1941.
Carol was separated from her husband, Morris, during the war and buried their child, Pearl, alone. They were miraculously reunited in 1945 in the Feldafing Displaced Persons Camp, where she learned the song ‘Ghetto’ from her cousin Abraham Zygielbaum, an actor and brother of Arthur ‘Szmul’ Zygielbaum. In 1947, Carol and Morris immigrated to the United States. Thirty-two members of their immediate family had been murdered.
In 1998, aged 75, Carol sang Kasriel Broydo’s ‘Ghetto’ at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The occasion was a ceremony by the Polish Secretary of State to posthumously award her cousin Arthur ‘Szmul’ Zygielbaum the Chancellor’s Medal, the country’s highest honour. Carol has subsequently appeared in the PBS documentary, Zamir: Jewish Voices Return to Poland. She has been a volunteer at the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center of North Miami, Florida for 18 years and the Songstress Leader of Yiddish Culture Groups at Temple Beth El in Hollywood, Florida for 10 years.
Arthur 'Szmul' Zygielbaum was a leader of the Underground in the Warsaw Ghetto and was smuggled out to seek help from the Allied Governments. Despite his efforts he was not able to secure any assistance, and martyred himself in an attempt to save the last of Europe’s Jews. His final letter, dated 11 May 1943, read as follows:
The responsibility for the crime of murdering the entire Jewish population in Poland resides in the first instance on the perpetrators, but indirectly it also weighs upon all of humanity, the peoples and governments of the Allied states, which thus far have not taken any concrete action to stop this crime … I cannot be silent and cannot continue to live any more while the remnants of the Jewish nation of Poland, whom I represent, are perishing … My life belongs to the Jewish people of Poland and so I give it to them … Let my death be an energetic cry of protest against the indifference of the world which witnesses the extermination of the Jewish people without taking any steps to prevent it. In our day and age human life is of little value; having failed to achieve success in my life, I hope that my death may jolt the indifference of those who, perhaps even in this extreme moment, could save the Jews who are still alive in Poland … I bid farewell to everyone and everything that was dear to me and loved by me.
The song 'Ghetto' was composed in Vilna by Kasriel Broydo, one of the ghetto's most prolific writers and composers. It was performed as part of the musical revue 'Men ken gornit visn' (You can never know).