Jack M. was born in Szydłowiec, Poland in 1913. In his testimony, Jack recalls attending cheder, then public school; visiting his grandmother in Chlewiska; apprenticeship as a tailor at age fourteen; working in Warsaw; military service in Skierniewice from 1937 to 1939; German invasion; one brother fleeing to the Soviet zone (he perished); slave labor in Jósefów; ghettoization; hiding during round-ups; his family’s deportation; incarceration in Wolanów, Skarżysko-Kamienna, Sulejów, Laura, Dachau, Buchenwald, and Allach; slave labor in HASAG factories; liberation from an evacuation train; living in Feldafing displaced persons camp; hearing from his uncle through the Red Cross; and emigration to the United States. Mr. M. discusses details of prewar life; some guards who helped him; the deaths of his entire family; and a 1980 trip to Poland.
A survivor of Szydłowiec ghetto (Poland), he remembered and beautifully performed a wealth of traditional repertoire, including musical and theatrical pieces. His interview includes traditional Yiddish songs of various genres: badkhones (wedding jester’s rhymes), Hassidic niggunim (paraliturgical tunes without words), a Biblical play “Mekhiras Yoysef” (The Trade of Joseph), which was quite widespread in Eastern and Central Europe for a few centuries as part of the folk theatre and Purimshpil tradition dating back to the 1400’s; Polish songs that Jack remembered from street and the army, including some anti-Semitic and frivolous rhymes presumably made up by his senior officer; and many other rare pieces, some of which are likely the only (or one of the very few) such recordings in existence. In addition to his singing, Jack was also a gifted storyteller. Choosing just a few songs for this record was not an easy task.