Ruth C. (HVT-3793)

“Płaszów Inmates’ Song”

Analysis and contextual notes by D. Zisl Slepovitch.
All songs transcribed, scored, arranged, and produced by Dmitri Zisl Slepovitch.
Translations by Daniel Kahn & Yeva Lapsker.


Ruth C. was born in Kraków, Poland in 1920, the older of two children. She recounts her family’s affluence; her sheltered childhood; German invasion; anti-Jewish restrictions; confiscation of family valuables; learning to be a seamstress; eviction from their home; slave labor cleaning streets; ghettoization in March 1941; their Ukrainian maid trading their valuables for money and food; forced factory labor; her parents hiding her and her brother during a round-up; her parents’ deportation in October 1942; deportation to Płaszów; visiting her brother; public executions; pervasive fear of being killed by the Kommandant, Amon Goeth; fasting on Yom Kippur; transfer to Skarżysko-Kamienna; slave labor in Werke C of a HASAG munitions factory, then a privileged office position; transfer to Częstochowa; slave labor in another HASAG factory; train transfer to Buchenwald, then Bergen-Belsen; starvation and sickness resulting in many deaths; a fellow prisoner throwing her bread; transfer two months later to Burgau; caring for a sick prisoner; transfer to Türkheim; escaping on advice from a German guard; assistance from a villager; liberation by United States troops; reunion with her brother; illegal emigration to Palestine in 1946; brief incarceration by the British; and attending university. Ms. C notes continuing contact with her family’s Ukrainian maid; not sharing her experiences until a trip to Poland; and a recurring nightmare that stopped after her trip. She shows photographs and sings a song from Płaszów.

Unedited Testimony

Płaszów Inmates’ Song

Ruth C. remembers singing this song in Płaszów concentration camp (Poland), but she cannot recall the melody. The latter was composed by D. Zisl Slepovitch in the bard song style. The poem describes the dreadful experience of the Płaszów concentration camp prisoners intertwined with their undying hope for escape and survival.

Co dzień o piątej rano
Głos trąbki budzi nas,
Melodią dobrze znaną
Woła na Appelplatz,

Stajemy równo w rzędzie,
By ręką machnąć w dal,
By uciec jak najprędzej
Od tych cmentarnych bram,

Nad dachami ciemna noc.
Całe miasto śpi.
Tylko my – jeszcze jeden krok
By serce z bólu umiera.

Every morning at five,
The trumpet wakes us up.
With its familiar call
To the Appelplatz.

We stand straight in rows,
Looking into the distance,
Looking to escape
This cemetery gate.

Dark night hovers over the roofs,
The city is sound asleep.
Only we — just one more step,
And the heart will die in pain.