Birthday of Hirsh Glik
Today in Yiddishkayt… April 24
Birthday of Hirsh Glik, Poet & Partisan
Hirsh Glik was born on April 24, 1921 (according to others 1922) in the working class Shnipishok district of Vilna (today Šnipiškis). There. he attended a Hebrew elementary school, before poverty forced him to leave school and go to work in an iron factory. He shared with his family a love of music and began to write Hebrew and Yiddish poetry and songs at age 13. Three years later he co-founded the יונג-װאַלד (Young Forest) group of young Jewish poets. His songs and poems appeared frequently in the Soviet Yiddish press and although he published extensively, his family’s economic situation made sure that his first priority was to earn a living, first in the paper business and then in a hardware store.
With the Germans invasion of Lithuania in 1941, Glik was one of the thousands who tried to flee the city to join the partisan brigades in the forests around the city. He was caught and sent to work at the labor camps in Biała Waka and Rzesza, where he worked cutting peat in a swampy area and nearly died of typhoid. Even during the worst moments of his captivity, Glik continued to compose poems and songs, writing them on scraps of paper or reciting them to other inmates so that they could memorize them. A friend from Rzesza remembered how while they were moving unbearably heavy pieces of turf, Glik would find a dry place to sit and ask his friend to hum a tune so that he could improvise lyrics.
When the Jews from the camp were moved into the Vilna Ghetto in 1943, Glik became involved in the ghetto’s literary community and then in the פֿאַראייניקטע פּאַרטיזאַנער אָרגאַניזאַציע (United Partisan Organization, or FPO). Inspired by the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Glik wrote his most famous poem זאָג ניט קיינמאָל, אַז דו גייסט דעם לעצטן װעג (Never Say You Walk Your Last Path). He first recited it to his friend the poet Shmerke Kaczerginski at an Yiddish literary evening, called “Spring in Yiddish Literature.” He then set the lyrics to the melody of the Soviet song called “То не тучи — грозовые облака (Those Aren’t Simply Clouds, but Storm Clouds),” with music by Soviet Jewish composer Dmitri Pokrass, and the song became the anthem of the Jewish partisan movement.
Listen to Paul Robeson sing the Partisan anthem live at his 1949 Moscow Concert:
Glik wrote a number of other songs of resistance and optimism including, “שטיל, די נאַכט איז אויסגעשטערנט (Quiet, The Night is Strewn with Stars).” This song honored the heroism of the female partisan Vitke Kempner, who blew up a German train and helped ghetto prisoners to escape. Glik managed to flee when the ghetto while it was being liquidated in October 1943, but was re-captured and deported to the Goldfilz concentration camp in Estonia.
In July 1944, with the Soviet Army approaching, Glik escaped and joined a group of partisans in the forests. He was never heard from again and was presumed captured and executed by the Germans in August 1944.