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Songs from Testimonies

In 2018, the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, along with musician-in-residence D. Zisl Slepovitch and former Hartman fellow Sarah Garibova, began production of an album of songs recalled in some of the more than 4,400 testimonies from survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust in the Archive, held at Yale University.

The 12,000+ hours of recorded material — in over a dozen languages — represent thousands of people whose life stories provide insights into the Holocaust survivors’ experiences both before, during and after World War II. Songs and poems featured in a number of these testimonies, originally sung in villages and towns, in the ghettos and concentration camps across Central and Eastern Europe, convey the history of that period, in a very personal way.

Songs from Testimonies now includes two volumes: Volume I: Where is Our Homeland? and Volume II: Cry, My Heart, Cry

D. Zisl Slepovitch, producer and artistic director of the recordings, arranged all the tracks and also contributed as composer, lyrics translator, additional vocalist, and musical instrumentalist on most of the tracks. A native of Minsk, Belarus, he is a musicologist (Ph.D., Belarusian State Academy of Music); a multi-instrumental klezmer, classical, and improvisational musician; a composer and poet; and a music and Yiddish educator. He is a founding member of the critically acclaimed bands Litvakus, Minsker Kapelye, and Zisl Slepovitch Trio.

Sasha Lurje, the main vocalist of the recordings, is an internationally renowned Yiddish singer, born in Riga, Latvia, and now based in Berlin, Germany. She is the featured singer of several Yiddish music bands and projects, including Forshpil, Litvakus, STRANGELOVESONGS with Daniel Kahn, Semer Ensemble, and You Shouldn’t Know from It.

About Fortunoff Archive at Yale University Library

In 1979, the Holocaust Survivors Film Project began collecting video-taped interviews of Holocaust surivors in the New Haven area. In 1981, the collection was donated to Yale University and The Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, part of the Yale University Library, opened its doors to the public the following year. The Fortunoff Archive as been working to record, collect and preserve Holocaust witness testimonies — and facilitate the work of researchers, educators and the general public — ever since.

The Fortunoff Archive currently holds more than 4,400 testimonies, which are comprised of over 12,000 recorded hours of videotape. Testimonies were produced in cooperation with thirty-six affiliated projects across North America, South America, Europe, and Israel, and each project maintains a duplicate collection of locally recorded videotapes. The Fortunoff Archive and its affiliates recorded the testimonies of willing individuals with first-hand experience of the Nazi persecutions, including those who were in hiding, survivors, bystanders, resistants, and liberators. Testimonies were recorded in the language the witness preferred, and range in length from 30 minutes to over 40 hours (recorded over several sessions).