Saturday, 4 June 2016

Wir sind die Moorsoldaten

"Wir sind die Moorsoldaten
und ziehen mit dem Spaten ins Moor. Wir sind die Moorsoldaten und ziehen mit dem Spaten ins Moor."

Like so many work songs, the steady tread of this song fits the conditions in which it was created.  Singing keeps people's spirits up in hard times, when they can't otherwise express themselves. It also serves to keep a group together doing repetitive actions in hard communal situations. The Peat Bog Song was created in a concentration camp, by Socialist and communist prisoners of the Nazis, doing hard labour, digging peat in the bogs of North Germany in the winter of 1933.  Think of Wozzeck gathering willow sticks outside his garrison, his mind slowly disintegrating. The song has been taken up by the oppressed all over the world.  Below, Ernst Busch sings. Busch narrowly missed being grabbed by the Nazis at the border. This version of the song was written by Hanns Eisler when the two men met up in London in 1935.  Busch went on to Spain and joined the International Brigade. Eisler went to Hollywood but was hounded out by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Below, Busch's recording of the Eisler version,

1 comment:

Christopher Culver said...

The song also resonates in Paul Celan’s poetry, namely his "Denk dir" which begins “Der Moorsoldat von Massada bringt sich Heimat bei, aufs unauslöschlichste, wider allen Dorn im Draht.” On one hand, Celan nods to a German tradition he identifies with so strongly, but through a play-on-words on “Moorsoldaten”, the poem ends up being about Israel’s struggle to survive, especially the confrontation with its neighbours during the Six-Day War. While a lot of Celan has been set to music, this poem hasn't, probably due to its overt political concerns.