Bay (bei) mir bistu sheyn – I hate this!

Memorial Disappeared Jewish Community Altona

This is the Memorial of the Disappeared Jewish Community of the Altona district – a holocaust memorial in Hamburg.  

It stands as a stain that hides parts of Altona’s beautiful city hall, as a stain on this city.

When created in 1989, the Hamburg senate sent a picture to my grandmother in Tel-Aviv since her family is partially a part of the Altona Jewish community. 

She answered: “I hate this!”.
Naja, art wasn’t our strong part of the family.

I visited the place today and saw a new graffiti. This stone is a magnet for graffiti – so much presence and empty like a blackboard.

I didn’t understand what’s written, and sure, kids who don’t understand the symbolic meaning of this stone sprayed nonsense. 


But surprise. The text sprayed “Bay mir bistu sheyn” is a song in Yiddish.  

The song was written in 1932 by a Jewish immigrant to the USA. The twist is that this song was a smash hit in Nazi Germany, under the Germanized title “bei mir bist du schön”. But there is more:

During WW2, an unusual exception to this ban occurred: Noticing that radio audiences wished to hear American jazz, the Nazis decided to exploit such music for their propaganda efforts. Accordingly, Charlie and his Orchestra — a Nazi-sponsored German propaganda swing ensemble derisively nicknamed “Goebbels’ band” — recorded a state-approved anti-Semitic and anti-Bolshevik version of “Bei Mir Bist Du Schön.” Nazi broadcasters played this version in occupied countries. This Nazi propaganda version of the song was entitled “Anthem of the International Brotherhood of Bolsheviks” and has been credited by scholar Élise Petit with increasing anti-Semitic sentiment amid the Holocaust. (From Wikipedia).

Here is where graffiti precisely in the right place, left a clue for a fantastic history lesson. 


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