+
upworthy
Most Shared

How a chance discovery let us listen to these Holocaust refugees' songs one more time.

David Boder carried with him a state-of-the-art wire voice recorder and 200 spools of steel wire tape. It was all he needed to capture the voices of an entire people.

It was July 1946 and Boder, an American psychology professor, was on a boat headed to a Western Europe that was just beginning to recover from World War II. He was going there to talk to refugees and Holocaust survivors.

A group of young Holocaust survivors at a home in Hampshire, England, in late 1945. Photo by Keystone/Getty Images.


The year before, as the Allies advanced through Nazi territory, they freed prisoners from the concentration camps. Though technically free, many of the prisoners did not have homes to return to, and instead they ended up in refugee camps throughout Europe.

Boder had a few simple goals. His mission was academic — recording how living through something like the Holocaust changes someone's personality — but it was also humanitarian. He wanted to help preserve these people's oral histories.

By giving them a voice, Boder, an immigrant himself, hoped his recordings would encourage Americans to accept Jewish immigrants.

Boder worked at an incredible pace for the rest of the summer, traveling to four different countries and interviewing at least 130 different people. Toward the end of his journey, he was interviewing as many as nine people a day, recording not just their stories, but also religious services and songs.

He used up every single inch of wire.

Since 1967, researchers at the University of Akron in Ohio have been the keepers of a portion of Boder's spools. Recently, they decided to digitize their collection.

Most of Boder's work has survived to the present day, but one of his spools, known as the Henonville songs (named after the refugee camp in France where they were recorded) had long since disappeared. People assumed it had been lost to time.

But as researchers at the university's Cummings Center for the History of Psychology were going through their archives, they discovered that one particular canister had been mislabelled. The Henonville songs were rediscovered.

Getting the songs off the spool wasn't easy. It would take more than a year.

Though the university had a number of wire voice recorders, none of them would work with the spool. Producer James Newhall finally found a compatible model through coworker Litsa Varonis, who spotted one on eBay and got her husband to fix it up.

The new recorder mid-modernization. Image from The University of Akron.

Even then, it took considerable tweaking to get things right. In the end, they were able to revive the lost recording.

"That we could give the world the melody to a song sung by those sentenced to their death ... is remarkable," said the Cummings Center's Dr. David Baker.

The discovery of these songs was shared with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which now has a digitized copy of the spool for its collection. You can listen to some of the lost Henonville songs below.

“Fraytik oyf der Nakht (Friday at Night)"

This song was performed in Yiddish by Yuel Prizant. In it, the singer reminisces about their family coming together the night before the Sabbath. A version of the song, with lyrics and a translation, is available here.

"Undzer Shtetl Brent (Our Village Is Burning)"

This song was sung in Yiddish by Gita Frank. At the beginning of the recording, she says that the composer's daughter would sing it in the cellars of the ghetto in Krakow, Poland, to inspire resistance against the Germans. Both the composer and daughter were later killed.

Frank also tweaks the song's original refrain from "our village is burning" to "the Jewish people are burning." The original song's full translated lyrics are available here.

"Unser Lager Steht am Waldesrande (Our Camp Stands at the Forest's Edge)"

This recording, also by Gita Frank, is a German rendition of the "anthem" of the Brande forced labor camp, where about 800 Polish Jews were forced to build the Reichsautobahn, or highway system.

It was common for Nazi administrators to make prisoners sing songs as they worked or moved.

In the song, Frank sings about how the camp stands at the edge of a proud, snowy forest. In the morning, various companies of men march to the build site (the Brande camp had both male and female prisoners). At night, a guard stands watch.

A version of this song's lyrics in German is available here.

Songs were provided by and used with permission of the University of Akron's Cummings Center for the History of Psychology.

Kevin Bacon's farm songs have become a social media favorite.

When Beyoncé dropped two songs from her upcoming album of country tunes, Renaissance: Act II, she may not have expected to make history, but that's exactly what happened. Her first single from the album, "Texas Hold 'Em," shot to the No.1 spot on the Billboard country music charts, making her the first Black female artist to hit that top spot. The catchy tune also topped the Billboard Hot 100 the last week in February 2024, a week after it debuted at No. 2.

Presumbaly, Queen Bey didn't expect her song to become an Irish stepdance hit, though that's also exactly what happened. And surely she didn't expect it to be sung by Kevin Bacon to a bunch of farm animals, yet that also has happened.

Perhaps we should all have expected that, though. There's a precedent here, after all.

Keep ReadingShow less
Courtesy of Woodell Productions

This speech had all the things, and the Maid of Honor wasn't even there

May we all have a best friend like Ally Lothman.

Lothman had just given birth to her first child (according to Today.com) and was unable to make it to the wedding of her lifelong best friend Michelle Levenson. But Lothman’s Maid of Honor duties were still gloriously fulfilled.

A now-viral video, posted to TikTok by wedding photography and videography company Woodell Productions, shows that even though Lothman couldn’t celebrate in person, her FaceTimed wedding toast managed to bring everyone at the reception—along with everyone who watched online—to tears.
Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Two brothers Irish stepdancing to Beyoncé's country hit 'Texas Hold 'Em' is pure delight

The Gardiner Brothers and Queen Bey proving that music can unite us all.

Gardiner Brothers/TikTok (with permission)

The Gardiner Brothers stepping in time to Beyoncé's "Texas Hold 'Em."

In early February 2024, Beyoncé rocked the music world by releasing a surprise new album of country tunes. The album, Renaissance: Act II, includes a song called "Texas Hold 'Em," which shot up the country charts—with a few bumps along the way—and landed Queen Bey at the No.1 spot.

As the first Black female artist to have a song hit No. 1 on Billboard's country music charts, Beyoncé once again proved her popularity, versatility and ability to break barriers without missing a beat. In one fell swoop, she got people who had zero interest in country music to give it a second look, forced country music fans to broaden their own ideas about what country music looks like and prompted conversations about bending and blending musical genres and styles.

And she inspired the Gardiner Brothers to add yet another element to the mix—Irish stepdance.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

People think everyone should experience these things 'at least once in their lifetime'

Things like seeing an eclipse and having a true best friend make life worth living.

Representative Images from Canva

Here are some things everyone should experience once in their lifetime

If there’s one thing human beings all have in common, it’s our shared impermanence. No matter our race, gender, social class, wealth status, health regimen, moral code, political leaning, or any other divisive element, we all get one life. One life to hopefully fill with as many memorable, soul nourishing, expansive experiences as possible.

But let’s face it, there are more experiences available that there are days and hours in which to do them. Therefore, we have to use discernment. So, which experiences are truly must-haves in our all-too-limited time on this planet?

The answers to this question are undoubtedly personal, but perhaps some things, just like the inevitable exit of mortal coil, are universal.

According to a recent discussion on Ask Reddit, here are things one must absolutely “experience at least once in their lifetime”:
Keep ReadingShow less
Family

Helicopter's thermal imaging helps save a young autistic girl lost in a Florida swamp

“I just love how the deputy greeted her. What a beautiful ending. You guys are the best!”

A deputy locates a missing girl in a Florida swamp.

A 5-year-old with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) wandered off into a swamp near Tampa, Florida, around 5:00 pm on Monday, February 26. The good news is that the girl was saved in about an hour thanks to the work of some brave sheriff’s officers and their incredible thermal technology.

The girl wandered from her home and was quickly reported missing by her family to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department. The sheriff quickly dispatched its aviation unit that used thermal imaging technology to scan the nearby swamplands to try to find the young girl before nightfall.

Thermal imaging technology captures images based on the heat emitted by objects, allowing us to see temperature differences even in the dark, making it super handy for night vision and heat detection. The thermal technology helped the officers quickly identify the girl from high above the trees.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

10 things kids get in trouble for that adults get away with all the time

Why do we expect children to have more self-control than grown-ups?

Photo by Keren Fedida on Unsplash

Kids know when we're being hypocritical.

Raising kids is tough and no parent does it perfectly. Each child is different, each has their own personalities, strengths and challenges, and each of them requires something different from their parents in order to flourish.

But there's one thing that parents have long said, with their actions if not with their words, that justifiably drives kids bonkers: "Do as I say, not as I do."

To be fair, both moral and actual law dictate that there are things that adults can do that kids can't. Children can't drive or consume alcohol, for example, so it's not hypocritical for adults to do those things while telling kids they cannot. There are other things—movies, TV shows, books, etc.—that parents have to decide whether their kids are ready for or not based on their age and developmental stage, and that's also to be expected.

But there are some gaps between what adults do and what they expect kids to do that aren't so easy to reconcile.

Keep ReadingShow less