Yitzhak Katzenelson

Antiwar songs by Yitzhak Katzenelson

Yitzhak Katzenelson (also transcribed Jizchak Katzenelson; Yitzhak Katznelson) was a Jewish teacher, poet and dramatist. He was born in 1886 in Karelits near Minsk, and was murdered May 1, 1944 in Auschwitz.

Katzenelson lived as a teacher near Łódź, Poland. Following the German invasion of Poland in 1939 he and his family fled to Warsaw, where they got trapped in the Ghetto. There he ran an underground school for Jewish children. His wife and two of his sons were deported to the Treblinka extermination camp and murdered there.

Katzenelson participated in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising starting on April 18, 1943. To save his life, friends supplied him with forged Honduran passports. He managed to leave the ghetto but later surrendered to the Gestapo. He was deported to a detention camp in Vittel, France, where the Nazis held American and British citizens and other nationals of Allied and neutral countries, for possible later prisoner exchange.

In Vittel, Katzenelson wrote "Dos lid funem oysgehargetn yidishn folk" (Yiddish: "Song of the Murdered Jewish People"). He put the manuscript in bottles and buried them under a tree, from where it was recovered after the war. A copy was sewed into the handle of a suitcase and later taken to Israel.

In late of April 1944, Yitzhak Katzenelson and his son Zvi were sent on a transport to the Auschwitz extermination camp, where they were murdered on May 1, 1944.

The Ghetto Fighters' House Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Heritage Museum in the Western Galilee, Israel, is named in his memory. "The Song of the Murdered Jewish People" has been translated into numerous languages and published as an individual volume.