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Origins: Peat Bog Soldiers

DigiTrad:
DIE MOORSOLDATEN
PEAT BOG SOLDIERS
PEAT BOG SOLDIERS (3)


Related threads:
Prison Songs (26)
(origins) Origins: Peat Bog Soldiers pre-WWII? (10) (closed)
moorsoldaten (8) (closed)
Peat Bog Soldiers (5) (closed)
Lyr Req: The Peat Bog Soldiers (5) (closed)


In Mudcat MIDIs:
Peat Bog Soldiers (Moorsoldaten) (fro Something to Sing About, Okun)


Sourdough 29 Sep 99 - 07:24 PM
John Hindsill 29 Sep 99 - 08:36 PM
Tiger 29 Sep 99 - 08:43 PM
DownEast Bob 29 Sep 99 - 09:00 PM
Stewie 29 Sep 99 - 09:07 PM
paddymac 30 Sep 99 - 12:10 AM
_gargoyle 30 Sep 99 - 12:22 AM
_gargoyle 30 Sep 99 - 12:34 AM
Sourdough 30 Sep 99 - 02:03 AM
Len Wallace 30 Sep 99 - 02:20 AM
MudGuard 30 Sep 99 - 02:30 AM
Wolfgang 30 Sep 99 - 04:00 AM
GeorgeH 30 Sep 99 - 06:53 AM
Susanne (skw) 30 Sep 99 - 06:48 PM
Ferret 30 Sep 99 - 08:15 PM
_gargoyle 30 Sep 99 - 11:35 PM
wildlone 01 Oct 99 - 07:20 PM
Reiver 2 20 Oct 99 - 05:10 PM
SEAROSS 20 Oct 99 - 05:45 PM
Fedele 14 Dec 00 - 04:52 PM
Wolfgang 15 Dec 00 - 05:16 AM
GeorgeH 15 Dec 00 - 09:06 AM
Fedele 15 Dec 00 - 12:44 PM
Fedele 16 Dec 00 - 08:47 AM
GUEST,Fedele 05 Jan 01 - 05:55 AM
Wolfgang 05 Jan 01 - 06:15 AM
Mark Clark 05 Jan 01 - 04:23 PM
raredance 05 Jan 01 - 05:55 PM
GUEST,CraigS 05 Jan 01 - 11:06 PM
paddymac 06 Jan 01 - 01:08 PM
GUEST,Cookieless Chocolate Pi 07 Jan 01 - 01:04 PM
Sourdough 07 Jan 01 - 03:43 PM
Sourdough 07 Jan 01 - 03:47 PM
Susanne (skw) 07 Jan 01 - 07:16 PM
Malcolm Douglas 07 Jan 01 - 08:46 PM
paddymac 07 Jan 01 - 10:09 PM
Sourdough 08 Jan 01 - 04:01 PM
Mark Clark 09 Jan 01 - 09:06 AM
Susanne (skw) 10 Jan 01 - 07:20 PM
Mark Clark 11 Jan 01 - 12:10 AM
Susanne (skw) 11 Jan 01 - 06:49 PM
pastorpest 11 Jan 01 - 08:01 PM
Mark Clark 11 Jan 01 - 08:36 PM
Malcolm Douglas 11 Jan 01 - 08:43 PM
GUEST 11 Jan 01 - 09:15 PM
paddymac 12 Jan 01 - 01:46 AM
Dave Wynn 12 Jan 01 - 06:19 PM
canoer 13 Jan 01 - 05:26 PM
Sourdough 13 Jan 01 - 05:32 PM
Sourdough 13 Jan 01 - 06:13 PM
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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Sourdough
Date: 29 Sep 99 - 07:24 PM

I remember in the early sixties being very moved by "Peat Bog Soldiers". Even when sung in German (the original language - Moor Soldaten - ?it was a haunting song. I've often wondered about it. Is it a folk melody? Was it sung originally in German. Was it Jewish in origin or was it somehting connected to the German political prisoners. Perhaps it's roots are in Poland or some other Eastern European country overrun by the Germans.

Sourdough

Whose head is hanging low because he somehow has started an awful lot of threads where he only meant to start one.


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: John Hindsill
Date: 29 Sep 99 - 08:36 PM

Sourdough--

I have three versions of this song; Theo Bikel, Paul Robeson and Peat, er Pete, Seeger. In the notes accompanying GAZETTE,v. 2 on Folkways FN2502 it is said that the song comes from pre-war (WWII) Nazi concentration camps. The Nazis permitted it to be sung until they figured out that it was really a resistance song. It came to America in the mid-30s, brought by German refugee, one Hanns Eisler.

Hope that helps.---John


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Tiger
Date: 29 Sep 99 - 08:43 PM

According to the "Fireside Book of Folk Songs":

"It is generally believed that this song originated and was first sung in the Börgermoor concentration camp in 1933. Pierre Martinot, designer of this book, who was a prisoner in Dachau in 1944-45, says that the old prisoners there claimed that the song was first sung in Dachau, and that it was carried from there by underground to Börgermoor."

Lyrics on request.......Tiger


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: DownEast Bob
Date: 29 Sep 99 - 09:00 PM

This was recorded and released as part of a Stinson 78 rpm record album in the late 40s or early 50s. I believe it may have also been included in a 10"lp that was released in the mid to late 50s, called, I believe, "Songs of the Lincoln Brigade." Most of the songs, but not this one, were sung by the Almanac Singers. Although it was not a Spanish Civil War song, it might easily have been sung in Spain by members of the Lincoln Brigade.


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Stewie
Date: 29 Sep 99 - 09:07 PM

I first heard it on an old Mitchell Trio recording on Mercury - 'Violets of Dawn'. There the song is attributed to W.Langhoff-Esser - R.Goguel, whoever they might be. No other information is given.


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Subject: ADD: Peat Bog Soldiers^^
From: paddymac
Date: 30 Sep 99 - 12:10 AM

English Lyrics, per the Dubliners & Black Family:
    (1) Far and wide as the eye can wander,
    heath and bog are everywhere.
    Not a bird sing out to cheer us.
    Oaks are standing gaunt and bare.

    (ch-1) We are the peat bog soldiers,
    marching with our spades to the moor.

    (2) Up and down the guards are marching,
    no one, no one can get through.
    Flight would mean a sure death facing,
    guns and barbed wire block our view.

    (ch-1)

    (3) But for us there is no complaining,
    winter will in time be past.
    One day we shall rise rejoicing.
    Homeland, dear, you're mine at last.

    (ch-2) No more the peat bog soldiers
    will march with our spades to the moor.
    ^^


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: _gargoyle
Date: 30 Sep 99 - 12:22 AM

Something to Sing About Macmillan and Company, London 1968 compiled by Milton Okun, p. 103-105

Lists the song as a favorite of Theodore Bikel and words by Wolfgang Langhoff and Esser. The tune is credited to Rudi Goguel (not one of my relatives)


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: _gargoyle
Date: 30 Sep 99 - 12:34 AM

Dachau WAS a pre-war camp reserved for political prisoners of "the state."

However, it is difficult to interpret "resistance" intentions into the lyrics.

MY earliest copyright for the song is 1965.....The skeptic in me believes most references before this date are perhaps "urban myths." A tiny bit of fact mixed with fantasy.


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Sourdough
Date: 30 Sep 99 - 02:03 AM

Gargoyle,

I know first hand that it is older than '65, I heard Theodore Bikel sing it at a party in the Fifties. (Of course, I can't place it in the early thirties.)

Sourdough


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Len Wallace
Date: 30 Sep 99 - 02:20 AM

When the nazis came to power in Germany they immediately began arresting left-wing politicos and sympathizers. The first to be imprisoned in the new camps were communists and socialists.

Here's what I learned from John McDonnell's "Songs of Struggle and Protest":

The song was writtem by an unnamed prisoner in the Borgermoor Camp near the Dutch frontier. Its German name "Die Moorsoldaten" first appeared in 1935 in a book of the same name written by Wolfgang Langhoss.

Fritz Selbmann in "Neue Deutschland" April 17, 1965 wrote:

"On the 3rd of September 1941, 70 prisoners lie in the bunks of a barrack room in a German concentration camp. They hear the shots outside, 465 on this particular night, and every shot kills a comrade, a brother, a communist. Every shot bores into their own hearts. the lie awake counting the shots, clenching their fists, trying not to cry out. Then something beautiful and terrible happens . . . in the farthest corner of the room a comrade begins to hum softly. The song is the Peat-bog Soldiers. Slowly, one by one, the others take up the tune and by the fourth line, 70 prisoners, all political, almost all communists, are singing this hymn of defiance."

I have a copy of it on an old album with Ernst Busch and the choir of the 11th Brigade from the International Brigades that fought in the Spanish Civil War "6 Songs for Democracy: Discos de las Brigadas Internacionales".


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: MudGuard
Date: 30 Sep 99 - 02:30 AM

Sourdough, shouldn't you say you know that first ear. With other words, it is not hearsay, but hearsing ;-)


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Wolfgang
Date: 30 Sep 99 - 04:00 AM

a verbatim translation of the original into English
German lyrics, another set of singable English lyrics, the haunting tune and some history
^^ It is definitely a prewar song, some sources say 1933, others 1935, written in Börgermoor. Of course, it is a song of resistance. When you are in a concentration camp, you just are not very explicit with the lyrics.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: GeorgeH
Date: 30 Sep 99 - 06:53 AM

For a more recent - and very powerful - treatment of the song check out the Home Service CDs. I think - from memory - it's on "Early Transmissions" but it could be on the later "Alright Jack". Buy them both to make sure; you won't regret it.

Wolfgang: Thanks for what looks like the definitive word on its origins.

G


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Susanne (skw)
Date: 30 Sep 99 - 06:48 PM

I have Wolfgang Langhoff's book 'Die Moorsoldaten', where he writes about his memories of the camp and the writing of the song. I'm not sure it is still in print, but I could try and copy the relevant passages some time.
Langhoff - and Esser too, I believe - were left-wing actors. Langhoff rose to lead the East German state theatre although I believe his relationship with the powers that be was always somewhat uneasy. His son, Thomas Langhoff, is a theatre director as well.
I'm not sure about Rudi Goguel. I think his melody was added later, and that a different one was used originally, but I'll have to look this up.
Boergermoor was no extermination camp in the later sense of the word, but it still wasn't a Sunday school. In one neighbouring camp, Esterwegen, Peace Nobel Prizewinner Carl von Ossietzky was tortured and his health undermined so he died shortly after being released. Others weren't, and died there. - Susanne


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Ferret
Date: 30 Sep 99 - 08:15 PM

a sad story susanne. less't we for get. ferret


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: _gargoyle
Date: 30 Sep 99 - 11:35 PM

Forget.....What?


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: wildlone
Date: 01 Oct 99 - 07:20 PM

G you could try listening to Never Again,Remember by Eric Bogle.


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Reiver 2
Date: 20 Oct 99 - 05:10 PM

I'm glad I looked up this thread, and thanks to all for the information. I've known this song for many years, but never knew any of the details of it's origin. My handwritten copy of the words (both English and German) just has a note, "German concentration camp song.... political prisoners." I made no note as to where I found the song.... dumb me! Thanks again.


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: SEAROSS
Date: 20 Oct 99 - 05:45 PM

Paul Robeson first recorded Peat Bog soldiers on January 30, 1942 with these credits: "Moorsoldaten" - song from a German concnetration camp Arr. by Hanns Eisler. This was for his Columbia record "Songs of Free Men"


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Fedele
Date: 14 Dec 00 - 04:52 PM

I was looking for some info on the song: so I got it. Just to refresh the thread so maybe some other info will be added. I really couldn't figure what the song was about, I heard it from the Dubliners but believed it was a Pete Seeger song or so, and I thought it was about Irishmen fighting against English, or maybe about the Vietnamese people.


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Wolfgang
Date: 15 Dec 00 - 05:16 AM

Fedele,
all the information is already in the above posts. Read e.g. Len Wallace's post. It is a German concentration camp song.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: GeorgeH
Date: 15 Dec 00 - 09:06 AM

Wolfgang is too modest . . you must also read his post and follow his links.

A fine song.

G.


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Fedele
Date: 15 Dec 00 - 12:44 PM

Yeah, I did understand! I just thought that maybe someone other could see this thread and post some other stuff.


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Fedele
Date: 16 Dec 00 - 08:47 AM

Digging deep in my memory and my cassette collection, I found that I knew the song before listening to the Dubliners version! I had it in an Italian version in a 1995 Partisan Songs compilation, and I remember I read something about it on the CD booklet, but I just have a copied cassette now. Now the songs sound even more beautiful.


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: GUEST,Fedele
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 05:55 AM

Oh, it came to my mind: the Italian version is 3/4 while the Dubliners' one is 4/4. What about the original?


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Wolfgang
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 06:15 AM

Marching rhythm, 4/4. It could be sung when marching back from the moor to the camp.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Mark Clark
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 04:23 PM

Some of us here knew Eddie Balchowski who fought in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think Eddie used to sing "Peat Bog Soldiers." Back in the early seventies there was a big benefit concert for Eddie hosted by Studs Terkel at the Quiet Knight where Eddie worked. Most of the then living members of the Lincoln Brigade came to be with Eddie and it runs in my mind that they all sang the song together, along with some Spanish Civil War songs. Perhaps others who were there that evening will remember it better than I now do.

-----------------

Perhaps I misunderstood what gargoyle was trying to say earlier. Did anyone else think he was obliquely denying or trivializing the holocaust?

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers ^^^
From: raredance
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 05:55 PM

In Pete Seeger's book "The Bells of Rhymney" (Oak PUblications 1964), he says that the song was smuggled out of Germany by Hans Eisler in 1934 and that it was composed by prisoner at Borgersmoor, an early concentration camp. This is not inconsistent with the information above concerning the age and origin of the German lyrics. The English translation that is most frequently sung, seems less well defined. (As an aside, I searched "peat" in the DT and did not come up with the lyrics. That's a shame, because it's been discussed several times over the years. A copy of the most familar English lyrics was posted by Paddymac in a "hear Me " thread. I copied them below so they can be part of this thread and may get into the DT). A good translation that is singable can make or break a song going from one language to another, but translaters usually sink into obscurity. Anyone know who did the familiar English translation of "Stille Nacht"? The English translatio in Pete's book, and that he sings, is the same as the one below. He describes it as "author unknown" and "one of the best". That statement implies there are several other translations out there. One alternative is in the links above, although I have not heard that one sung. Did Paul Robeson do it in German back in 1942, or did he have an English version already back then? Seeger's book list the copyright as "Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade", but Pete has somewhat of a reputaion of asigning copyrights for political reasons and to keep someone else from cashing in on a song he considers to be public domain. So how old is this English translation? At least 1964. If Bikel sang the same one, that pushes it back a bit. Also most of the songs in Pete's song book were sung by him before the book went to press.

rich r

PEAT BOG SOLDIERS

Far and wide as the eye can wander,
Heath and bog are everywhere.
Not a bird sings out to cheer us,
Oaks are standing gaunt and bare.

Chorus:
We are the peatbog soldiers,
Marching with our spades to the moor.

Up and down the guards are pacing.
No one, no one can get through.
Flight would mean a sure death facing,
Guns and barbed wire greet our view.

Chorus:

But for us there is no complaining,
Winter will in time be past.
One day we shall rise rejoicing,
"Homeland" dear. your mine at last.

Chorus (2):
Then will the peatbog soldiers
March no more with their spades to the Moor.

rich r ^^^


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: GUEST,CraigS
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 11:06 PM

I know the song frm the singing of Roger Watson (as in Muckram Wakes etc). He used to sing both the English and German lyrics, which is not surprising since he used to teach German in schools. I don't know if he recorded it, but if anyone would know about the history of the song, I'd expect he would.


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: paddymac
Date: 06 Jan 01 - 01:08 PM

This is truly an emotionally powerful song. We did it in our St Pat's show last year. We were rocking along with the usual rowdy, bawdy pub fare, then threw in our three-part a capella version of "Peat Bog Soldiers". The house went quiet when we started, but erupted when we finished. I suspect that many or most of them had never heard it before. The appeal seems to be in the melodic simplicity and stark phrasing, which seems to reach a part of the universal psyche and touch the hearts of people fror everywhere and anywhere, and of every background.


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: GUEST,Cookieless Chocolate Pi
Date: 07 Jan 01 - 01:04 PM

It's on the record of "Songs of the Lincoln Brigade" I got, without liner notes and with a splitting sleeve, at a library booksale a number of years ago. It's in 4/4 there.
I think there's a (Smithsonian? Folkways?) set of cassette tapes of this record, with real liner notes. Unfortunately, as usual, I'm at school and my music is a good thousand miles away.

Chocolate Pi


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Sourdough
Date: 07 Jan 01 - 03:43 PM

Paddymac:


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Sourdough
Date: 07 Jan 01 - 03:47 PM

Paddymac: Thank you for your very simple description of the appeal of the song. I think you nailed it. I am curious, though, why is it that you decided to sing "Peat Bog Soldier" at a St. Patrick's Day concert. I sure sounds as though it worked out well, though.

Sourdough


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Susanne (skw)
Date: 07 Jan 01 - 07:16 PM

I have a book by the man who inspired the writing of 'Die Moorsoldaten', the original song, Wolfgang Langhoff. He was an inmate of the Boergermoor concentration camp in 1933/34 and wrote his book in 1935. He survived and went on to become one of the leading lights in GDR theatre, and died in 1966.
I've just copied the account of how and why the song was written into my PC, but translating it will take a little more time. Would anyone be interested in the translation? Otherwise I'm not going to do it.


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 07 Jan 01 - 08:46 PM

Interested?  Definitely, if you don't mind doing it.

Malcolm


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: paddymac
Date: 07 Jan 01 - 10:09 PM

skw - absolutely.

Sourdough - we were looking for a song well suited to an a capella rendition, and something "different". I had first heard it on a tape by the "Black Brothers", and our lead singer had heard the "Dubliners" version. The song just spoke to us. We all liked it, and the fact that the Blacks and Dubs had done it was a bit of a hook to introduce it as a song "well known to Irish audiences." To be honest, we were surprised at the reception it received. We've had some changes in personnel since then and are now working up another version. We're enthuised about it, and just hope our audience will respond as they did before.


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Sourdough
Date: 08 Jan 01 - 04:01 PM

In the late Fifties, I had worked in a summer camp in N. Adams, Massachusetts. There was a lovely young counselor there who lived in NYC. When I went back to college, she invited me to visit her at her family home, an apartment in Manhattan.

That evening, there was a party and I learned a lot about her family. Her mother was a gorgeous and charming woman. I don' think I met her father, though. He was a very busy man, a Broadway producer. He had a long-running musical on Broadway at that time and one of he stars was Theodore Bikel. I hadn't seen the show yet so I didn't really know who Bikel was. Late that evening, when he dropped in, he was just Theo to me. After a bit, a guitar appeared (I think it was a Guild) and Theo, sitting on a chair in the living room started singing some of the songs from the show. One I remember in particular was "Edelweiss".

It was a very special evening. He sang songs I'd never heard before, one about a Jewish farm cooperative in The Crimea, another about a dying queen's confession of adultery, some humorous songs and then he played Moor Soldaten, singing it in both German and English. This group made up mostly of some of the most privileged people in America who I would guess had minimal first hand experience with evil became silent and thoughtful as they listened to the story of the forced laborers. It was a lovely moment in that the song made it possible for us to share for a moment a fragment of their pain and to file it away as part of our empathy library making it easier for us to rmember how much we share with all people.

Sourdough


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Mark Clark
Date: 09 Jan 01 - 09:06 AM


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Subject: Lyr Add: DIE MOORSOLDATEN / THE PEAT-BOG SOLDIERS
From: Susanne (skw)
Date: 10 Jan 01 - 07:20 PM

Here's the promised translation:

[1935:] [Langhoff has had the idea to put on a show in order to demonstrate to the SS that the prisoners are by no means the 'subhuman', culture-less beings the Nazis portrayed them as, and has been looking for volunteers.] A comrade came towards me, dragging another along by his sleeve. "You are the actor, eh? Now, this is our poet. He has had poems published by the 'Ruhr Echo', and he's even written songs for middle-class choirs!" We walked on together. The 'poet' was a miner by trade, an older, quiet man. I said: "Couldn't you make a song that the whole camp can sing together? You realize, of course, that it must not be of the kind the SS could forbid us to sing. It ought to relate to our camp as well as to our families back home. You know, a song about home, but no kitsch like 'Back to my homeland I long to go...' " "Yes, I could do that," the comrade said thoughtfully. " I'll give it a try and bring the song to your hut some time during the week." [...]

The Sunday arrived. In the morning we rehearsed the new song our miner had written and to which a clerk had made a tune. [...] And then the camp's inmates heard, for the first time, the 'Boergermoor Song', which in the meantime has attained a folksong-like popularity. One of us said: "Comrades, we're going to sing you the 'Boergermoor Song', our camp song. Listen well and then sing along with the chorus." Dark and heavy, in march time, the choir began:

Wohin auch das Auge blicket, Moor und Heide nur ringsum
Vogelsang uns nicht erquicket, Eichen stehen kahl und stumm
Wir sind die Moorsoldaten und ziehen mit dem Spaten ins Moor ...
(Far and wide as the eye can wander, heath and bog are everywhere

Not a bird sings out to cheer us, oaks are standing gaunt and bare
We are the peat-bog soldiers marching with our spades to the bog)


Total silence - They all sat as though frozen, unable to sing along and listened to the chorus again.

Wir sind die Moorsoldaten und ziehen mit dem Spaten ins Moor ...
Hier in dieser öden Heide ist das Lager aufgebaut
Wo wir ferne jeder Freude hinter Stacheldraht verstaut
Wir sind die Moorsoldaten und ziehen mit dem Spaten ins Moor ...

(In this bleak and lonely moorland a camp it has been built for us
Where we're kept behind the barbed wire, any joy denied to us)

Morgens ziehen die Kolonnen in das Moor zur Arbeit hin
Graben bei dem Brand der Sonnen, doch zur Heimat steht der Sinn
Wir sind die Moorsoldaten und ziehen mit dem Spaten ins Moor ...

(Every morning all the columns march out to work upon the moor
We dig beneath the cruel sun's glare while dreaming of our homeland far)


Some comrades began to hum along, quietly and sadly. They looked neither left nor right. Their gaze went beyond the barbed wire - it went to where the sky met the endless heath.

Heimwärts, heimwärts jeder sehnet, zu den Eltern, Weib und Kind
Manche Brust ein Seufzer dehnet, weil wir hier gefangen sind
Wir sind die Moorsoldaten und ziehen mit dem Spaten ins Moor ...

(Homeward, homeward goes our yearning, to our parents, wives and weans
Many a chest is full of sighing for far from them we're kept in chains)


I saw the commander. He sat with his head down and his foot moving in the sand. The SS silent and unmoving. - I saw the comrades. Many were crying. -

Auf und nieder geh'n die Posten, keiner, keiner kann hindurch
Flucht wird nur das Leben kosten, vierfach ist umzäunt die Burg
Wir sind die Moorsoldaten und ziehen mit dem Spaten ins Moor ...

(Up and down the guards are pacing, no one, no one can get through
Flight would mean a sure death facing, guns and barbed wire greet our view)


This verse was done very quietly. Suddenly the comrades' singing grew very loud and hard as they started the last verse:

Doch für uns gibt es kein Klagen, ewig kann's nicht Winter sein
Einmal werden froh wir sagen: Heimat, Du bist wieder mein!

(But for us there is no complaining, winter will in time be past
One day we shall cry, rejoicing, homeland, dear, you're mine at last)

Dann ziehn die Moorsoldaten nicht mehr mit dem Spaten ins Moor!


And the last chorus, the: "No more with their spades!", was sung loudly and powerfully. The spell was broken. At the repeat of the chorus all nine hundred inmates sang:

"Then will the peat-bog soldiers march no more with their spades to the bog!"

This was the end of our show and the units marched back to their huts in a very disciplined and calm manner. Hardly had we reached our hut when some SS men came rushing in: "Boys! You did a marvelous show, that was wonderful!" They were enraptured. The ice was broken, and for the first time the two sides spoke to each other like human beings. [...] "Hey, who was it who wrote the 'Boergermoor Song'?" "Well - it wasn't written by an individual. We all contributed, like." We took great care not to let them know who the author was. [...]
Two days later, the song was forbidden. Because of the last verse, in all likelihood - it was open to different interpretations, after all. But it was the S.S. men who demanded the song again and again, and who prevailed against their commander. On the long marches to our workplaces the order usually was: "Sing! Boergermoor Song!" "We're not allowed to sing that," the comrades pointed out. "Nonsense! Out here I am in charge! And who's going to hear it out here anyway!" The head started off and the whole column joined in with gusto.

We also tried to use handing out copies of the song to further our purpose. Not every S.S. man got a copy, not by a long way, but only those who didn't torment or beat us. Every time someone got a copy we got a chance to draw him into a discussion. (Wolfgang Langhoff, Die Moorsoldaten, 2. ed. 1974, p. 151ff, transl. Susanne Kalweit, apart from verses 1, 5, 6)


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Mark Clark
Date: 11 Jan 01 - 12:10 AM

Susanne, thanks. I'm left with nothing to say after that.


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Susanne (skw)
Date: 11 Jan 01 - 06:49 PM

... apart from a little gentle criticism of my formatting abilities, perhaps? :-)


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: pastorpest
Date: 11 Jan 01 - 08:01 PM

A Jewish history professor whose expertise is the holocaust told me the Peat Bog Soldiers is not Jewish. The prisoners were communists, labor leaders, and left wing Christians sent to the camps early in the Nazi period because of their resistance or suspected resistance to the Nazi government. In the debate over whether the song originated in Borgermoor or Dachau, she favoured Dachau because it is surrounded by peat bogs where the prisoners were forced to work. The professor, daughter of holocaust survivors, loves the song: knowing there were people in Germany with the courage to oppose Hitler gives her hope.


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Mark Clark
Date: 11 Jan 01 - 08:36 PM

To stand in opposition to fascism, tyranny and hatred was and is the responsibility of every person.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 11 Jan 01 - 08:43 PM

Thankyou, Susanne.  We all need to know, and remember, things like that.

Malcolm


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Jan 01 - 09:15 PM

You're gonna kill me, but it's also in Rise Up Singing. It's on Pete Seeger's Strangers and Cousins


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: paddymac
Date: 12 Jan 01 - 01:46 AM

This thread just keeps getting better and better. Thanks to all. A magnificent example of the learning available to us all here in 'cat-land.


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Dave Wynn
Date: 12 Jan 01 - 06:19 PM

The best version of this song I have ever heard was live by a band local to Manchester called Redmayne.....It silenced a full club. Five part harmony unaccompanied. Left the audience well rattled.

Spot.


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: canoer
Date: 13 Jan 01 - 05:26 PM

Dear Susanne,

Thank you ever so much for your find and your work of translation and posting!

I have kept it as a favorite for about 25 years now. I heard the tradition of it being an early camp song, and of its creation by the political prisoners, but until now no details.

I was specially taken by the section about its effect on the SS, and the prisoners' use of the song as a way to draw the more humane guards into political discussions. This passage ranks right up there with "Christmas in the Trenches;" on each end of that rifle, we're the same.

Very moving. –the canoer


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Sourdough
Date: 13 Jan 01 - 05:32 PM

SKW -

Fascinating story. Thank you so much for putting in in here.

Sourdough


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Subject: RE: Help: Peat Bog Soldiers
From: Sourdough
Date: 13 Jan 01 - 06:13 PM

I just looked up "Boergermoor" using Google and found a dozen or more sites, some of which looked most interesting. None are in English. I looked through two of the sites in French and although I am Gallicly Challenged, I was able to understand enough to see that these sites may have some wonderful details.

Does anyone know how to use translation programs with web sites? I know they are less than idiomatic but it would be a big help to see what is in there.

Sourdough


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