I Remember Warsaw

First they occupied our country
Then they spread their vicious lies
Evil propaganda
Filled our ranks with double-dealing spies
They cordoned off a reservation
Built a wall all around it
Packed us all into this ghetto
And our city’d never be as the Nazis found it

At first no one believed it
Just what horrors lay in store
The sound of boots upon the staircase
Of leather gloves upon the door
Some of us they sent to labor
To slave for them to the last breath
Most of us they sent to Auschwitz
Half a million people sent to a pointless, early death

There were those of us who worked with them
A desperate effort to survive
Even when our numbers were so few
Maybe sixty thousand left alive
And people said we had no chances
By then we all knew they were right
It was 1943
And we, the walking dead, made up our minds to fight

I remember Warsaw
We stood side by side
The Star of David flew above the ghetto
There we lived and there we died

We cleansed the ghetto of their agents
Dug a maze of tunnels underground
We begged the Allies, give us weapons
But empty words were all we found
So we saved each precious bottle
Made bombs of rags and gasoline
And in this script of mindless carnage
We waited in the shadows for the final scene

It was the month of April
The SS came marching in
Singing songs to praise Der Fuehrer
And all his Aryan kin
To see the shock upon their faces
We’d show the world on this day
We’d not go like sheep off to the slaughter
With the last blood running through our hearts we’d make the devils pay

Chorus

We had taken our positions
With each escape route planned
We rained down molotovs upon them
With each retreat another stand
Yes, we killed the Nazi bastards
They lay dying by the score
We made each scarce bullet count
And as the fascist demons ran we killed some more

For one full month the battle raged
And the word spread all around
That it wasn’t over
‘Til every building had been levelled to the ground
I am the ghost of the apocalypse
And these few words I have to tell
Let it never be forgotten
That for four long weeks we fought and we stood up before we fell

Chorus

“I Remember Warsaw” appears on the 2001 CD, Living In These Times, and later on the 2003 retrospective CD, Behind the Barricades, the Best of David Rovics. Sheet music can be found in my Songbook Vol I (1997-2004).

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was arguably the most impressive urban uprising in the history of “civilization.” The rebels, the ZOB, acronym for the Jewish Fighting Organization, had nothing to lose. All 60,000 residents of the ghetto knew that their fate was going to be the same as the other Polish Jews who had already been taken away in the Nazis’ “Final Solution.” The ZOB barely had any arms or other resources, but they all intended to die, and they fought with tenacity over the course of four weeks, by the end of which, every building in the ghetto lay in burnt rubble.

Most of what I know about the uprising derives from the book, the Bravest Battle, which I read not long before writing this song.

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