Yiddish Glory featuring Psoy Korolenko and The Payadora Tango Enemble – I Am A Typhus Louse (Single)


  1. I Am A Typhus Louse


Release Date: November 20, 2020

During World War II, typhus became rampant as Jews and other prisoners were victims of forced starvation and horrific living conditions. Typhus, which is spread by lice, killed hundreds of thousands, especially the malnourished with weak immune systems.

“I Am a Typhus Louse” was written in 1942 in a ghetto in Transnistria* by a child named L. Vinakur. For residents there, it was especially terrifying, as the Nazis often executed those with typhus. The song is actually a comedic one, written from the perspective of an anti-fascist louse.

University of Toronto professor Anna Shternshis found the composition when she was researching music detailing past epidemics. The piece is written about a louse that has already ravaged the Jewish population of Transnistria and forced thousands into quarantine, and wants to turn its attention on Nazi soldiers. “It is a humorous song, that was written during one of painful episodes during human history,” explains Shternshis. “It’s not unusual that such a trauma was expressed in the form of humor.”

This song was part of the collection that was gathered by ethnomusicologist Moisei Beregovsky during the World War II – which was thought lost to history when he was arrested by Stalin’s government shortly after the war. These songs were miraculously discovered decades later in a former Soviet archive at the Vernadsky National Library in Kiev, and many were performed for the first time in over 75 years on Yiddish Glory’s Grammy-nominated project, “The Lost Songs of World War II” (Six Degrees, 2018).

“‘I Am A Typhus Louse,’ reminds us that during some of the most horrific periods of the Holocaust, Jewish children used music to try to make sense of a world ripped apart by disease and armed conflict,” adds Shternshis.

Psoy Korolenko: vocals
Rebekah Wolkstein: violin
Drew Jurecka: bandoneon, violin, viola, clarinet
Joseph Phillips: bass
Robert Horvath: piano

Drew Jurecka: producer and arranger
Anna Shternshis and Dan Rosenberg: executive producers

Words: Written in 1942 by L. Vinakur
Music: Written by David Beigelman (1887-1945, killed in Auschwitz)

*Transnistria is a region that is now part of modern day Moldova and Ukraine

The song is part of Yiddish Glory’s new project, “Pandemic Songs,” with the support of Canada Council for the Arts | Conseil des arts du Canada


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