It is to the mothers and children whose lives were destroyed by war that I dedicate this project.
Birth in a Time of Bloodshed is an anthology of lullabies from conflict zones . The collection includes eighteen songs from 17 countries sung in their original languages.
This multicultural collection provides a mirror into the coping mechanisms of mothers in times of deep fear and uncertainty, encapsulating powerful themes told from a feminine, maternal perspective..
Birth in a Time of Bloodshed
Lullabies in times of conflict reveal insights into the influences of war on the domestic realm. Lullabies give voice to women whose fears of war are realized. War came to their homes, leaving death and destruction in its wake. These songs are women’s testimony to these times. One of the characteristics which makes lullabies an powerful genre is the fact that the stories they tell are an expression of the extreme inner turmoil of those singing them.
This is apparent in the following excerpts:
“I saw your father running
Under a hail of stones,
Over fields flew
His orphaned cry.
Lu-lu, lu-lu, lu....”
From “Dremlen Feigel” a Yiddish Lullaby from the Vilna Ghetto by Lea Rudnitski
“Little hungry baby - do not cry!
Little hungry baby - hush-a-bye!
Yes! I know my child, there is no bread.
Yes, know your father’s murdered, dead!
And I know your brother is a “slave”;
But a Belgian baby must be brave!”
“A Belgian Lullaby” dated to World War I
In this lullaby it is not the mother who sings to the baby, rather it is a stranger who has assumed caring for the child.
“Yerznka was filled with smoke,
Our condition became lamentable,
So many people were sacrificed,
We fled from Yerznka,
We left our crops, home and kins.
Oh! Sleep, sleep, sleep!
Motherless lamb, sleep!
Fatherless child, sleep!
Ownerless child, sleep!”
Lullaby from the Armenian Genocide 1915
Written down by Verjine Svazlian
These lullabies were composed in the context of trauma and contain stark contrasts, the melody communicates sweetness and love, while the words relate fear and darkness.It is the lyrics that can really express the pain of parenting in the worst of times. The devastating psychological effects on these mothers and children have far reaching effects on the societal fabric and on all levels of human interaction and relationships.
Mother and Baby in the Kovno Ghetto
Photo: George Kadish /
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archive
Armenian Mother and Baby, 1915 From: Armin T. Wegner and the Armenians in Anatolia, 1915: Images and Testimonies, Guerini Associati, 1996, p. 96.
Millions and millions of mothers and their children have been murdered, disabled, made homeless and separated from their families during the 20th century. It is my hope that we can draw attention to the suffering of these mothers and children through lullabies, both in the past and present and create strands of connection that can be related to universally and thus profoundly realize the futility of war and its horrific effects.
Members of the German police murdering Jews from Ivangorod,Ukraine 1942.