The Song of Songs -Against Forgetting

The Agropolis, early morning hours.

I fought with the Greek Gods in school and learned the old Greek language -not by choice but by force at first. As children, we all tried to understand “The Odyssey” an epic poem that we had to read, but understood years later. My love for Greece and its people came naturally afterward when I finally started to understand the old philosophers.

My second vacation, one of the few I actually paid for myself before my travels as a translator began, was to Greece. I wanted to walk where history had led me in my studies. I needed to see the Oracle of Delphi with my own eyes and I wanted to look at the 3,300-year-old ruins of the Acropolis in Athens from far -and near.

To this day I have a soft spot for the country, its people, and its traditions and I enjoy the music. While modern Greek and ancient Greek are as different as night and day, which means I am as lost for words as most tourists are, and I depend on English to find my way around these days, I still can’t help and listen to Greek music and not just Anthony Quinn in “Zorba the Greek” dancing the Sirtaki, but also the classic and modern music.

Άσμα ασμάτων (Asma Asmaton-Song of Songs) from the album “The Ballad of Mauthausen” -music composed by Mikis Theodorakis, and sung by Maria Farantouri goes deep, into a part of the world’s history that should never be forgotten.

I want to remember and I hope all future generations will as well. We should never forget how beautiful they were. The beauty of the girls that were transported to Auschwitz, Dachau, and many other concentration camps, including the Austrian camp Mauthausen, up on the hills.

While it’s a tough subject, the performance is stunning and beautiful. I could feel the emotions, the depth, and the love and I hope the ones who will take their time to watch the clip, will feel the same.

You don’t have to speak or understand Greek to enjoy this

Song Lyric Weekend

The Ballad of Mauthausen includes, with no fear of exaggeration, not only some of the most famous and touching songs in the Greek language but also those dedicated to the extermination camps in any language.

In dedication to my Austrian grandfather, Paul (1898-1963)
who was twice a political prisoner in Auschwitz.

He died five months before I was born.

Maria Farantouri is an artist who communicates with her audiences without any “filters” whatsoever. She sings completely naturally and undiluted with all its raw force and energy so that it reaches your heart and soul.

Mauthausen was a German camp in Austria during WW2 where the Nazis forced their victims to work in a stone quarry and haul big pieces of stone up a steep and very uneven ramp. Although not an extermination camp like Auschwitz, countless people still were robbed of their lives in ways and under circumstances too horrific to imagine.

The ballad of Mauthausen is based on the experiences of the Greek/Jewish playwright Iakovos Kambanellis. He wrote four poems that Theodorakis put into music. His inspiration was a photo of an unknown girl that he found in the camp and which he kept with him.

The song we just listened to deals with the poignant question of a man who describes how beautiful his beloved is, and he asks the other inmates if they have seen her. The answer being, “We have seen her on a long march, standing on a large square with a number on her arm and a yellow star on her heart.”

The repeated line No one knows how beautiful my beloved was is hauntingly sung by Maria Farantouri.

If you have never listened to the album “The Ballade of Mauthausen” you might want to put it on your to-do list for rainy days. It is worth it, take my word for it. It is poetry and music coming together in a glorious whole that becomes a warning for humanity.


23 thoughts on “The Song of Songs -Against Forgetting

  1. What a hauntingly beautiful song! She has an amazing voice. I have to say this is the first time I have heard a Greek song… a beautiful language. This was such a terrible time in history… it must never be forgotten and never repeated.


  2. I love the voice register of this extraordinarily talented Greek vocalist. Her tone is so appropriately melancholy considering what she is singing about. I agree that the Holocaust is not taught in schools as thoroughly as it should be. So, it’s not surprising that there are people saying it never happened because man’s inhumanity to man is so incredibly unbelievable. Thanks for sharing, Bridget.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sorry… I’m typing this as a passenger in the car and a bump meant I got the send button too soon. I wanted you say the holocaust is so very important for all generations to be aware of and we must continue to honour those who died.

    Liked by 2 people

      • He sounds like a man of principles. I visited Auschwitz in 2016. And Birkenau so I understand about the two parts. I remember the photos on the wall of the early prisoners. Among many other disturbing things. A place everyone should see to prevent it happening again.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I visited Auschwitz in my early 20s before I moved to the US. It shocked me to my core and I didn’t eat for days. I went to Dachau and Buchenwald afterward. Before I left Austria I went to Mauthausen and climbed the Stairs of Death.


          • Fir you a very touching and all too close to home experience. It is funny you should mention not eating for days after visiting Auschwitz as I was on a Polish tour and as we were travelling on to another city there was not another stop between there and late afternoon necessitating having at Auschwitz. There was a cafe on the premises but I could not think of eating on the premises where so many people had been tortured and died. I felt that was dishonourable and disrespectful. Across the road there was a shopping mall where I had a bowl of soup. Although I could not stomach it, I was mindful that I was so fortunate to have what so many other souls did not. When I saw the glass cabinet with the shoes stacked up (from one day) the true scale of the holocaust was suddenly comprehensible. Shattering.


    • I wish schools in America -as around the world- would continue to talk and teach about the Holocaust, but sadly it’s hardly mentioned these days and so many young people rely on their parents (and grandparents) to hear about it.
      Thank you, Rosaliene

      Liked by 2 people

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