Rachel Saphir Einesman Binstock

"Always, at any event – even in the shop – we would come up with a song."

Rachel Saphir Einesman Binstock, born in Bodzentyn 1917

Rachel Einesman Binstock, nee Saphir, was born in Bodzentyn in 1917. In 1996, she was interviewed in Jerusalem as a Holocaust survivor. Being a keen singer, Rachel participated in many choirs and wrote lyrics to several songs over the years.

In the preface of the anthology "Songs of Generations: New Pearls of Yiddish Songs", Elie Wiesel described the significance of Yiddish songs in the following way: "[They] pass like eternal prayers from generation to generation, from the heart to the mind, from the mind to the soul. Transmitted this way, they bring solace to weary old men and dreamy children—and not only solace, but also delight and love [- - -] Say 'Yiddish Song' and you remember your childhood years."

Yiddish songs meant a lot to Rachel. You will find video and audio recordings of her interviews and singing on this page. Some pieces she performs are very well-known; others are somewhat altered versions of popular songs, and still others are little or not at all known.

Growing up in Bodzentyn

Rachel was born on January 11, 1917, in Bodzentyn to Yitzhak and Chava Jentla Saphir,* who came from a rabbinic family. The Saphirs had many children. They ran a shop and carpentry. In addition, Yitzhak traded in furs.

* Jewish names, particularly Yiddish ones, have many spelling variants when transcribed into Latin letters. The spelling depends, among other things, on the orthography of this or that target language and on which dialect of Yiddish it is following. For example, the name commonly rendered into English as Itzhak would be spelled as Icchak, Jicchak, or Icchok in Polish, etc. The family name could be spelled as Saphir, Safir, or (in Polish) Szafir.

"We were all close to each other in the town," Rachel remembers. It was a common practice among Jews to give gifts and help the needy. "For Shabbat, my mother used to ask me to bring fish and other items from our store and put them on a poor family's table – but in such a way that I would not be seen."

As a child, Rachel used to go to the communal school and the religious school, cheder, where she learned how to read and pray in Hebrew. In her free time, she used to play in the local theatre – for instance, one of the plays staged was the story of Josef and Jacob. When Rachel was 12 years old, her mother passed away. Her father, Yitzchak, was an observant Orthodox Jew. Apart from regularly attending services in the synagogue, he would also sometimes bring guests home for Shabbat celebrations.

In the video, Rachel shows photographs of her father, other Jewish community leaders, siblings, and friends. These photographs are from the collection of Rachel's sister Tamar. "I knew one of my sisters was in Israel, but I didn't know her exact address," says Rachel. When Tamar learned that Rachel was among a group of Jews arriving in Israel in 1948, the two sisters finally reunited. "That is how I got the pictures of people, many of whom vanished." The last picture is that of the Bodzentyn Beitar group. ​​​​​​

In her teenage years, Rachel was active in the Zionist movement "Beitar", which was promoting emigration to Eretz Israel, i.e. the then British mandate for Palestine. Rachel recalls one song from those times, דאָרט אין בבֿל, "Dort in Bovl" (There in Babylonia), based on Psalm 137.

Many Jews in Bodzentyn ran shops of various kinds. Some women earned their living as seamstresses. Rachel recalls a song they used to sing about the hardships of a seamstress’s life.

What Rachel sings is a fragment of the song דרײַ נײטאָרינס ("Di Dray Neytorins," lyrics by Y. L. Peretz (1852–1915), music by Moyshe Shneyer (1885–1942)). Open the link to read the full version of the lyrics.

Here you can hear the song "Ver Hot Dos Gezen" ("Who saw this?"), also known as "Dos Lid Fun Der Ayznban" (The Song of the Railroad). It is a humorous folksong from the mid-19th century mocking the Hasidim, who are "shocked" by the advancement of technology and the invention of the train in particular. Open the link to read the full version of the lyrics.

Yiddish lullabies from Rachel’s repertoire

When the war broke out, Rachel was engaged to Noah Einesman. In 1940, the couple married, and one year later, in 1941, Rachel gave birth to their son, Reuven.

Rachel sang Yiddish lullabies to her firstborn child in Bodzentyn. She continued to sing them after the Holocaust when she started a new family. 

The first piece, אָזינקעס מיט מארנדלען, "Rozhinkes mit mandlen" ​​​​​(Raisins and almonds) is a fragment of a song from Abraham Goldfaden’s opera Shulamis, probably the most famous Yiddish lullaby ever. Golfaden uses popular Yiddish folk imagery: a white goat standing by the cradle, a goat going to the marketplace to sell raisins and almonds.

In Rachel’s version, one verse and the refrain are somewhat altered. It may be worth noting that it seems to involve a play on words (although that could be a slip of the tongue): in the original text, "Yidele" is used as a diminutive form of a boy’s name (Yudl, i.e. Yehuda), whereas in Rachel’s version, the word is at first used for as a common name – with an indefinite article: "the first office will be owned by a yidele”, i.e. "a little Jew" (in the collective generic sense of the word). However, in the refrain, it’s a proper name again: "Sleep, my Yidele".

The second song אונטער יצחקס װיגעלע, "Unter Itskhokls vigele" (Under Little Itzhak's Cradle), partly overlaps with "Rozhinkes mit mandlen" in terms of text—the goat by the cradle, raisins, and almonds—but the melody and the rest of the text are completely different. This piece is a folksong.

In another recording, Rachel sings the whole song: "Under little Itzhak's cradle, a golden goat stands. The goat has gone off to trade raisins and almonds. Raisins and almonds! These are the best goods. My dear little Itzhak will be able to study Torah. 'Moses commanded us a law, an inheritance…' [Deuteronomy 33:4] ...My dear little Itzhak will be able to deliver a sermon. He will deliver a sermon, everybody will like it, and his father and mother will be swelling with parental pride.”

In between the songs, Rachel mentions various common children’s games in Poland. Open this link to learn more about toys and games in Yiddish culture.

The third song יאַנקעלע, "Yankele," is by Mordechai Gebirtig (1877–1942), the famous Yiddish poet and songwriter from Krakow whose songs were widely known and sung both in Europe and the US. Open this link to read a translation that is closer to the one in the subtitles.*

Life in the open ghetto of Bodzentyn

Rachel recalls when Germans created the ghetto: “The Jews lived very close to each other. It was forbidden to go out [of the ghetto] and to leave the town. Straight away, in Bieliny, near our town, there was already a German commando [- - -]. Their leader, Dumker, was a murderer; he enjoyed killing Jews. Whenever he saw Jews, he killed them. And they always came to take Jews away – to work in Bieliny, to shovel away the snow, clear the roads and do all sorts of things. But some never returned. They killed them.”*

* Rachel, who witnessed the Gendarmerie harassing the Jews of Bodzentyn almost every day, also has a vivid memory of the murder of the young Jewish woman Gela Sztarkman.

Rachel's father, Yitzhak, had been part of the Jewish communal organization for many years before the occupation. Rachel recalls that her father asked to be relieved of his duties sometime during the occupation. Then Froyim Szachter was elected as the head of the Jewish council. After that, Yitzhak was so afraid of the Germans that he would not even go out into the streets. Later, Szachter was arrested and taken to the Gestapo in Kielce for questioning and eventually transferred to Auschwitz, where he perished.

Rachel recalls that in 1941, it was forbidden to sell soap and sugar. "My brother Meir Szafir had a store not far from us and used to bring goods before the war – sacks of sugar and salt – and he still had some of these things left." One day, Dumker came into Meir's house, took all the goods, and killed him. Meir's wife and son were left behind. Rachel and Noah took them in. "It was all the harder because my sister [Sarah, who lived with her husband and three children in Daleszyce]  could not come to the funeral", says Rachel.

In 1941, the Jewish refugees from Plock arrived in Bodzentyn, and the local Jewish families took in as many as they could. The remaining refugees were housed in the synagogue. "Then typhus broke out, and hundreds of people died", Rachell recalls. "There was almost no medicine and only a little food; I remember eating potato peels."

During the Holocaust, children were especially vulnerable. Rachel remembers orphans begging in the streets. In the video interview, she sings the refrain of the famous song, פּאַפּיראָסן "Papirosn" (Cigarettes) by Herman Yablokoff (1903-1981).

"Papirosn", a monologue of an orphan peddling cigarettes, is based on Yablokoff's own miserable experience as a child during WWI in Grodno, Belarus. In 1932, in the US, he introduced a fragment of Papirosn on the radio; the song was an immediate success, and from then on, its popularity spread not only throughout the US but also in Europe. During the Holocaust, its lyrics and music were adopted for two ghetto songs.

Memories from the slave-labour in Starachowice-Wierzbnik

When rumours started spreading that the Bodzentyn ghetto would soon be liquidated and as people were being taken to slave labour camps in random raids, some families decided to go to Starachowice-Wierzbnik to obtain workers' ID cards from the munitions factory, thinking they would be safer as part of a working unit. Noah went there first, and Rachel decided to join him a few months later, in the early autumn of 1942. Dressed as a non-Jewish woman, she made it to the town with her son, who was one and a half years old. When an acquaintance from Bodzentyn visited them, it was decided that he would help Rachel and Noah hide little Reuven. But before they could do it, the ghetto in Wierzbnik was surrounded, and the liquidation started.

Rachel found herself in a terrible situation: not only did she have a small child on her hands, but she was also four months pregnant. She attempted to escape with the boy but ran into barbed wire and was forced back to the market square.

"Germans were standing on both sides with dogs. They killed pregnant and older women on the spot and whoever else they wanted. Corpses were lying around," Rachel recalls. "It was horrible. Stones were spattered with blood."

Suddenly, the Germans started shouting, ordering that everyone should line up. Rachel was separated from her son and in-laws. She was forced into the line of workers and marched off to one of the barracks camps, Strzelnica, near a shooting range. Later, she learned that the other group of people had been transported to the death camp of Treblinka.

At the beginning of the occupation, the munitions factory in Starachowice had been taken over by the Reichswerke Hermann Göring.  Rachel ended up in the factory camps and was selected for work in the laundry. 

Rachel went through hell, giving birth in the camp, losing a lot of blood and then being forced to go to work the following day. Her son was taken away; she never saw him again. On several occasions, Rachel felt she did not want to live any longer. Eventually, in late July 1944, all slave labourers were put on a train and brought to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Rachel sings a little-known Yiddish song, אָשווענטשים "Oświęcim" (Auschwitz), that she recalls learning in the Starachowice-Wierzbnik slave labour camp.

Note the bitter use of the expression "dos gute ort" (דאָס גוטע אָרט) in the song—literally "the good place." It is one of the many euphemisms that Yiddish has for "cemetery."

In this video, Rachel does not sing the refrain, which goes like this: "The heart is aching when one remembers that our dearest were burned there. Oświęcim is "the good place" [cemetery] for every Jew; whoever comes there, remains, remains forever."

In Auschwitz-Birkenau and other camps

In Auschwitz-Birkenau, Rachel performed various slave labours, such as cutting down trees and preparing roads. "It was hard work, and every day we would get but a slice of bread towards evening and at lunchtime some soup," Rachel recalls.

Singing was a way of coping with the hardships at the time when no one knew what tomorrow would bring. In this video, Rachel sings a Yiddish song (apparently unknown since we failed to find any mention of it anywhere), װאָס טױג מיר מײַן זאָרגן פֿאַר מאָרגן "Vos toyg mir mayn zorgn far morgn" (What's the Use of Worrying About Tomorrow).

At one time, Rachel, being gravely ill, went to the so-called hospital for surgery. By some miracle, she was not sent to the crematoria where the ill were taken. However, by then, Rachel was already indifferent to whatever happened to her. "We knew that we wouldn't live anyway. Even those who had a bit of hope – they still knew," she says, recalling the song אױף קידוש השם, "Oyf Kidesh Ha-Shem" (Self Sacrifice in the Name of God) by Mark Warshawsky (1848–1907).

In January 1945, Rachel was forced to go on a "death march" to Germany and selected for work in Ravensbrück. There, she remained for about two months before being transferred to Leipzig and Dresden. The journey was rough. During the spring of 1945, the Americans were heavily bombing the roads in Germany; the prisoners were led out of the freight cars into the forest to sleep on the ground. "The ground was wet, and night and day we would pray to God and ask why he had left us," said Rachel, relating to the song יעקבֿ קאָפּעל סאַנדלער "Eyli, Eyli" (My God, my God) with lyrics by Jacob Koppel Sandler (1860-1931); composer unknown).

Moving on in the aftermath of the war

After the liberation in May 1945, Rachel returned to Poland, but she never saw her husband, Noah, again.

Editor's note: After being liberated from Nazi camps, some Jewish survivors from Starachowice-Wierzbnik returned to their hometown. According to the testimony of Noah's niece, Shoshana (Rózia) Einesman, who survived a post-war antisemitic attack in the summer of 1945, Noah brought her to the hospital after the assault. In one of the following attacks, Noah himself was killed. Shoshana's testimony and the history of the former Jewish community of Wierzbnik before, during and after the Nazi occupation are described in detail in Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave-Labor Camp by Christopher R. Browning (2010). Pamięć przetrwania Nazistowski obóz pracy oczami więźniów (2012).

Later, in Łódź, Rachel met Yerachmiel Binstock, also a native of Bodzentyn, and they got married. Their first son, Yehuda, was born in 1946. Earlier, during the summer of the same year, Rachel returned to Bodzentyn to try and sell her father's house. She was there in 1946 when the infamous pogrom occurred on 4 July in the nearby city of Kielce and was kept safe by Judge Jarnecki, her acquaintance from before the war.

Rachel and Yerachmiel left Poland and moved to France, where they stayed for two years before arriving in Israel in 1948. Their second son, Izchak, was born in 1949.



Asia Fruman is a musician, translator, and literary editor. She is bilingual in Russian and Ukrainian and fluent in English, Polish, French, and Yiddish. She has transcribed and translated all Yiddish songs presented on this page and researched their origins. Fruman also gave helpful advice in putting together this article. Bodzentyn.net owes her for the project's completion.

PDF file with transcripts and translations

Open and download the PDF fileRachel Saphir Einesman Binstock Yiddish Songs.jpg to view transcripts and translations of the songs "Dort in Bovl" (There in Babylonia),  "Di Dray Neytorins" (The Three Seamstresses),  "Unter Itskhokls vigele" (Under Little Itzhak's Cradle), "Oświęcim" (Auschwitz), and "Vos toyg mir mayn zorgn far morgn" (What's the Use of Worrying About Tomorrow).

Useful information

  • Rachel Binstock passed away in Jerusalem in April 1997.
  • In the 1920s, in Bodzentyn, there was once a well-known, respected, charismatic rabbi called Moshe Szafir. This we learn from a play that bears his name: Moshe Szair – spektakl multimedialny zrealizowany w ramach II Polskiego Kongresu Estetyki, Granice sztuki-granice estetyki, Szkoła Wyższa Psychologii Społecznej, Warszawa 2010.  A booklet about the play, partly in English, was published in Warsaw: Włodzimierz Szymański. Moshe Szafir, a multimedia show, M25 Art Centre, Warsaw, 25 Mińska St. September 22nd, 2010.)​​​​​
  • Rachel Binstock mentions charity in the interview and how her father asked her to help the poor. Note that, according to Maimonides's definitions of eight levels in giving charity (tzedakah), giving assistance in such a way that the giver and recipient are unknown to each other is one of the highest forms.
  • The situation in Starachowice-Wierzbnik can be studied in more detail in Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave-Labor Camp by Christopher R. Browning (2010). Pamięć przetrwania Nazistowski obóz pracy oczami więźniów (2012). The book draws on the testimony of survivors of the Holocaust-era Starachowice-Wierzbnik (close to Bodzentyn) slave labour camps to examine the Jewish prisoners' fight for survival through a succession of brutal Nazi camp regimes. Read an introduction to the book ​​ | View a lecture by C. R. Browning on the slave-labour camp on YouTube   | Find the book in English | Find the book in Polish
  • For most Jews in Bodzentyn, Yiddish was the mother tongue. However, from the early 1930s, more people, especially the younger generation, mixed Polish with Yiddish in conversation with friends.
  • Helpful link: Voices of a People: Yiddish Folk Song.


  • Rachel Saphir Einesman Binstock (1996) USC Shoah Foundation Institute.
  • Rachel Saphir Einesman Binstock recorded songs were made available to the Editor by her son Izchak, who has approved the publication at Bodzentyn.net.

Editor's note: This page has been proofread by Asia Fruman and Rachel's son Izchak Niv. March 2024.