A teenage boy named Chaim wrote a letter that he tossed over the barbwired fence prior to his death at the hands of his Nazi captors in 1944. Ivan del Mea transformed the letter into a song in 1965. The song was reintroduced by the Gorizia band Zuf de Zur who covered it. The somber cadence of the song reminds one of the weight of the events surrounding Chaïm’s internment, all he had seen and all he had lost. This letter served as his final goodbye prior to his murder at the young age of 14.

Lettera a Chaïm

Ivan Della Mea - 1965

Se il cielo fosse bianco di carta
e tutti i mari neri d’inchiostro
non potrei dire a voi miei cari
quanta tristezza ho in fondo al cuore
quale è il pianto quale il dolore intorno a me

Si sveglia l’alba nel livore
di noi sparsi nella foresta
a tagliare legna seminudi
coi piedi torti e sanguinanti
ci hanno tolto scarpe e mantelli
dormiamo in terra

Quasi ogni notte come un rito
ci danno la sveglia a bastonate
Franz ride e lancia una carota
e noi come larve affamate
ci si contende unghie e denti
l’ultima foglia

Due ragazzi sono fuggiti
ci hanno raccolti in un quadrato
uno su cinque han fucilato
ma anche se io non ero il quinto
non ha domani questo campo…
… e io non vivo

Questo è l’addio a tutti voi
genitori cari
fratelli amici
vi saluto e piango


Letter to Chaïm

Translated by: Billy Ewell

If the sky were white as paper
and if all the seas were as black as ink,
I couldn’t describe to you, my dearest
the sadness I feel in my heart,
the tears and sorrow all around me.

The day wakes up in grey luminosity
of us, scattered in the forest,
half-naked, cutting timber
with twisted, bleeding feet
They took away our shoes and coats
We sleep on the ground

Every night, like in a ritual,
they wake us up with wooden sticks
Franz laughs and throws us a carrot and we, like hungry larvae,
fight with our nails and teeth
to grab the tiniest leaf.

Two boys fled,
they gathered us in the square
and shot every fifth of us

But even if I was not the fifth
this camp has no future
and I won’t live

This is my goodbye to you all
my dear mother and father
my brothers and friends
I say goodbye to you and I cry