Nishtu kayn przydziel
This song is a contrafact (parody), of one of the most popular songs of the Yiddish theatre, the song 'Papirosn' (Cigarettes). Its lyrics tell of an orphan forced to earn his sustenance by selling cigarettes in the streets of a nameless Eastern European city. At the end of the song, the young hero bewails the fate that awaits him: 'Nobody wants to buy from me, I will waste to nothing and die like a dog.' The popular song's lyrics were written by Hemann Yablokoff, in the mid-1920s, and claimed to describe the fate of people after First World War. The melody is of a folk song of Bulgarian origin, that Yablokoff claimed he composed. The song gained popularity in America after it was broadcast and published in 1932.
'Papirosn' was popular throughout the ghetto system. It was sung in its original version, and other parodies were composed to its melody too. Rikle Glezer in the Vilna ghetto wrote new lyrics to the melody telling the fate of the inhabitants killed in Ponar, under the title 'Es iz geven a zumerto' (It was a summer day). In the Warsaw ghetto the melody was used for a song entitled 'Di broyt farkoyferin' (The bread seller), describing the fate of a starving orphan. On the recording made by the Historical Committee of Munich in 1946, a version of the the song called 'Amol a heym' (Once upon a time a home) describes the fate of the Jews of Sosnowiec.
The Łódź version that was composed by Yankele Hershkowitz does not refer to a specific tragedy, but rather treats the ongoing lack of food in the ghetto with grim humour. The situation depicted concerns the issuing of food ration coupons (przydziel in Polish slang) to certified workers by the ghetto’s Office of Food Distribution (the Polish widzial-karta). These certificates were naturally in great demand, so much so that when a worker died, his surviving colleagues vied for them.
Yaakov Flam recalled that the incident described in the verse took place, in all probability, in 1942. According to Flam, the heroine, Shaynuvna, worked in the Food Distribution Office, where she devised a self serving method of staying well-fed. Rather than hand over workers’ death certificates to the proper authorities, she kept them for herself, accumulating the rights to four other people's rations before being caught. The punishment for her 'white-collar' crime was assignment to the despised occupation of ‘fecalist’ (gutter sweeper). In another version sung by Yaakov Flam to Gila Flam (not included here), Shaynuvna manages to continue to accumulate food this way without being caught, making the Zonderkommando (the Jewish police) appear ridiculous.