Donna Donna – meaning of a song

Donna Donna, once introduced by Joan Baez: the song was a political statement in Israel during WWII to encourage resistance vs. Nazi racism … read more at
below: me playing the melody on different guitars…

lyrics written by Aaron Zeitlin, translation by Kevess & Schwartz, the music was composed by Sholom Secunda
title=”Auschwitz/Birkenau” – photo by stevieboyuk, click on the picture to enter his galleries on Flickr
Itzhak Katzenelson, who performed the protest song, was killed by the Nazis in Auschwitz 1944. – Lyrics, written by Aaron Zeitlin:
“On a wagon bound for market
There’s a calf with a mournful eye.
High above him there’s a swallow
Winging swiftly through the sky.
“Stop complaining,” said the farmer,
“Who told you a calf to be?
Why don’t you have wings to fly with
Like the swallow so proud and free?”
Calves are easily bound and slaughtered
Never knowing the reason why.
But whoever treasures freedom,
Like the swallow has learned to fly.”
this was one of my most visited blog posts in 2012 – and still appearing in the daily SEARCH of my blog
comments there:
1 – anonymous:
Not so much anti-Nazi as anti-passivity. Pro-resistance… or just pro flying the hell out of Germany.
2 – Chris Breebart
I know this song since a camp in 1972. I like it and actually it was one of the first songs I played on guitar. To me it was a bit melancholic but reading about the true story makes me realize there is an extra depth behind the lines.

my latest instrumental version with bottleneck technique:

15 responses to “Donna Donna – meaning of a song

  1. A most haunting melody.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Being a little history buff myself, it was interesting to hear this. I read in wikipedia she´s played in 6 languages? I like her music, thank´s for introducing her to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s always a great moment in a Joan Baez concert. Thank you for this choice

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Amy

    Thank you, Frizz! You play the best Donna, Donna!

    Liked by 1 person

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  8. Aldina Pom

    A lovely song, but the history of it given here is way off. There was no Israel During WWII, it wasn’t founded until after the war. The song was written in the USA and performed in the Yiddish theater there. It is very doubtful that it was known in Germany, since it would have been censored. The lyrics do not encourage resistance to Nazism at all, but rather the wisdom of escape.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. compare my statement at

    the message is: don’t be like sheep, you can carry sheep to the butcher, they will not protest; in the contrary: try to escape, fly like a swallow ignoring all fences and frontiers… – our Jewish friends who escaped from Nazi Germany to New York 1940 sang this tune together with us – “we shall overcome” is another message of Joan Baez one could compare with Donna, Donna…


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