Peat Bog Soldiers (song)

Peat Bog Soldiers is one of Europe's best-known protest songs. It exists in countless European languages, became a Republican anthem during the Spanish Civil War; was a symbol of resistance during the Second World War; and is popular with the Peace movement today. What makes it perhaps so poignant is the knowledge that is was written, composed and first performed in a Nazi concentration camp by the prisoners themselves.


This song was written by prisoners [ [ "Holocaust Education" website] ] in Nazi moorland labour camps in Lower Saxony, Germany. The "Emslandlager" [ [ Jewish Virtual Library] ] ("Emsland camps") - as they were known - were for political opponents of the Third Reich, located outside of Börgermoor, now part of the commune Surwold, not far from Papenburg.

By 1933, one camp, Börgermoor, held about 5,000 Socialist and Communist internees. They were banned from singing political songs so they wrote and composed their own. The words were written by Johann Esser (a miner) and Wolfgang Langhoff (an actor); the music was composed by Rudi Goguel and was later adapted by Hanns Eisler and Ernst Busch [ [ Holocaust Education website] ] .

It was first performed at a "Zircus Konzentrazani" ("concentration camp concert") on 28 August 1933 at Börgermoor camp. Here is Rudi Goguel's description of it [Original text: fr icon "Le Chant des déportés] :cquote
The sixteen singers, mostly members of the Solinger workers choir, marched in holding spades over the shoulders of their green police uniforms (our prison uniforms at the time). I led the march, in blue overalls, with the handle of a broken spade for a conductor's baton. We sang and by the end of the second verse nearly all of the thousands of prisoners present gave voice to the chorus. With each verse, the chorus became more beautiful and, by the end, the SS - who had turned up with their officers – were also singing, apparently because they too thought themselves "peat bog soldiers".

The song has a slow simple melody, reflecting a soldier's march, and is deliberately repetitive, echoing and telling of the daily grind of hard labour in harsh conditions. It was popular with German refugees in London in the Thirties and was used as a marching song by the German volunteers of the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War. It was soon picked up by other nationalities and it appears in almost all the collected anthologies of Spanish Civil War songs.

The "short" (three-verse) lyrics

Langhoff and Esser's original song [:de: "Die Moorsoldaten"] runs to six verses, plus refrains (see below). For performance - and, therefore, for most translation - shorter lyrics are used. These omit verses two, three and four of the original.

The full version

For completeness, here is the full six-verse German version, together with a literal English translation.


Further reading
* Hanns Eisler, "Bericht über die Entstehung eines Arbeiterliedes.", in "Musik und Politik", Schriften 1924-1948, (Ed. Günter Meyer, Munich, 1973, p. 274-280)
* Wolfgang Langhoff, "Die Moorsoldaten. 13 Monate Konzentrationslager" (New edition, 1995)
* fr icon "Wiki: Le Chant des déportés
* de icon "Wiki: Die Moorsoldaten"

*en icon [ Peat Bogs Soldiers (Paul Robeson) - mp3 file]
*de icon [ Die Moorsoldaten (Hannes Wader) - mp3 file]
*fr icon [ Le chant des marais (Choral version) - mp3 file]
*de icon [ Die Moorsoldaten Thirty versions from Emsland Concentration Camp Archive]
*en icon [ broadcast about the "Moorsoldaten Lied"] on Radio Goethe by Arndt Peltner (38'32" mp3, 35MB)

* Pete Seeger - "Songs of The Spanish Civil War: Vol 1" (2006)
* Paul Robeson - "Songs of Free Men" (1942)
* The Dubliners - "Revolution" (1970)
* Laurie Lewis - "Spain in My Heart" (2003)
* Theodore Bikel - "From Bondage to Freedom" (1973)
* Ernst Busch - "Spanien 1936-1939"
* Chad Mitchell Trio - "Violets of Dawn" (1966)
* Jamie O'Reilly & Michael Smith - "Pasiones: Songs of the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939"
* Hein & Oss Kröher
* Perry Friedman
* Pi de la Serra
* Hannes Wader - "Hannes Wader singt Arbeiterlieder"


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Peat Bog Soldiers — Memorial at the place of the entry to the former concentration camp Börgermoor , where the song originated. The stone shows the first verse in German Peat Bog Soldiers is one of Europe s best known protest songs. It exists in countless European… …   Wikipedia

  • Bog (disambiguation) — Bog or bogs can refer to any of the following:General* Bog, a wetland of mosses or lichens over waterlogged peat * Bog, British slang for toilet * sl. Bog (Cyrillic sl. Бог), the word for a god in many Slavic languages * Bog spavin or boggy hock …   Wikipedia

  • Bog — A bog or mire is a wetland type that accumulates acidic peat, a deposit of dead plant material ndash; usually mosses, but also lichens in Arctic climates.Bogs occur where the water at the ground surface is acidic, either from acidic ground water …   Wikipedia

  • Emslandlager — is the site of a post World War II British sector displaced person camp near Emsland in Lower Saxony in Germany.The moorland labor camps, Emslandlager ( Emsland camps ) as they were known were for political opponents of the Third Reich, located… …   Wikipedia

  • List of World War II topics (P) — # P 15 Termit # P 59 Airacomet # P 61 Black Widow # P 80 Shooting Star # P 4 class torpedo boat # P. G. Wodehouse # P. O. Box 1142 # P. Y. Saeki # P107 # Paavo Berg # Paavo Nurmi # Paavo Yrjölä # Pablo de Escandón y Barrón # Pacific Fighters #… …   Wikipedia

  • Ernst Busch (actor) — Ernst Busch (22 January, 1900 8 June, 1980) was a German singer and actor. He was born in Kiel and died in Berlin.Busch first rose to prominence as an interpreter of political songs, particularly those of Kurt Tucholsky, in the Berlin cabaret… …   Wikipedia

  • Pete Seeger — Infobox musical artist Name = Pete Seeger Img capt = Seeger at the Clearwater Festival 2007. Img size = 250 Landscape = yes Background = solo singer Birth name = Alias = Born = birth date and age|mf=yes|1919|5|3 Greenwich Village, New York City,… …   Wikipedia

  • Börger — Infobox Ort in Deutschland Wappen = Wappen Gemeinde Boerger.jpg lat deg = 52 |lat min = 54 |lat sec = lon deg = 07 |lon min = 31 |lon sec = Lageplan = Bundesland = Niedersachsen Landkreis = Emsland Samtgemeinde = Nordhümmling Höhe = 40 Fläche =… …   Wikipedia

  • Paul Robeson — Infobox actor bgcolour = name = Paul Robeson imagesize = 200px caption = Paul Robeson in June 1942, photo by Gordon Parks birthname = Paul LeRoy Bustill Robeson birthdate = birth date|1898|4|9|mf=y location = Princeton, New Jersey deathdate =… …   Wikipedia

  • Revolution (The Dubliners album) — Infobox Album Name = Revolution Type = Studio Artist = The Dubliners Released = 1970 Recorded = Genre = Irish folk Length = Label = EMI/Columbia Producer = Phil Coulter Reviews = Chronology = The Dubliners Last album = It s The Dubliners This… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.