"We Behind the Barbed Wire"
Time Magazinze, Monday, Aug. 04, 1941
World War II has yet to produce
a great song, but last week some of its saddest were heard in the U.S. The
League of American Writers produced an album of records ($2.75) called
Behind the Barbed Wire—six songs of the French, Spanish, Italian and German
antiFascists who now rot in the French concentration camps of Gurs, Vernet
The six songs were recorded in Manhattan by a Netherlands-born fighter in
the Spanish Civil War, Bart van der Schelling. He wears his chin in a brace,
is called "official singer" for the U.S. survivors of the International
Brigades of the Loyalists. Singer van der Schelling is backed by an "Exiles
Chorus" directed by Earl Robinson (Ballad for Americans). Some of the songs—the
Spanish Joven Guardia, the Italian Guardia Rossa, the German
Thaelmann-Bataillon, the French Au Devant de la Vie (music by Soviet
Composer Dmitri Shostakovich)—were composed during the Spanish War. Most of
them are in rough, plodding march time. The one which gives the album its
name was composed by a German, Eberhard Schmitt, in the camp at Gurs. Its
chorus, translated (not quite so lame in the original):
Behind the wire, our courage is unbroken
We yield to no one! We're not broken reeds!
Jail or internment, we're masters of our lives,
Nothing counts with us but deeds!
For where Germany's and Austria's sons may be,
One goal they cling to: Liberty! . . .