Thousands of Syrian asylum seekers have been stuck for weeks in Hungary, prevented by security forces from boarding trains that would take them to Germany, their final destination. The media has been showing horrible images of families with small children sleeping on the bare concrete outside the Budapest train station — scenes that inevitably churned up memories of the last time thousands of unwanted refugees were abused and shunted around Europe.

Eventually Austrian and German volunteers drove to Budapest and transported refugees to Germany in convoys of private cars. One of those volunteers is an Austrian singer named Hans Breuer, who filled his van with Syrian-Palestinian refugees. In this unforgettable video clip, Breur sings with them a famous old sentimental Yiddish lullaby, “Oyfn Veg Shteyt a Boym” (“A Tree at the Side of the Road“), and they join him in the wordless chorus (ay bitty bitty boym).

According to his personal website, Breuer’s father was Jewish and both his parents were anti-fascist activists. It’s difficult to imagine a more historically complex scene than an Austrian singing in Yiddish as he transports Palestinian refugees out of a detention camp in Hungary to freedom in Germany.

Or a more surprising — and heartening — scene to herald the beginning of the new year.


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