we didn’t start the war (the song)

I didn’t have the typical high school experience. When I skipped class, it was to finish an assignment. When I got drunk with my friends, we sang Hebrew songs. And when I pulled an all-nighter, it was to study.  My friend Michelle and I used to study for all our tests together. The night before a test was the only night when our parents made an exception to the no sleepovers on school nights rule. In our sweatpants with floppy buns on our head and a huge bowl of something sweet or salty close by, we’d quiz each other on history or quote Talmudic scholars, taking breaks to gossip about boys or visit the kitchen.

At some point, colour-coding notes and creating mnemonic devices gave way to bouts of hysterical giggling. Around 2 in the morning, the Persons Case became positively hilarious and the periodic table started to look like a haiku.  These breakdowns came with increasing frequency, telling us we weren’t going to retain any more useful information. With our parents long asleep, we’d finally turn in for the night, vocabulary words dancing ’round our heads.

On one of these study all-nighters, Michelle and I studied for a grade 9 History test. The subject: the lead-up to World War II. We decided, as usual, to write a song to help us remember the names and dates. The song worked – we both got 9o-something on the test, and I still remember most of it 15 years later. Now I’m teaching WWII to my Grade 10s, and I want to pass the song on to them. The only problem…I forget the last line! Any suggestions?

Here it is, to the tune of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire.

Versailles Treaty starts it all

Bavarian beer-hall

Reparation costs were huge

Hitler blamed things on the Jews

Nazi Party ’19

Mein Kampf ’23

Hitler’s Chancellor ’32

In ’34 he’s Fuhrer too


We didn’t start the war

Neville Chamberlain appeased him

But Sudetenland didn’t please him

We didn’t start the war

Anschluss was unification

Czechoslovakia was taken

Munich in ’38

To decide the Czechs’ fate

Nazi-Stalin ’39

Hitler Says “Poland’s mine”

Germany declares war

Peace in Europe was no more

(Here’s the line that I forget)

This is what we’re fighting for!

And here’s the video, just for fun…

Have any musical mnemonics to share? Please post them in the comments!


4 responses to “we didn’t start the war (the song)

  1. I still sing the periodic table sometimes. without noticing.

  2. -“Democracy to the core”
    -“America shut the door”
    -“History is not a bore”

  3. I’m really curious to know how sharing the song with your classes go! I wish I could think of a line to replace the one that you forgot, but I’m coming up empty.

  4. Pingback: missing lyric found! « Teach 'em Good

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s