Glasgow band to have debut track housed at German concentration camp archive

Published: 28 February 2024

The Tenementals will have their newly-released take on the song housed in the archives of the Documentation and Information Center “Emsland Camps”, a few kilometers from the site where the concentration camp song was first performed.

The Tenementals Group Photo. Creidt Holger Mohaupt

Die Moorsoldaten (The Peat Bog Soldiers) is a haunting but stirring song of protest, written in August 1933 by left-wing political prisoners in the Nazi concentration camp Börgermoor.

Now, The Tenementals, a Glasgow band, will have their newly-released take on the song housed in the archives of the Documentation and Information Center “Emsland Camps”, a few kilometers from the site where the concentration camp song was first performed.

The Tenementals, a band of academics and musicians who came together to delve into the history of Glasgow through the power of music, released two versions of the song on Strength cin Numbers Records in November 2023.

One version was in the original German, and one was in both German and English. The Tenementals’ versions featured a new translation and sought to breathe new life into an old song, and, as frontman David Archibald said at the time of its release, ‘blast it into the future’.

The release was received favourably with one critic describing The Tenementals’ version as ‘a stunning new version for our times’.

The song, however, reached further than the band might have expected when they received a message from Fietje Ausländer on behalf of the Documentation and Information Center Emsland Camps” in North West Germany.

The center’s purpose is to archive materials related to the history of the local concentration and prisoner of war camps. Due to its national and international fame, “ Die Moorsoldaten” has developed into one of the focal points of the archive and its remembrance work. When the center became aware of The Tenementals’ version, they quickly contacted the band.

Fietje Ausländer said: “The Tenementals’ versions, released 90 years after the song’s premiere in the Börgermoor concentration camp, surprised us in two ways: One might have expected a new interpretation of the three-verse English text version that has been known since the 1930s and used by singers such as Paul Robeson and Pete Seeger and bands from The Dubliners to Lankum. The Tenementals, however, decided to take a different route and recorded verses 1, 5 and 6 with new English-language lyrics sung alongside the German original. By integrating the original German verses and elements of the English original, an idiosyncratic connection between history and the present is created.

“The second surprise: One of the two recordings is sung by the band entirely in the original 6-verse German-language version. This is certainly unusual for a band from Scotland! For me, this also expresses great respect, respect for the men who courageously sang this song with these exact words on August 27, 1933 in the presence of the SS guards. Both recordings are wonderful additions to our extensive song archive.”

Archibald, who is both founding member and frontman for The Tenementals and a Professor at the University of Glasgow, said: “Every band hopes that their music finds resonance with the public, but we could never have imagined that those who have been working on the Börgermoor concentration camp archives would be in touch.

“To have our work housed alongside materials related to the song’s first performance at Borgermoor is an honour. Since they contacted us, we’ve carefully put together a package of materials: a CD of the song, a DVD of a video we produced, press photographs and clippings, and special commemorative screen-prints which we produced to mark the song’s release.

“Archives of radical activity create a space for the development of inter-generational solidarity: a space in which artists and activists in the present converse with the ghosts of the past, and of those yet to come. It is a privilege to be part of the conversation.”


The Tenementals

Since their debut performance at the Glasgow Doors Open Festival, The Tenementals have performed at events such as the Glasgow Hidden Lane Festival, a memorable collaboration with National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers’ Secretary-General Mick Lynch at The Revelator Wall of Death, and a resounding show at Queen's Park bandstand for May Day.

The band has been slowly recording a series of songs which explore the radical side of Glasgow’s past, from militant Suffragettes of the early twentieth century to the Sighthill Martyrs of 1820, celebrates the city’s culture of pleasure and excess, interrogates its ongoing entanglements with Empire and slavery, and speculates on where one might find hope in the city. Their debut album will be released later in 2024

The songs include: 

  • Universal Alienation (We're Not Rats)takes Jimmy Reid’s celebrated 1972 University of Glasgow rectoral address about alienation and updates its spirit for contemporary times.
  • People Make Glasgowdiscusses the complex network of people and institutions which work to create the city of Glasgow. The song title takes its name from the City Council’s current slogan.
  • Machines for Livingreflects on the state of Glasgow’s high-rise flats and the city’s shifting architectural landscape. Glasgow was the subject of a major experiment in socialist, modernist-inspired architectural change in the post-war period, an experiment closely tied to notions of progress.
  • Pentimentois a song about painting, slavery and re-writing (re-painting) the past. It is based on ‘John Glassford’s Family Portrait’, an oil painting created circa 1764 by the artist Archibald McLauchlan, which has its own changing history as characters within the painting – a deceased wife, a black boy servant – were thought by historians to have been painted over. 

The Tenementals secured the prestigious “Outstanding Event” award at the 2022 Glasgow Doors Open Day Festival. Peat Bog Soldiers EP was released on Friday 3 November, 2023 and is available via the Bandcamp app:


Die Moorsoldaten (The Peat Bog Soldiers)

It was a symbol of resistance during the Second World War and is popular with the Peace movement today. It was written, composed and first performed in the Nazi concentration camp of Börgermoor by political prisoners in 1933. Börgermoor was the first of at last 15 camps in northwestern Germany during the Third Reich called The Emslandlager (Emsland camps). The song's first performance took place on Sunday, August 27, 1933 in front of some 1000 prisoners - and the guards. 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.

Here is Rudi Goguels description of it:

“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 powerful 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 was smuggled out of the Börgermoor camp, and circulated quickly in the camps and prisons of Nazi Germany. Today it is considered one of Europe’s best-known protest songs.

Learn more about the song and the work of Documentation and Information Center “ Emsland Camps” here:

First published: 28 February 2024