About Mordkhe (Mordechai) Gebirtig

Mordkhe (Mordechai) Gebirtig (1877-1942) was born Markus Bertig in Kraków, and is one of the best known Yiddish poets. He trained as a carpenter, but his true passion was the theater. He published his first book of poetry in 1920, and made many of his poems into songs.

Between the wars he became politically active in the Polish Socialist Party and the Bund, and his artistic talents took on a political bent. Perhaps his most famous work is Es Brent / Our Town is Burning, included in this collection, which is emblematic of the Holocaust itself. He was expelled from Kraków in 1940, and his work became increasingly dark as the world was collapsing around him and the Jewish community. He was moved to the Kraków ghetto in March 1942. Gebirtig was shot and killed as the Nazis marched Kraków’s Jews into cattle cars for deportation to the death camps on 4 June 1942. An eyewitness reported that hie was likely shot for attracting attention as he danced and sang his way toward his destruction.

Sources: ORT, Milken Archive, Wikipedia