Mordechai/Mordkhe GebirtigGebirtig.jpg (6055 octets)Born as Marcus Bertig/Bartig, son of Isac (Krakow, 1877) Mordechai Gebirtig

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Mordechai Gebirtig, born Mordekhai Bertig (Yiddish: מרדכי געבירטיג) (b. 1877, Kraków - d. 1942, Kraków) was a Yiddish poet and songwriter, regarded as one of the most influential and popular writers of Yiddish songs and poems.

Today, Gebirtig is perhaps best known internationally for his song, "S'brent" (It is burning), written in 1938 in response to the 1936 pogrom of Jews in the shtetl (small town) of Przytyk. It sounded an alarm for the approaching calamity that would become known as the Holocaust. "S'brent" was sung in the ghettos of Nazi-occupied Europe. Since then the song, in the original Yiddish and in its Hebrew translation titled "Ha-Ayyarah Bo'eret" (העיירה בוערת, "Our Little Town is Burning!" - hence the occasional reference to a Yiddish title, "Undzer Shtetl Brent!"), continues to be widely performed in the context of Holocaust commemoration.

Mordecai Gebirtig (1877-1942) was born in Krakow and lived in its Jewish working-class quarter all his life, one which was ended by a Nazi bullet in the Krakow Ghetto on the infamous "Bloody Thursday" of June 4th, 1942. He is the preeminent "folk" artist in Yiddish literature and song. He was self-taught in music, played the shepherd's pipe well, and tapped out tunes on the piano with one finger. He earned his livelihood as a furniture worker; music and theater were avocations.

From 1906 he was a member of the Jewish Amateur Troupe in Krakow. He also wrote songs and theater reviews for Der sotsial-demokrat, the Yiddish organ of the Jewish Social-Democratic Party, to which he belonged. This party was in effect the Galician Jewish Labour Bund, which after World War I fused with the Polish Bund to become the great Yiddishist party of the Polish Jewish proletariat, which called for Jewish cultural autonomy in a democratic and socialist Poland.

It was in such an environment that Gebirtig developed, encouraged by such professional writers and Yiddishist culural activists as Avrom Reyzn, who for a time lived and published a journal in Krakow. His talent was his own, but he took the language, themes, types, tone and timbre of his art from his surroundings, in some measure continuing the musical tradition of the popular Galician cabaret entertainers known as the Broder Singers, who in turn were beholden to the yet older and still vital tradition of the batkhn's (wedding jester's) improvisatory art.

Gebirtig served for five years in the Austro-Hungarian army and it was only in 1920, under the second Polish Republic, that he published his first collection of songs, significantly entitled Folkstimlekh ('of the folk'). His songs spread quickly even before they were published, and many people regarded them as folksongs whose author or authors were anonymous. Adopted by leading Yiddish players such as Molly Picon, Gebirtig's songs became staples of numerous regular as well as improvised theatrical productions wherever Yiddish theatre was performed. It is not an exaggeration to say that Gebirtig's songs were sung and lovingly sung the world over.

Gebirtig's art appears to have won full recognition in the new Poland. This is gratifying, yet it is regrettable that too often his repertoire is rendered in a sentimental, even a saccharine manner. (22a) We need to remember that Gebirtig is most famous for his song "Undzer shtetl brent," which was written as early as 1938 following a pogrom in Pszytyk and which was later adopted by the Jewish youth of Krakow and others as a battlesong against the Nazis. In his song "S'tut vey" ('It Hurts'), Gebirtig is shattered by the absence of solidarity of all Polish citizens against the Nazi invaders. Dated Krakow February 1940, it is a song directed against those Poles who laughed when German soldiers humiliated and tortured old Jews in the streets of Krakow. "Un zey! / Vis zaynen itst vi mir / Geblibn on a land. / Vos filn itst vi mir / Dem vildn soynes hand, / Lakhn, freyen zikh un lakhn / In aza moment, Ven poyln's shtolts un koved / Vert azoy geshendt. / Ven poylns vaysn odler / Valgert zikh af der erd.... / Iz dos nisht a shand / An eybiker far zey? ('And it is they! / Who like us / Have lost a country,/ Who like us now feel / The savage enemy's strokes. / They laugh, they make merry and laugh / At this hour, / When Poland's pride and honor / Are being raped, / When Poland's White Eagle / Lies in the dirt.... / Is this not / To their eternal shame?') (23) Gebirtig has often been called "der zinger fun der umgekumener yidisher mase in poyln" ('the singer of the murdered Jewish masses of Poland'. Gebirtig's song "It Hurts" expresses what most Jews have always felt and what courageous Poles like Jan Blonski have clearly said on this painful subject: the Poles could not have saved the Jews from their fate and are not responsible for that fate, but they could certainly have shown more compassion to the Jews in their agony.

Gebuertig Mordechaj

 

Mordechaj Gebuertig was born in Krakuv in 1878 to Yitzkhak and Tzipora. He was a poet and married to Bluma. Prior to WWII he lived in Krakuv, Poland. During the war he was in Krakuv, Poland. Mordechaj perished in 1942 in the Shoah. This information is based on a Page of Testimony (displayed on left) submitted on 18-Jul-1957 by the daughter of his sister

 

Gebirtig Szifka

 

 

Szifka Gebirtig was born in Krakow in 1910 to Mordekhai and Bluma. She was a housewife and married. Prior to WWII she lived in Krakow, Poland. During the war she was in Krukov, Ukraine (USSR). Szifka perished in 1942 in the Shoah. This information is based on a Page of Testimony (displayed on left) submitted on 18-Jul-1957 by her cousin

 

 

 

Gebirtig Bluma

 

Bluma Gebirtig was born in Poland in 1880. She was a housewife and married to Mordekhai. Prior to WWII she lived in Cracow, Poland. During the war she was in Cracow, Poland. Bluma perished in 1942 in Cracow, Poland. This information is based on a Page of Testimony (displayed on left) submitted on 18-Jul-1957 by her brother-in-law.  Mor

Gebuertig Lola

 

Lola Gebuertig was born in Krakow in 1916 to Mordekhai and Bluma. She was single. Prior to WWII she lived in Krakow, Poland. During the war she was in Krakow, Poland. Lola perished in 1942 in Auschwitz, Camp. This information is based on a Page of Testimony (displayed on left) submitted on 18-Jan-1957 by her cousin

 

Siwka Stamberger nee Gebirtig was born in Krakow in 1914 to Mordekai and Esther. She was married to Henryk. Prior to WWII she lived in Krakow, Poland. During the war she was in Krakow, Poland. Siwka perished in 1942 in Auschwitz, Camp. This information is based on a Page of Testimony (displayed on left) submitted on 21-Sep-1972 by her brother-in-law Noshe Bazes