MOYSHE ZILBERG (MOSHE SILBURG) (1884-1942)
He was born in Molodetshne, Vilna district. He studied in religious primary school and yeshiva. He was later a teacher in Minsk. From 1906 he was living in Vilna where he was arrested for belonging to the Bund (1912) and sat in a prison cell together with Dovid Eynhorn. After being freed from prison, he was forced to leave Russia. Until WWI he lived in Cracow and Lemberg. Over the years 1918-1923, he lived in Vienna where he was a Hebrew teacher and one of the editors of the publishing house of “Der kval” (The source). He was also editor of the monthly journal Kritik (Critic)—ten issues appeared, February 1920-April 1921—around which assembled the writers: Moyshe Grosman-Tsimerman, Mendl Zinger, Meylekh Ravitsh, Dr. Meylekh Khmelnitski, and A. M. Fuks, among others. In 1923 he returned to Vilna. He subsequently served as co-editor (with N. Mayzil) of Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves) in Warsaw (1926), and he became an internal contributor to Ekspres (Express) in Warsaw—first issue, January 3, 1927. At the beginning of WWII (September 1939), he escaped from Warsaw to Bialystok, later settled in Vilna, suffered enormously from want, made several unsuccessful attempts to save himself from the Nazis, and then was murdered in Ponar. Such was also the fate of his wife and daughter; his son remained alive in Russia. Zilberg began writing fictional prose for Hazman (The time). He published stories in: Dos idishe folk (The Jewish people), a weekly newspaper in Vilna (1906-1908), edited by Dr. Lurye; Di naye tsayt (The new time) in Vilna, anthologies (1908-1909); and Literarishe monatshriftn (Literary monthly writings) (Vilna, 1908). He published critical articles in Vilner tog (Vilna day) and elsewhere. He wrote the preface to the anthology Y. l. perets, kharakter-shtrikhn (Y. L. Perets, character traits), in the series of pamphlets “Finf niftorim” (Five deceased men [Sholem-Alekhem, Y. L. Perets, Mendele Moykher-Sforim, S. S. Frug, and Y. Dinezon]) (Vienna: Der kval, 1919), 102 pp., and the preface to Y. Y. Linetski’s Dos poylishe yingl (Vienna, 1921), 354 pp. He published Di bime (The reader’s platform) (Vilna, 1924-1925), “a newspaper for art, theater, and film, published every Friday” (first issue, December 26, 1924, altogether sixteen issues), and the single-issue Naye bime (New reader’s platform)—October 16, 1925. He translated: Gnesin’s Mayse otelo (The story of Othello [original: Maase otelo]) and Samuil samuilovitsh (Samuel Samuelovitsh [original: Shmuel ben shmuel]) (Berlin, 1922), 62 pp.; August Strindberg’s Khasene hobn (Getting married [original: Giftas]) (Vilna, 1924), 345 pp. and Vide fun a nar (Confession of a fool [Le Plaidoyer d’un fou]) (Vilna, 1927), 340 pp.; Gustav Meyrink’s Der golem (The golem [original: Der Golem]) (Vilna, 1925), 327 pp.; Maxim Gorky’s Mayne universitetn (My universities [original: Moy universitety], with A. Zilburg (Vilna, 1928), 362 pp. and Tsvishn mentshn (Among men [original: V li︠u︡di︠a︡kh] (Vilna, 1928), 472 pp.
Zilberg had a deep understanding and stern attitude toward artistic literature. He would revise and polish his stories, and out of necessity did not have sufficient time to concentrate on his own original creations; his writing talent was used primarily on translations. Falling strongly under the influence of Perets’s struggle for national progress and against assimilation, he wrote his series of articles entitled: “Vos ikh hob aykh tsu zogn” (What I have to say to you), running in several issues of Kritik; the articles aroused a strong reaction among younger writers with whom he remained in close contact for many years. During the years that he lived in Vienna, his wife (with his help) worked on a Hebrew-Yiddish dictionary.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Z. Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 1; M. Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon), vol. 1 (Montreal, 1945); Sh. Katsherginski, in Khurbn vilne (The Holocaust in Vilna) (New York, 1947); M. Naygreshl, in Fun noentn over (New York) 1 (1955).