HIRSH GUTGESHTALT (HIRSZ GUTGESTALT) (1899-September 19, 1944)
He was born in Warsaw and studied in religious elementary school as well as in the commercial schools of the Warsaw Commercial Association. In 1915 he was the founder of a socialist student circle which two years later became a part of the social democratic youth organization “Tsukunft” (Future)—later dubbed “Young Bund Future.” At a very young age, he took an interest in Yiddish literature and Jewish cultural issues. In 1916 he was the organizer of a large group of some 1500 students, who had Yiddish as their mother tongue, who undertook an official questionnaire of the German occupying authorities during WWI. On January 26, 1918 he was arrested by the Germans and sent to the Modlin Fortress, near Warsaw, for a year. He published poems and articles on literature in a series of literary magazines. In 1933 his volume of poetry appeared in print in Warsaw: Mentsh un landshaft (Man and landscape), 116 pp. His broad phrasing, often in blank verse, was full of social and humanistic pathos. His descriptions of nature were personal and lyrical experiences from nature.
After the outbreak of WWI, in October 1939 he escaped from Warsaw to Vilna which was then under the control of Lithuania. Together with Noyekh Prilucki, he worked in the Historical Bureau in Vilna (November 1939-summer 1940), which was involved in collecting testimony from those who had escaped Hitler-dominated Poland. In August 1940 he was arrested by the Bolsheviks and released in January 1941. When Hitler’s armies seized Lithuania, he was active in the Vilna underground organization of the Bund and in the managing committee of the association of authors, artists, and musicians in the ghetto. With the remnants of the Vilna ghetto, he was deported on September 23, 1943 to the concentration camp at Klooga in Estonia. There with his nineteen-year-old son Gavriel and over 1000 other Vilna and Warsaw Jews, he was on September 19, 1944 burned to death, one day before the Soviet Army liberated the camp. His poem “Anno 1941” and his essay “Di yidishe poetn hobn foroysgezen dem geto” (The Jewish poets foresaw the ghetto) circulated in manuscript in the Vilna ghetto. In his younger days, he had used the pen names: Vorek and V. Vald.
Sources: V. Vald, in Yugnt-veker (Warsaw) 9, 11, 12 (1926); M. Natish, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) 9 (1934); Y. Rapoport, Vokhnshrift far literatur (Warsaw) (May 31, 1934); Y. Sh. Herts, Di geshikhte fun a yugnt (The story of a youth) (New York, 1946); A. Sutskever, Fun vilner geto (From the Vilna ghetto) (Moscow, 1946); Sh. Katsherginski, Khurbn vilne (The Holocaust in Vilna) (New York, 1947); Dr. M. Dvorzhetski (Mark Dvorzetsky), Yerusholayim delite in kamf un umkum (The Jerusalem of Lithuania in struggle and death) (Paris, 1948); Togbukh fun herman kruk (Diary of Herman Kruk), written in the Vilna ghetto (manuscript in the YIVO archives).