Uri Zvi Greenberg

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Uri Zvi Greenberg
File:Uri Zvi Grinberg 1956.jpg
Date of birth 22 September 1896
Place of birth Bilyi Kamin, Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, Austria-Hungary
Year of aliyah 1923
Date of death 8 May 1981(1981-05-08) (aged 84)
Place of death Ramat Gan, Israel
Knessets 1
Faction represented in Knesset
1949–1951 Herut

Uri Zvi Greenberg (Hebrew: אורי צבי גרינברג‎; September 22, 1896 – May 8, 1981) was an acclaimed Israeli poet and journalist who wrote in Yiddish and Hebrew.[1]


File:Kacyzne, UZ Grinberg, P Hirshbeyn color.jpg
Uri Zvi Greenberg (standing in center), 1922

Uri Zvi Greenberg was born in the Galician town Bilyi Kamin, in Austria-Hungary, into a prominent Hasidic family. He was raised in Lemberg (Lviv). Some of his poems in Yiddish and Hebrew were published before he was 20.[2] In 1915 he was drafted into the army and fought in the First World War. After returning to Lemberg, he was witness to the pogroms of November 1918.[3] Greenberg and his family miraculously escaped being shot by Polish soldiers, an experience which convinced him that all Jews living in the "Kingdom of the Cross” faced physical annihilation.[4]

Greenberg moved to Warsaw, where he wrote for the Yiddish newspaper Moment. After a brief stay in Berlin,[5] he immigrated to Mandatory Palestine (the Land of Israel) in 1923. Greenberg was in Poland when the Second World War erupted in 1939, but managed to escape.

In 1950, Grinberg married Aliza, with whom he had two daughters and three sons.[1] He added "Tur-Malka" to the family name, but continued to use "Greenberg" to honor family members who perished in the Holocaust.[6]

Literary career

His first works in Hebrew and Yiddish were published in 1912. His first book, in Yiddish, was published in Lwow while he was fighting on the Serbian front. In 1921, Greenberg moved to Warsaw, with its lively Jewish cultural scene. He was one of the founders of the Chaliastra (literally, the "gang"), a group of young Yiddish writers that included Melekh Ravitch. He also edited a Yiddish literary journal, Albatros.[7] In the wake of his iconoclastic depictions of Jesus in the second issue of Albatros, particularly his prose poem Royte epl fun veybeymer (Red Apples from the Trees of Pain), the journal was banned by the Polish censors and Grinberg fled to Berlin to escape prosecution in November 1922.[8] The magazine incorporated avant-garde elements both in content and typography, taking its cue from German periodicals like Die Aktion and Der Sturm.[9] Grinberg published the last two issues of Albatros in Berlin before renouncing European society and immigrating to Palestine in December 1923.[10]

In his early days in Palestine, Greenberg wrote for Davar, one of the main newspapers of the Labour Zionist movement. In his poems and articles he warned of the fate in store for the Jews of the Diaspora. After the Holocaust, he mourned the fact that his terrible prophecies had come true. His works represent a synthesis of traditional Jewish values and an individualistic lyrical approach to life and its problems. They draw on Jewish sources such as the Bible, the Talmud and the prayer book, but are also influenced by European literature.[11]

Literary motifs

In the second and third issues of Albatros, Greenberg invokes pain as a key marker of the modern era. This theme is illustrated in Royte epl fun vey beymer and Veytikn-heym af slavisher erd (Pain-Home on Slavic Ground).[12]

Political activism

Brit HaBirionim founders Abba Ahimeir, Uri Zvi Greenberg, and Joshua Yeivin

In 1930, Greenberg joined the Revisionist camp, representing the Revisionist movement at several Zionist congresses and in Poland. After the 1929 Hebron massacre he became more militant. With Abba Ahimeir and Joshua Yeivin, he founded Brit HaBirionim, a clandestine faction of the Revisionist movement which adopted an activist policy of violating British mandatory regulations. In the early 1930s, its members disrupted a British-sponsored census, sounded the shofar in prayer at the Western Wall despite a British prohibition, held a protest rally when a British colonial official visited Tel Aviv, and tore down Nazi flags from German offices in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.[13] When the British arrested hundreds of its members the organization effectively ceased to exist.

He believed that the Holocaust was a 'tragic but almost inevitable outcome of Jewish indifference to their destiny.' As early as 1923, "Grinberg envisioned and warned of the destruction of European Jewry."[14]

Following Israeli independence in 1948, he joined Menachem Begin's Herut movement. In 1949, he was elected to the first Knesset. He lost his seat in the 1951 elections. After the Six-Day War he joined the Movement for Greater Israel, which advocated Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank.


In 1976, the Knesset held a special session in honor of his eightieth birthday.[17]

Published works (in Hebrew)

  • A Great Fear and the Moon (poetry), Hedim, 1925 (Eymah Gedolah Ve-Yareah)
  • Manhood on the Rise (poetry), Sadan, 1926 (Ha-Gavrut Ha-Olah)
  • A Vision of One of the Legions (poetry), Sadan, 1928 (Hazon Ehad Ha-Legionot)
  • Anacreon at the Pole of Sorrow (poetry), Davar, 1928 (Anacreon Al Kotev Ha-Itzavon)
  • House Dog (poetry), Hedim, 1929 (Kelev Bayit)
  • A Zone of Defense and Address of the Son-of-Blood (poetry), Sadan, 1929 (Ezor Magen Ve-Ne`um Ben Ha-Dam)
  • The Book of Indictment and Faith (poetry), Sadan, 1937 (Sefer Ha-Kitrug Ve-Ha-Emunah)
  • From the Ruddy and the Blue (poetry), Schocken, 1950 (Min Ha-Kahlil U-Min Ha-Kahol)
  • Streets of the River (poetry), Schocken, 1951 (Rehovot Ha-Nahar)
  • In the Middle of the World, In the Middle of Time (poetry), Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1979 (Be-Emtza Ha-Olam, Be-Emtza Ha-Zmanim)
  • Selected Poems (poetry), Schocken, 1979 (Mivhar Shirim)
  • Complete Works of Uri Zvi Greenberg, Bialik Institute, 1991 (Col Kitvei)
  • At the Hub, Bialik Institute, 2007 (Baavi Ha-Shir)

See also


Further reading

  • Abramson, Glenda (2008). Hebrew Writing of the First World War. Valentine Mitchell.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Avidov Lipsker, Red Poem\ Blue Poem: Seven Essays on Uri Zvi Grinberg and Two Essays on Else Lasker-Schüler, Bar Ilan University Press, Ramat-Gan 2010.
  • Gilles Rozier, D'un pays sans amour, a novel about the life of UZG and his friendship with Peretz Markish and Melekh Ravitch, Grasset, Paris, 2011.

External links