Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre



Moshe Burshtin

B. was born on 2 August (Shabbes Nkhmu) 1884 in Odessa, Ukraine. His father was a Kazioner assitant rabbi in Odessa, and one of the first Hubbi Zion.

As a child he learned in the Odessa Talmud Torah, where Mendele Mokher Sefarim was a teacher. At the age of eight he began to sing as a soprano with Cantor Sirota, later with the cantors Pinye Minkovski, Yankel Soroker, and Vladovski. At the ate of eighteen he was one of the more popular Yiddish folk singers in South Russia and Bessarabia, and at the same time began to take up self-education.

In 1903-04 he began to act in Yiddish theatre in Nikolaev under the direction of S. Krause, then in Bucharest ('Zignitza') with Mordecai Segalesko and Itsikl Goldenburg, also acting with Zygmunt Turkow. In 1912 he was engaged to Joe Kessler in London, where he played  with Morris Moshkovitch. From 1914 until 1918 he played in London and over the English province with Fannie Waxman. In 1923 he became partners with N. Blumental -- director of Yiddish theatre in Paris. In 1925 he founded the first Yiddish folk theatre in Paris, under the name, "Teater de Tampl," where he brought in as a guest-star the actors Baratov, Snegoff, Zaslavski, Samberg, Appelbaum and Potocka. In 1926 he founded the first Yiddish revue theatre in Paris. In 1927 he played with Blumental in Paris, and in 1928, with a member's troupe in South Africa. After returning to Paris, he also acted in the near Western European countries.

In his time, B. sang many Yiddish songs for the gramophone


B.'s wife and daughter Khaykele also played on the Yiddish stage.

About his life in the Hitler Period and tragic killing, his daughter writes (in our translation):

"My husband and I were forced to leave Paris from being in the city in the time when the German soldiers had marched into the city from the other side. We took our parents with us, but in Bordeaux they had warned us that the invading army will arrest all the men of military age. We had, with pain in our hearts, had two choices: to remain there and be in danger of being arrested, or travel to England, because my husband was born in England, and moreover we had two small children. Naturally we then had no clue what devilish deeds Hitler would do to the Jews.

Everything I knew about my parents in the coming two years, were the twenty-five words of news that we received through the Red Cross for two to three months in London. Then we also did not require it. At first after the war, we had, through a friend who had remained in Paris, received bits of information where they lived. Once my mother, together with a neighbor and her two children, were arrested in a street, through a delivery by a Frenchman, who had a factory of leather articles. He used to get paid for every Jew that he had spoken to [gemsrt].

My father remained alone in Paris for about a year's time and was virtually at home all the time. He sat an entire day and wrote a diary, early on in Yiddish, and then in Yiddish with Latin characters. A neighbor kept this diary for me and gave it to me after the war. It contained more than ninety thickly written pages, and for me a cherished document. I will leave it to one of the institutions that is founded in Paris, or in Israel, where my father has a sister. He always had a talent for description, and his writing about daily life during the German Occupation of Paris, and the horrible life of the unfortunate Jews in those bitter times, tears the heart. After my return in 1945, I read it over the course of a whole night and used it bitterly, it broke my heart so, that I was no longer able to read it again. However, when I touch the papers, I feel the sorrow, the suffering he has gone through. His last writing was a day after Rosh Hashanah, or after Yom Kippur, and he remained standing in the midst of a word ...

After my return, I began to make inquiries. Their housekeeper said to us that on a certain day a French policeman came to question her about my father. He had just arrived when they spoke, and she thought that when he heard the policeman's voice, he would hide or walk out the back door. But, like my mother, he was a lost man, lacking courage and strength, and immediately entered the policeman's hands.

Shortly after my return, I happened upon a man in the 'metro' who I knew before the war, and he said to me that he happened upon my father in Drancy, the Paris camp, where the Jews were kept before they deported them. 'He was very brave, your father -- he said to me -- the last time that I had seen him, he said: "The allies are breaking Hitler's bones. You will see, we will knock him down.' I kept one query. I waited for the embassy, which brought back some deportees who were created after the war and, after searching for thousands of documents, finally found my mothers' and fathers' names. From these, I knew the date of their deportation -- my mother in August 1942, and my father in December 1943. I used these dates for the 'yahrzeit' for them. A monument was placed in a French cemetery called 'Père Lachaise,' which I visit twice a year. I left a tombstone in the form of a 'small Torah,' with their names and an inscription that buried the ashes of them and hundreds of thousands of victims of Nazi barbarism. I also realized that my parents had been transferred from Drancy to Auschwitz (Oswiecim), where they had been killed."

.Sh.E. from his daughter Khaykele Burshtin-Schwartz.
  • "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre," New York, Vol. 1, 1931, p. 157.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 5, page 3974.

You can read Moshe's initial biography in the "Lexicon," Volume 1.

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