Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre



Michael Katz


Born in 1908 in Vilna, Polish-Lita. His father was a manufacturer. He learned in a cheder, then in the Vilna Yiddish governmental gymnasium [high school]. From childhood on he had a leaning toward the stage. He began in small roles, and in 1933 he traveled with the "Vilna Troupe" on a tour, with whom he toured across the Polish province for a long time. He returned to Vilna, [where] he worked daily with his father in a manufacturing workshop, and in the evening he played in the "Unzer Theatre" on 8 November. Here he played for a series of years.

S. Bliacher characterized him this way:

"Michael Katz, a round [runder], circular [keylechdiker] young man, had with his extravagance, an elegance in character roles. Every time when the director (of "Unzer Theatre") used to direct an actor, he immediately would invite Katz to be with his young friends, unmarried members, with whom they would strongly exploit in the theatre..... In the Polish times they had paid them one złoty a night. In the beginning he did not, because he was not a masterpiece of the theatre. Later he became a [ern-frage]. ...a small wage, which is how the boys and young people went on strike... The director complained to them. They had voted a percentage of the revenue, but with that percentage, that they also often would not earn the złotys... this had been Katz, as well as his colleagues, who did not pay much attention. What can one do, that the business was generally bad, they were with leytn immediately."

And about his last stage leg and tragic end, Sh. Bliacher writes:

"In 1939-40, Katz was a member of 'Octave (sp),' playing responsible roles, and he made his way to the top spot in the theatre. In wartime theatre Katz went in as a [gleicher mit gleich], excelling in a series of roles, especially in the role of the "Houseworker" in Daniel's "Julis (sp)." The role in which the author definitely was portrayed in a negative behavior--a Jew, a rich man, the Reds (?) nationalize his house, when one of them, they should .....Also, his colleagues did not really care. What can be done is that business was bad? Most of all they are suffering immediately."

Though left in the houses as a leader, he spied on the activity of the Reds and passed it on to the Whites. He was finally caught and shot. Katz had in the role achieved the best that he had left. The viewing public hated him. He was so absorbed in the role that there was nothing they could change, that the role of "house worker" could be played elsewhere.

When the Germans took Vilna, Michael Katz obtained work in the "Gestapo," as a house worker. He then used to make jokes, that the role in "Julius" came to him, the end may be another... On his own he did very well. He used to struggle to eat, had to go by himself across the streets, and indeed this is the most important thing, not any difficult, physical work. Thank you already, he used to, in those difficult days, have the possibility to go see what his friends were doing, to help according to a possibility. Katz also saw as they used to bring Jews and non-Jews in for investigations, tensions, locked in the basement, and very often from the basement he often used to [hear?] out-of-the-sky screaming cries. time one of the working Jews in the Red Command in the Gestapo with something perverse, all the workers in the house were picked up, and the twenty men were taken pleased the shines [?] [sheynes]. Among those with whom the shines were taken [?] also was Katz. The twenty were divided by the [ibrike]. Katz sensed the danger and fled on a spell. As an additional punishment, one of the twenty Jews were lost, and five more were added. The twenty-four men no longer returned to their neighbors.

Katz stood out... later they searched and found work, and the danger seemed to be over, but during the provocation on Dominican Street no. 3 they were taken away, and the 'Gestapo' arranged for her former house worker the last finale scene was following the text of the Soviet press."

  • Sh. Bliacher -- "Eyn un tsvantzik un eyner," New York, 1962, pp. 38-44; 67-69.






Home       |       Site Map       |      Exhibitions      |      About the Museum       |       Education      |      Contact Us       |       Links

Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 5, page 3812.

Copyright   Museum of Family History.  All rights reserved.