Selma Meerbaum (or Merbaum) was born in Czernowitz, now Czernivtsi, Ukraine, a multi-cultural
area in the Bukovina. Her father, Max, died when she was only two years old, however, and
her mother married a haberdashery shopkeeper, Leo Eisinger.
The family lived in straitened circumstances in a small flat with no utilities where
Selma shared a room with her mother and step-father. She was taught in Romanian but spoke
and wrote German outside school and enjoyed reading the German poets as well as Verlaine
and Tagore. She was short, with long, curly, dark brown hair and was a keen student but
she was often tempted to withdraw into her own reflections. Her spirited nature,
however, enabled her to find friends who enjoyed better standards of living beyond
her strata of society.
In the increasing hostility of the fascist powers, Selma experienced hate and personal
violence, confinement in the ghetto and subsequent deportation to the Michailowka labour
camp in summer, 1942 where she perished in December having contracted typhus.
She had formed an attachment to Leiser Fichman who, when she was deported, was instrumental
in saving her collection of handwritten poems, "Blutenlese". After preserving them for two
years whilst also interned, he passed them to her friend, Else Schachter-Keren, who
presented them for publication several decades later.
Selma's resort in her poems to the decency of humanity and to her portrayals of nature
bravely defies the world collapsing about her.