Uriel Birnbaum was the youngest of the three sons of the Viennese Jewish philosopher Nathan Birnbaum and his wife Rosa Korngut. His older brother Solomon (Salomo) Asher Birnbaum became a noted Yiddish and Hebrew linguist and scholar. In 1911 the family moved to Berlin, where Uriel briefly attended art school. He produced graphic and literary works throughout World War I, even after he was severely wounded while fighting in the Austro-Hungarian Army. He became an observant Jew and his favorite subject in poetry became trust in God. He published several portfolios and volumes of lithographs and paintings. He illustrated a number of books, including works of Edgar Allan Poe, Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass (Alice im Spiegelglass, 1923), and his own Weltuntergang (1921).