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Samuel Schwartzbard, Jewish anarchist; source
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Samuel Schwartzbard, Jewish anarchist & writer.

Born in 1886, Izmail, Bessarabia (now Moldova); died 3 March 1938, Capetown, South Africa.

Revolutionary activist, survived a pogrom during the Russian Revolution of 1905, fled to Romania. After some turbulent years in Central Europe (arrested in Vienna, deported from Budapest) he settled in Paris in 1910, found a job in a watch factory & married. Enlisted in the French Foreign Legion during WWI, he was wounded at the front, decorated, then left the army.

  • In 1917, he travelled with his wife with the Russian Military Mission to Odessa to join the Red Army to fight the White (rightwing) armies.
  • In 1920, Schwartzbard returned to Paris, set up a watch repair shop, published Yiddish poetry & was active in local anarcho-communist & Jewish anarchist groups, along with Alexander Berkman, Mollie Steimer, Senya Flechin, & Nestor Makhno.

    A man approached, & called out in Ukrainian, "Are you Mr. Petliura?" Petliura turned to see Schwartzbard advancing on him. "Defend yourself, you bandit," the assassin shouted (as he recounted in his deposition to a judge), & as Petliura raised the cane in his right hand, Schwartzbard fired into him three times, exclaiming

    "This, for the pogroms; this for the massacres, this for the victims."

  • On May 25, 1926, Schwartzbard killed Simon Petlioura, who directed the pogroms in the Ukraine where several members of his family were murdered.

    Samuel Schwartzbard, a young Jewish watchmaker who had lost family members in the Ukrainian pogroms, murdered Petliura in a Paris street. News of the assassination gained worldwide attention & was carried in the "London Times," "The New York Times," & all the dailies in Paris.

    Schwartzbard was defended by noted French barrister Henri Torrès in a sensational trial that took place 17 months later. A great number of publicly recognized personalities, such as Henri Bergson, Romain Rolland, Albert Einstein, & Alexander Kerensky volunteered to testify on Shalom Schwarzbard's behalf, & the former Prime Minister of Hungary Mihaly Károlyi prepared an analysis of the Jewish problem in Central & Eastern Europe for the defense.

    Taking full responsibility for his act, declaring, "I have murdered a murderer," he was acquitted by a sympathetic French jury (to the acclaim of a sympathetic public), on the grounds that he was avenging the deaths of pogrom victims in Ukraine.

    Freed from La Santé prison on October 26, 1927, Schwartzbard subsequently devoted himself to fighting anti-semitism & was instrumental in the formation of the "International League Against Antisemitism" (Ligue Internationale Contre l’Antisémitisme [L.I.C.A.]). (Also active in the League was Severine)

    • Schwartzbard wrote several mostly autobiographical works Milkhome bilder (Pictures from the War), Fun tifen obgrund (From the Abyss), In krig mit zikh aleyn (In War with Myself [or Fight with Oneself, 1933) & his memoirs In'm loyf fun yorn (In the Course of Years). He also published poetry under the title Troymen un verlekhkayt (Dreams & Reality; 1920; Yiddish).

    • Informative piece in "The Ukrainian Weekly",

    • See also the Papers of Shalom Schwarzbard at the Center for Jewish History,

    • Leftist lawyer Henri Torres had previously successfully defended the famous Spanish anarchist guerrillas Buenaventura Durruti, Francisco Ascaso & Gregorio Jover, plus the Catalan separatist Francisco Macia, during the Primo de Rivera dictatorship. He later went on to defeat a charge in 1951 against CNT-in-exile secretary-general Jose Peirats (author of the anarcho-syndicalist CNT’s "official" account of Spain, Anarchists in the Spanish Revolution) & two other CNT leaders despite Torres having joined the French Communist Party. See Zabalaza, A Journal of Southern African Revolutionary Anarchism, No.5 - May 2004

    • Alternate spellings: Shalom, Sholem Schwarzbard, Symon Petlyura, Petlioura, Petlura

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