Assassination of Gabriel Narutowicz

Gabriel Narutowicz, the first president of Poland after regaining independence, was assassinated on 16 December 1922, five days after taking office, aged 57.[1] He was fatally shot by Eligiusz Niewiadomski, an artist and art critic, while visiting an exhibition at Warsaw's Zachęta gallery.

Assassination of Gabriel Narutowicz
Guard of honor at Narutowicz's funeral bier
Date16 December 1922 (1922-12-16)
LocationZachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Second Polish Republic
Coordinates52°14′20″N 21°00′40″E / 52.239°N 21.011°E / 52.239; 21.011
MotivePolish nationalism
TargetGabriel Narutowicz, President of Poland
PerpetratorEligiusz Niewiadomski

Background edit

Poland regained independence in 1918 in the aftermath of World War I. Soon afterwards, Gabriel Narutowicz, professor of engineering, became one of the left-wing leaders in the Sejm (Polish parliament).[2]

Following the 1921 March Constitution of Poland and the November 1922 Polish legislative election, Narutowicz was elected the first president of Poland in the Polish presidential election, 9 December 1922.[3] His election was not accepted by the right-wing nationalist endecja faction, which staged a number of protests.[3] Narutowicz's forthcoming murder would be the culmination of an aggressive, right wing and anti-semitic propaganda campaign vilifying him; in the background of street protests he was described, by a hostile press, an atheist, a Freemason and a Jew.[4][3][5]

Narutowicz in 1922

Assassination edit

Five days after taking office, while attending an art exhibition in the Warsaw's National Gallery of Art "Zachęta", Narutowicz was assassinated during a conversation with a British envoy.[6][2] The assassin was a painter, Eligiusz Niewiadomski, who fired three shots at the president.[7]

Aftermath edit

Niewiadomski had connections with the right wing National Democratic Party.[6] During his trial, Niewiadomski stated that he wanted to kill Józef Piłsudski originally, but assassinating his ally, Narutowicz, was "a step in the fight for Polishness and for the nation."[6] Niewiadomski was sentenced to death. His state execution took place outside the Warsaw Citadel on 31 January.[8] Part of the right-wing camp perceived Niewiadomski as a hero. Nationalistic press and some historians kept portraying Niewiadomski in positive light, writing about his "heroic stand", "sacred convictions, "patriotic duty" and such.[6][9] Within months, his grave became a right-wing shrine, and "more than three hundred babies baptized in Warsaw were given the uncommon name Eligiusz".[8]

The murder of the first president of the Second Polish Republic and the angry canvassing against him revealed the fragility of democratic mechanisms in Poland at that time.[3][7]

The murder of Narutowicz served as the inspiration and a main theme for a number of works.[10] They include the 1977 Polish feature film Death of a President (Polish: Śmierć prezydenta), directed by Jerzy Kawalerowicz, and Wilhelm Sasnal's 2003 painting Narutowicz.[10]

See also edit

References edit

Citations edit

  1. ^ Watt, p. 168.
  2. ^ a b, ¶ 1–4.
  3. ^ a b c d Biskupski, Wróbel et al., pp. 131–133.
  4. ^ Michlic, pp. 125–126.
  5. ^ Newton, p. 357.
  6. ^ a b c d Michnik, p. 79.
  7. ^ a b Bojarska, p. 341.
  8. ^ a b Watt, p. 195.
  9. ^ Bojarska, p. 350.
  10. ^ a b Le Nart, ¶ 1–6.

Bibliography edit

  • Anna Bojarska (1 November 2010). "On Niewiadomski". In Michael Bernhard; Henryk Szlajfer (eds.). From the Polish Underground: Selections from Krytyka, 1978-1993. Penn State Press. pp. 333–352. ISBN 978-0-271-04427-9.
  • Piotr Wróbel; Daniel Z. Stone; Stanislaus A. Blejwas; Robert Blobaum; Włodzimierz Suleja; Andrzej Friszke; Rafał Habielski (15 April 2010). M. B. B. Biskupski; James S. Pula; Piotr J. Wróbel (eds.). The Origins of Modern Polish Democracy. Polish and Polish American Studies (1 ed.). Ohio University Press. p. 376. ISBN 978-0-8214-4309-5.
  • Agnieszka Le Nart (2011). Weronika Kostyrko (ed.). "Assassination at the Art Museum - Autumn 1922". Adam Mickiewicz Institute. Retrieved 2014-09-17.
  • Joanna B. Michlic (1 December 2006). Poland's Threatening Other: The Image of the Jew from 1880 to the Present. U of Nebraska Press. p. 399. ISBN 0-8032-5637-X.
  • Adam Michnik (23 May 2011). Irena Grudzinska Gross (ed.). In Search of Lost Meaning: The New Eastern Europe. University of California Press. p. 248. ISBN 978-0-520-94947-8.
  • Michael Newton (17 April 2014). Famous Assassinations in World History. ABC-CLIO. pp. 355–357. ISBN 978-1-61069-286-1.
  • Kancelaria Prezydenta RP (corporate author) (2012). "Gabriel Narutowicz". Warsaw: Kancelaria Prezydenta RP. Retrieved 2014-09-17. {{cite web}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  • Richard M. Watt (1998). Bitter Glory: Poland and Its Fate, 1918 to 1939. Hippocrene Books. p. 511. ISBN 978-0781806732.

Further reading edit

  • Brykczynski, Paul (2016). Primed for Violence: Murder, Antisemitism, and Democratic Politics in Interwar Poland. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 978-0-299-30700-4.