Bronisław Geremek (Polish pronunciation: [brɔˈɲiswav ɡɛˈrɛmɛk] ; born Benjamin Lewertow;[1] 6 March 1932 – 13 July 2008) was a Polish social historian and politician. He was an opposition activist in Communist Poland and participated in the Polish Round Table Agreement.

Bronisław Geremek
Bronisław Geremek in May 2004.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland
5th Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Third Republic of Poland
In office
31 October 1997 – 30 June 2000
PresidentAleksander Kwaśniewski
Prime MinisterJerzy Buzek
Preceded byDariusz Rosati
Succeeded byWładysław Bartoszewski
Chairman of the Freedom Union
In office
18 December 2000 – 14 October 2001
Preceded byLeszek Balcerowicz
Succeeded byWładysław Frasyniuk
Personal details
Benjamin Lewertow

(1932-03-06)6 March 1932
Warsaw, Poland
Died13 July 2008(2008-07-13) (aged 76)
Lubień, Poland
Political partyFreedom Union, Partia Demokratyczna – (Democratic Party)
SpouseHanna Geremek

He served as Member of Parliament (1991–2001), Minister of Foreign Affairs (1997–2000), leader of the Freedom Union (2000–2001), as well as Member of the European Parliament (2004–2008). In 2002, he was awarded Poland's highest order of merit, Order of the White Eagle.[2]

Early life and education


Bronisław Geremek was born as Benjamin Lewertow in Warsaw on 6 March 1932. His father Boruch Lewertow, a fur merchant,[1] was murdered in Auschwitz.[3] His mother, Sharca, and he were smuggled out of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943 and were sheltered by Stefan Geremek. Stefan Geremek later married Bronisław's mother and Bronisław was further raised in a Roman Catholic tradition.[1] In his adult life, he considered himself neither a Jew nor a Catholic. His grandfather was a maggid, his brother Jerry, lived in New York as a Jew, and his sons living in Poland are Roman Catholics.[1]

In 1954, Bronisław Geremek graduated from the Faculty of History at the Warsaw University. In 1956–1958, he completed postgraduate studies at the École pratique des hautes études in Paris. He completed his PhD in 1960 and he was granted a postdoctoral degree at the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) in 1972. He was appointed associate professor in 1989.

The chief domain of Geremek's scholarly work was research on the history of culture and medieval society. His scholarly achievements included numerous articles and lectures, as well as ten books, which have been translated into ten languages. His doctoral thesis (1960) concerned the labour market in medieval Paris, including prostitution. His postdoctoral thesis (1972) concerned underworld groups in medieval Paris.

Most of Geremek's scholarly career was connected with the Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences, where he worked from 1955 to 1985. From 1960 to 1965, he was also a lecturer at the Sorbonne in Paris and the manager of the Polish Culture Centre of that university. Geremek was given honorary degrees by the University of Bologna, Utrecht University, the Sorbonne, Columbia University, Waseda University, and Jagiellonian University in Kraków. In 1992, he was designated visiting professor at the Collège de France. He was a member of Academia Europaea, the PEN Club, the Société Européenne de Culture, fellow of Collegium Invisibile[4] and numerous other societies and associations. He was a longtime professor and Chairholder of the Chair of European Civilisation at the College of Europe until his death.[5]

Political activity


History of Poland (1945–1989)


In 1950, Geremek joined the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR). He was the second secretary of the Basic Party Organisation (POP) of the PZPR at Warsaw University. In 1968, however, he left the party in protest against the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia.

During the 1970s, Geremek was considered one of the leading figures in the Polish democratic opposition. In 1978, he co-founded the Society for Educational Courses, for which he gave lectures. While on a Fellowship at the Wilson Center in Washington DC, he met General Edward Rowny who introduced him to Lane Kirkland and Ronald Reagan.[6] In August 1980, he joined the Gdańsk workers' protest movement and became one of the advisers of the Independent Self-Governing Trade Union Solidarność (Polish for "Solidarity") – NSZZ. In 1981 he chaired the Program Commission of the First National Convention of Solidarity. After martial law was declared in December 1981, he was interned until December 1982, when he once again became an adviser to the then-illegal Solidarity, working closely with Lech Wałęsa. In 1983, he was again arrested by the Polish authorities.

History of Poland (1989–2008)


Polish Round Table Agreement


Between 1987 and 1989, Geremek was the leader of the Commission for Political Reforms of the Civic Committee, which prepared proposals for peaceful democratic transformation in Poland. In 1989, he played a crucial role during the debates between Solidarity and the authorities that led to free parliamentary elections and the establishment of the ‘Contract Sejm’.

Third Polish Republic


Geremek then became one of the founders of The Democratic Union (later merged into The Freedom Union) and was the leader of the Democratic Union's parliamentary group from 1990 to 1997. After the elections in 1991, President Lech Wałęsa asked him to form a new government, but Geremek failed to do so and Jan Olszewski was appointed Prime Minister instead.

From 1989 to 2001, Geremek was a member of the lower house of the Polish parliament, the Sejm, and chairman of the Political Council of the Freedom Union. He chaired the Sejm's Committee on Foreign Affairs from 1989 to 1997, its Constitutional Committee from 1989 to 1991 and its European Law Committee from 2000 to 2001.

After a coalition government was formed in October 1997 by the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and the Freedom Union, Geremek served as Minister of Foreign Affairs under Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek until 2000. In 1998, Poland chaired OSCE, and Bronisław Geremek served as Chairperson-in-Office.[7] In March 1999, he signed the treaty under which Poland joined NATO.

European Parliament Deputy

Bronisław Geremek in 2004

In the election to the European Parliament in June 2004, Geremek was elected as a candidate of the Freedom Union, winning the largest number of votes in Warsaw. In the European Parliament he was a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. He was a believer in the idea of Europe, though he felt that there is a need to create a clear European identity and the need for people to believe in the benefits that Europe can bring to them - not just as nations, but also as individuals.[8]

In April 2007, Geremek refused to declare that he had never collaborated with the Communist secret service, which he was being asked to do under a new vetting law. In May 2007, the Constitutional Tribunal of the Republic of Poland rejected most of the new vetting law, including the clause that would have made it mandatory for nearly 700,000 Poles to sign declarations certifying that they had never collaborated with the secret services under the old regime.

From 2006 to 2008, he was president of the Jean Monnet Foundation for Europe. He was a supporter of the Campaign for the Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly.[9]





Geremek died on 13 July 2008, in a car accident on the then national road 2 (nowadays national road 92) near Lubień in Nowy Tomyśl County,[18] when the car he was driving hit an oncoming van on the opposite lane,[19] due to Geremek falling asleep behind the wheel.[20] He was granted a state funeral, held in Warsaw in the Cathedral of St John. It was attended, among others, by President Lech Kaczyński, Prime Minister Donald Tusk, and three former presidents Ryszard Kaczorowski, Lech Wałęsa and Aleksander Kwaśniewski.

Posthumous honours


In January 2009, the European Parliament named the main courtyard of the "Louise Weiss", its principal building, after Bronisław Geremek.

In 2021, the Senate of Poland established 2022 as the "Year of Bronisław Geremek" as a recognition of his life's achievements.[21]


  • Litość i szubienica: dzieje nędzy i miłosierdzia (Czytelnik 1989, ISBN 83-07-01490-5)
  • Świat "opery żebraczej": obraz włóczęgów i nędzarzy w literaturach europejskich XV-XVII wieku (Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy 1989, ISBN 83-06-00428-0)
  • Rok 1989 – Bronisław Geremek opowiada, Jacek Żakowski pyta (red.: Maria Braunstein; Plejada, Dom Słowa Polskiego 1990)
  • The Margins of Society in Late Medieval Paris (Past and Present Publications) by Jean-Claude Schmitt, Bronislaw Geremek, Lyndal Roper, Jean Birrell
  • Wspólne pasje (wespół z Georgesem Duby; rozmowę przeprowadził Philippe Sainteny ; przeł. Elżbieta Teresa Sadowska; PWN 1995, ISBN 83-01-11855-5)
  • Szansa i zagrożenie. Polityka i dyplomacja w rodzinnej Europie (Studio EMKA 2004, ISBN 83-88607-38-3)




  1. ^ a b c d "Mój polski brat (My Polish Brother)", interview with Jerry Lewart, by Waldemar Piasecki,
  2. ^ "Order Orła Białego dla prof. Geremka". (in Polish). 6 November 2002. Retrieved 30 March 2024.
  3. ^ "Strona główna". Fundacja Geremka. Archived from the original on 3 August 2008. Retrieved 17 March 2022.
  4. ^ "List of Fellows". Archived from the original on 22 July 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2011.
  5. ^ Chair of European Civilisation Archived 2 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine at College of Europe
  6. ^ Michael, Szporer (2012). Solidarity; The Great Workers Strike. Lexington Books. pp. 250–251. ISBN 9780739174876.
  7. ^ "Former OSCE Chairpersons-in-Office | OSCE". Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  8. ^ Conversation with Prof Geremek with Ilmas Futehally of Strategic Foresight Group "The Future of Europe: A Conversation with Prof. Bronislaw Geremek by Ilmas Futehally". Archived from the original on 10 October 2009. Retrieved 26 January 2010.
  9. ^ "Supporters". Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  10. ^ The Marshall Plan Lessons Learned for the 21st Century: Lessons Learned for ...p 124
  11. ^ "Teenetemärkide kavalerid". Retrieved 12 January 2021.
  12. ^ "Cavaliere di Gran Croce Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana". Retrieved 12 January 2021.
  13. ^ "Prof. Dr. Bronisław Geremek (28.01.2002)". Deutscher Bundestag (in German). Retrieved 17 March 2022.
  14. ^ "ORDEN POUR LE MÉRITE". Bronislaw Geremek (in German). Retrieved 17 March 2022.
  15. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  16. ^ "Vita". Karlspreis (in German). 12 December 2014. Retrieved 17 March 2022.
  17. ^ "Apdovanotų asmenų duomenų bazė". Retrieved 12 January 2021.
  18. ^ "Polish ex-minister Geremek dies". 13 July 2008. Retrieved 17 March 2022 – via BBC News.
  19. ^ "Odszedł wybitny mąż stanu prof. Bronisław Geremek" [Prof. Bronisław Geremek, the outstanding statesman passed away] (in Polish). TVN24. 13 July 2008. Retrieved 3 January 2023.
  20. ^ "Prokuratura: Prof. Geremek sam spowodował wypadek" [Prosecutors Office: Prof. Geremek has caused the accident by himself] (in Polish). Gazeta Wyborcza. 22 December 2008. Retrieved 3 January 2023.
  21. ^ "Senat za ustanowieniem 2022 Rokiem Bronisława Geremka". (in Polish). 26 November 2021. Retrieved 30 March 2024.