Assassination of Gabriel Narutowicz

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Guard of honor at Narutowicz's funeral bier

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

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 called, by an unfriendly press, an atheist, 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 impermanence 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 president.pl, ¶ 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]

  • (in English) Anna Bojarska (1 November 2010). "On Niewiadomski". In Michael Bernhard; Henryk Szlajfer. From the Polish Underground: Selections from Krytyka, 1978-1993. Penn State Press. pp. 333–352. ISBN 0-271-04427-6.
  • (in English) 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.
  • (in English) Agnieszka Le Nart (2011). Weronika Kostyrko, ed. "Assassination at the Art Museum - Autumn 1922". Culture.pl. Adam Mickiewicz Institute. Retrieved 2014-09-17.
  • (in English) 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.
  • (in English) 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.
  • (in English) Michael Newton (17 April 2014). Famous Assassinations in World History. ABC-CLIO. pp. 355–357. ISBN 978-1-61069-286-1.
  • (in English) Kancelaria Prezydenta RP (corporate author) (2012). "Gabriel Narutowicz". Warsaw: Kancelaria Prezydenta RP. Retrieved 2014-09-17.
  • (in English) Richard M. Watt (1998). Bitter Glory: Poland and Its Fate, 1918 to 1939. Hippocrene Books. p. 511. ISBN 978-0781806732.