Sholem Schwarzbard: Biography of a Jewish Assassin

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Sholem Schwarzbard: Biography of a Jewish Assassin

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Title: Sholem Schwarzbard: Biography of a Jewish Assassin
Author: Johnson, Kelly
Citation: Johnson, Kelly. 2012. Sholem Schwarzbard: Biography of a Jewish Assassin. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: The thesis represents the first complete academic biography of a Jewish clockmaker, warrior poet and Anarchist named Sholem Schwarzbard. Schwarzbard's experience was both typical and unique for a Jewish man of his era. It included four immigrations, two revolutions, numerous pogroms, a world war and, far less commonly, an assassination. The latter gained him fleeting international fame in 1926, when he killed the Ukrainian nationalist leader Symon Petliura in Paris in retribution for pogroms perpetrated during the Russian Civil War (1917-20). After a contentious trial, a French jury was sufficiently convinced both of Schwarzbard's sincerity as an avenger, and of Petliura's responsibility for the actions of his armies, to acquit him on all counts. Mostly forgotten by the rest of the world, the assassin has remained a divisive figure in Jewish-Ukrainian relations, leading to distorted and reductive descriptions his life. In contrast to these partial views, the thesis follows Schwarzbard's fate chronologically, from cradle to grave, emphasizing development and contradiction in his story. Special attention is paid the dynamic nature of Schwarzbard's Jewish, Anarchist, and French commitments. After a long struggle, it was the first of these that came to dominate Schwarzbard's life, as he called the Jews back into history and himself back to his people with a single, irrevocable deed.
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