Leon Reich (right) with J. Tennenblatt, Alexander Hausmann, and Michael Ringel, photographed while being held hostage by a Polish military patrol (uniformed men, standing, first and second from left), Przemyśl, 1918. These four Zionist leaders from Lwów were taken hostage in order to guarantee the “good conduct” of Jews in Lwów following a pogrom in which Polish troops killed 73 Jews suspected of collaborating with Ukrainian forces trying to take control of the city from the Poles. (YIVO)

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Reich, Leon

(1879–1929), Zionist leader in Galicia and independent Poland. Leon Reich completed his law degree at the University of Lwów and then studied at the École des Sciences Politiques in Paris. He became committed to the Zionist movement as a student and was one of the founders of the Union of Jewish Students (Ognisko) and of the Zionist student organization in Galicia (Emunah). He made a name for himself as an effective journalist and publicist and was editor of the Almanach żydowski in Lwów, to which he contributed many articles, and of the Polish-language Zionist weekly Wschód. He was also active in the struggle to democratize Jewish life in Galicia and campaigned unsuccessfully to be elected to the Austrian Reichsrat in 1911. During World War I, he served in the legal department of the Austrian Army.

At the end of the war, Reich was one of the main organizers of the Jewish National Council of East Galicia. When the Polish–Ukrainian conflict erupted, he was interned by Polish authorities in the camp at Baranów, but was released upon the intervention of Józef Piłsudski, Naḥum Sokolow, and some West European Jewish leaders. Reich was vice president of the Comité des Délégations Juives at the Versailles Peace Conference, on whose behalf he edited a book concerning the national rights of East European Jews, Les droits nationaux des Juifs en Europe orientale (The National Rights of Jews in Western Europe; 1919). He also wrote a memoir on this period titled Żydowska delegacja pokojowa w Paryżu (The Jewish Peace Delegation in Paris; 1922).

From 1922 until his death in 1929, Reich was a member of the Polish Sejm for the Lwów electoral district. He was deputy chairman of the Zionist General Council and president of the Zionist Organization in East Galicia. He was also one of the members of the legal defense of Stanisław Steiger, who was falsely accused of attempting to assassinate the president of Poland, Stanisław Wojciechowski, during a visit to Lwów in 1924.

In 1924 Reich chaired the Club of Jewish delegates in the Sejm. In this capacity he and Ozjasz Thon negotiated an agreement with the Polish government according to which Jewish members of the Sejm were to support the government, provided that certain concessions be given to Jews. The agreement (known by its Polish name as the ugoda) was controversial, although it did lead to an alleviation of the situation of Jews, which continued in the first years of the Piłsudski regime that seized power in May 1926. Reich was nevertheless forced to resign from the chair of the Jewish Club in the Sejm, although he retained his influence, especially in eastern Galicia, where he was reelected to the Sejm in 1928. His influence helped to dampen the anti-Jewish agitation that developed in Lwów in summer 1929 after the alleged Jewish desecration of a Corpus Christi procession.

Reich also played in important role in the development of the Jewish press. He was a frequent contributor to the Polish-language dailies, Chwila (Lwów) and Nowy dziennik (Kraków) as well as to the Galician Yiddish papers, Der yid and Togblat. In order to increase his influence throughout Poland, he also founded a short-lived second Zionist Polish-language daily in Warsaw, Dziennik Warzsawski. Reich’s remains were taken to Tel Aviv in 1934.

Suggested Reading

Natan Michael Gelber, Toldot ha-tenu‘ah ha-tsiyonit be-Galitsyah, 2 vols. (Jerusalem, 1958); Leon Reich, ed., La question des minorités nationales en Europe Orientale (Paris, 1921); Leon Reich, Delegacja Pokojowa w Paryżu (Lwów, 1922); Yakov Tsineman, In gerangl: Eseyen, artiklen, retsenzyes (Paris, 1952).