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Belmont, Leo

(1865–1941), writer, poet, and translator. Leo Belmont (Leopold Blumental) graduated from the University of Warsaw and practiced law in Saint Petersburg and Warsaw. A well-known publicist before World War I, he was harassed by tsarist authorities for his radical views. He wrote for the Polish and Polish Jewish press, cooperated with the assimilationist weekly Izraelita, and edited the democratic weekly Wolne Słowo (Free Word; 1907–1913). He also wrote film reviews and screenplays. Belmont was a founder of the Polish Esperanto Society, and he translated extensively into that language and strove to popularize it.

Belmont’s novel W wieku nerwowym (In a Nervous Age; 1890) is among the best-known works of Polish modernism and was an early manifestation of the decadent spirit. He wrote lyric and satire (Rytmy i rymy [Rhythms and Rhymes]; 1900) and popular novels, including mysteries, and vie romancées (e.g., a fictionalized biography of Theodor Herzl, Mojżesz współczesny [Modern Moses; 1931]). He translated German, Russian, and French works into Polish.

Baptized in 1913, Belmont continued to oppose what he considered to be the backwardness of the traditional Jewish community, and to criticize both Jewish “separatism” and Polish antisemitism. Faith in the triumph of progress and intellectual freedom permeated, for example, his introduction to Salomon Maimon’s autobiography (1913), Pyrrhusowe zwycięstwo rabinów w sprawie uboju rytualnego (The Pyrrhic Victory of the Rabbis in the Matter of Ritual Slaughter; 1936), a brochure written under the pseudonym Fortado, as well as his essays published in the journal Wolnomyśliciel Polski (Polish Freethinker). Belmont assumed that the period around 1900 marked the crisis of assimilation and praised Zionism for reviving the Jewish national spirit. Nevertheless, he believed in the possibility of Polish–Jewish coexistence based on the principles of justice. He died in the Warsaw ghetto.

Suggested Reading

Adam Grzymała-Siedlecki, “Leo Belmont,” in Nie pożegnani, pp. 231–235 (Kraków, 1972); Edward Kozikowski, “Leo Belmont,” in Więcej prawdy niż plotki: Wspomnienia o pisarzach czasów minionych, pp. 32–47 (Kraków , 1964).



Translated from Polish by Christina Manetti; revised by Magda Opalski