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Kraushar, Aleksander

(1843–1931), historian, poet, and translator. Born in Warsaw, Aleksander Kraushar came from a moderately prosperous commercial family—his father, Herman, was a senior broker in the Warsaw stock exchange. Kraushar attended a scientific gymnasium and was in the same class as the banker Hipolit Wawelberg. He then studied law at the Szkoła Główna, the proto-university established by Aleksander Wielopolski in the early 1860s.

During the uprising of 1863, Kraushar coedited the journals Prawda and Niepodległość (the semiofficial organ of the underground government) and coordinated the production of military manuals for publication in Leipzig. When the insurrection failed, he completed his law studies and developed a successful legal practice in Warsaw. He also published articles in the integrationist journals Jutrzenka and Izraelita. In 1865–1866 he published the assimilationist Historia Żydów w Polsce (History of the Jews in Poland) in two volumes. In 1883, he married Jadwiga Bersohn (the daughter of art collector and philanthropist Mathias Bersohn), a marriage that strengthened his links with Warsaw’s Jewish assimilationist elite.

By the mid-1880s, Kraushar was sufficiently wealthy to retire from his legal practice; subsequently, he devoted himself to cultural and artistic interests. The salon he conducted at his home became a center for the revival of the Polish national spirit. His support for assimilation now took an extreme form; he and his wife converted to Roman Catholicism in 1903, and he supported the National Democratic movement in its initial phase, before it became openly antisemitic. He also largely ceased writing about Jewish subjects.

Kraushar is chiefly remembered today for his historical works, texts that were characterized not only by his frequent incorporation of new sources, but also by amateurishness and a lack of rigor. His history of Polish Jewry was subjected to criticism by Sergei Bershadsky, the historian of Russian Jewry. Perhaps the most important of Kraushar’s historical works were his two-volume study of the Frankist movement, Frank i frankiści polscy 1726–1816 (Frank and the Polish Frankists 1762–1816; 1895), his legal studies, and his local histories of Warsaw. He also edited his father-in-law’s Diplomataryusz dotyczący Żydów w dawnej Polsce na źródłach archiwalnych osnuty (1388–1782) (Collection of Documents on the History of the Jews in Poland Found in the Archives [1388–1782]; 1910) and published several volumes of poetry (in a conventional romantic–patriotic vein) and two volumes of memoirs.

Kraushar played an active role in Polish cultural life. Particularly with the freer conditions that emerged after the Revolution of 1905, he remained faithful to his longstanding liberal principles. He participated in the creation of Przegląd Historyczny (Historical Review), cofounded the Towarystwo Milośników Historii (Society of History Lovers), helped to organize the Towarzystwo Naukowe Warszawskie (Warsaw Scholarly Society), and served as a member of the Polska Akademia Umiejętności (Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences).

Suggested Reading

Jerzy Maternicki, “Kraushar, Alexsander,” in Polski Słownik Biograficzny, vol. 15, pp. 241–244 (Warsaw, Wrocław, and Kraków, 1970); Jacob Shatzky, “Alexander Kraushar and His Road to Total Assimilation,” YIVO Annual of Jewish Social Studies 7 (1952): 146–174.