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Schwarzbart, Ignacy

(1888–1961), Polish Zionist leader. Born in Chrzanów, Ignacy (Yitsḥak) Schwarzbart took a law degree at Kraków’s Jagiellonian University, where he was a member of the Zionist student association Przedświt (The Dawn). Following service in the Austrian and Polish armies during and after World War I, he settled in Kraków and opened a law practice.

As a lawyer, Schwarzbart played an active role in local Zionist affairs, in the 1920s publishing articles in the Yiddish and Polish Jewish press and from 1921 to 1925 serving as an editor of the Kraków Jewish daily Nowy Dziennik. His journalistic activity propelled him into the chairmanship of the Zionist Federation of West Galicia and Silesia, which chose him to be a delegate to successive Zionist Congresses in the 1920s and 1930s. He became a member of the Zionist General Council after 1933. In 1931 he organized the establishment of the World Union of General Zionists, serving as chairman until its 1935 split, then as head of the faction known as Group B.

Schwarzbart was also prominent in other political arenas between the wars. He was active in the movement that eventually established the World Jewish Congress, was a Zionist representative on the Kraków Jewish community board, and was a member of the Jewish faction in the Kraków city council. In 1938 he was elected to the Polish Sejm (the lower house of parliament).

These activities notwithstanding, Schwarzbart joined the first rank of Polish Jewish leaders only with the outbreak of World War II. Fleeing the September 1939 German invasion together with other members of the Polish government and Sejm, Schwarzbart participated in the establishment of a Polish exile government in France, and later, England. In December 1939 he was named to the Polish National Council. In this capacity he served as a vigorous advocate for Jewish rights in the future liberated Poland and lobbied for assistance for Polish Jews under German occupation. From 1942 he was a key figure in the transmission of news about the Holocaust to the West and in promoting rescue activities. He argued that Polish leaders should devote resources to Jewish needs both because Polish Jews constituted an integral part of the Polish body politic and because Jews around the world could be important allies in pursuit of Poland’s political goals. His strategy proved only marginally successful, as Schwarzbart was frequently exasperated by Polish reluctance to include Jews.

Following the war, Schwarzbart headed the organizational department of the World Jewish Congress in New York.

Suggested Reading

David Engel, In the Shadow of Auschwitz: The Polish Government-in-Exile and the Jews, 1939–1942 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1987); David Engel, Facing a Holocaust: The Polish Government-in-Exile and the Jews, 1943–1945 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1993); Dariusz Stola, Nadzieja i zagłada: Ignacy Schwarzbart—żydowski przedstawiciel w Radzie Narodowej RP, 1940–1945 (Warsaw, 1995).

YIVO Archival Resources

RG 1258, Philip Friedman, Papers, 1930s-1959; RG 409, Jehiel Meir Ben-Abraham Sochachewsky, Papers, 1920s-1950s; RG 493, Michael Zylberberg, Collection, 1939-1945; RG 622, Malka Heifetz Tussman, Papers, 1928-1965.