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Wiślicki, Wacław

(1882–1935), economist, Sejm deputy, representative of the Central Office of the Merchants Association in Poland, a Jewish organization committed to cooperation with the Polish authorities. Born in Warsaw and raised in an acculturated environment, Wacław Wiślicki attended the Leopold Kronenberg High School for Commerce and then studied economics in Brussels. In 1907, tsarist authorities arrested him for supporting the revolutionary youth movement.

During World War I, Wiślicki served as a representative of the Warsaw Straż Obywatelska (citizens’ militia) in the city’s Jewish quarter. In 1913, he joined the Związek Kupców (Association of Merchants), which later expanded to become the Central Office of the Merchants Association in Poland; he was elected president of the latter in 1930. Wiślicki was also involved in other economic and social organizations; for example, he was a board member of the Chambers of Industry and Commerce of the Republic of Poland.

In 1922, Wiślicki was elected to the Sejm, serving until his death 13 years later. Although he was not a member of a Jewish political party, he belonged to the “Jewish Circle” of deputies until 1926. He was also connected to the Sanacja camp of Marshal Piłsudski before joining the Bezpartyjny Blok Współpracy z Rządem (Non-Party Bloc for Cooperation with the Government; BBWR) in 1928. Despite this political choice, he defended Jewish concerns and fought against antisemitism; for example, in 1926 protesting pogroms in Romania by publicly returning a Romanian prize awarded to him. He saw himself as an advocate not only of Jewish merchants but also of the economic interests of Poland’s general Jewish population.

After Hitler seized power in 1933, Wiślicki played a leading role in the Polish anti-Hitler boycott campaign and was vice president of the World Committee of the Economic Boycott Movement against Nazi Germany, and was a cofounder of the magazine Nasza Obrona (Our Defense). When the Polish government altered its policies toward Nazi Germany in 1934, at first seeking to soften and then remove the economic boycott against German firms, Walery Sławek, chairman of the BBWR, pressured Wiślicki to resign from the boycott committee. Refusing, Wiślicki appeared as a defense witness in the trial of Warsaw merchant Naum Abraham Halbersztadt, who in autumn 1935 was charged with insulting Hitler. Despite Wiślicki’s passionate defense, Halbersztat was ultimately convicted.

Deeply disappointed by these later political developments, Wiślicki died on 3 October 1935. In the early stages of World War II, his wife and children escaped to the east and survived the Holocaust in the Soviet Union before returning to Poland in 1945.

Suggested Reading

Beate Kosmala, Juden und Deutsche im polnischen Haus: Tomaszów Mazowiecki, 1914–1939 (Berlin, 2001), pp. 278–280; Alfred Wiślicki, “Wacław Wiślicki: Działacz polityczny,” Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego w Polsce 2/158 (1991): 73–86; Alfred Wiślicki, “The Jewish Boycott Campaign against Nazi Germany and Its Culmination in the Halbersztadt Trial,” Polin 8 (1994): 282–289.