Bundist leaders at a Poland-wide gathering, Warsaw, 1928; (left to right) Yisroel Lichtenstein, Yitskhok Rafes, Henryk Erlich, Yekusiel Portnoy, and Bella Shapiro. At left is a portrait of Bundist leader Vladimir Medem, who died in 1923; at upper right, a portrait of Bundist leader Bronisław Grosser (1883–1912). The Yiddish banner reads: “Bund in Poland. Proletarians from all lands unite!” Photograph by Ch. Bojm. (YIVO)

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Grosser, Bronisław

(1883–1912), Bundist, writer, and theorist on Jewish nationalism. Bronisław Grosser was born in Miechów, Congress Poland, to a middle-class Jewish family. Raised in a wholly Polish cultural milieu, he regarded himself as fully Polish during his childhood. Even though Grosser’s parents had not converted, they had severed their ties to the Jewish community to such an extent that Grosser did not know about his Jewish origins until the second decade of his life. During his years at a gymnasium in Warsaw, Grosser first began to wrestle with his Jewish background, gradually moving away from the assimilationist spirit in which he was raised. At 13, he studied Hebrew with his uncle.

After graduating gymnasium in 1902, Grosser joined the Bund and went abroad to study law. In Switzerland, he became active in the Bund’s Foreign Committee, and wrote the first Polish-language circulars for transport to tsarist Russia. The party immediately recognized Grosser’s abilities as well as his value as the first Jewish intellectual to join the Bund whose native tongue was Polish. Grosser coedited the Bund’s first two Polish-language organs, Głos Bundu (1904–1905), and Nasze Hasło (1906). On his initiative, the party issued a resolution in 1906 supporting the demand for Polish self-government in Congress Poland.

Grosser was recognized as one of the party’s most articulate defenders of Jewish national–cultural autonomy. With the Bund’s shift from political activity to cultural work after 1907, Grosser was a staunch advocate of secular Yiddish culture, and became the head of the Jewish Literary Society’s Warsaw branch in 1910. He was present at the Bund’s Eighth Party Conference in Lemberg that same year, and he also used the pages of Wiedza, a legal Polish socialist journal, to defend the Bund’s program to the Polish public while forcefully condemning the rise of antisemitism in the center and right-wing political parties.

Grosser also worked with Polish socialists sympathetic to Jewish national rights. In 1912, he and Maksymilian Horwitz of the Polish Socialist Party–Left formed a joint list in elections to the Fourth Duma. In the same year, Grosser was elected to the central committee of the Bund and completed his studies in the faculty of law at Saint Petersburg University. Grosser became ill and tragically died of typhus in a Saint Petersburg hospital in December 1912. In his autobiographical sketch, written in Yiddish in 1911 and dedicated to his four-year-old daughter, Grosser defined himself as a Polish Jewish socialist whose task was “to defend the interests of the Jewish workers in Poland and to defend the interests of Poland in the hearts of the Jewish workers” (Grosser, 1967, p. 441). Grosser became a Bundist legend, with several cultural, educational, and health institutions established in his name in interwar Poland, including the famous Bronisław Grosser Library in Warsaw.

Suggested Reading

Sofia Dubnov-Erlich, “Bronislav Groser,” in Doyres bundistn, ed. Ya‘akov Herts, vol. 1, pp. 319–334 (New York, 1956); Bronislav Grosser, “From Pole to Jew,” in The Golden Tradition, ed. Lucy Dawidowicz, pp. 435–441 (New York, 1967); Zalman Reyzen, ed., Leksikon fun der yidisher literatur, prese un filologye, vol. 1, pp. 620–623 (Vilna, 1928; rpt., Amherst, Mass., 1999).

YIVO Archival Resources

RG 415, John (Joseph Solomon) Mill, Papers, 1907-1938.