Askenazy Szymon

Szymon Askenazy - Personal data
Date of birth: 28th December 1865
Place of birth: Zawichost
Date of death: 22nd June 1935
Place of death: Warszawa
Occupation: historian, diplomat
Related towns: Lviv, Getynga, Genewa

Szymon Askenazy (1866–1935) – famous historian and diplomat, professor at the Jan Kazimierz University in Lviv, founder of the Lviv School of History, also known as the Askenazy School.

He was a distant relative of Chacham Tzvi Ashkenazy. He was born in Zawichost on 28 December 1865. In 1887, he graduated from the Faculty of Law at the University of Warsaw and started practicing in an attorney’s office. He abandoned work to study history in Göttingen, where he received his doctorate in 1893. The following words were written on his doctoral diploma: Simonem Askenazy, Polonum in oppido Zawichost natum.

The inclusion of this now legendary sentence required much courage since Poland did not exist at that time, and the documents usually only mentioned the official citizenship of the student. After an unsuccessful attempt to start an academic career at the Jagiellonian University, he was invited by Professor Tadeusz Wojciechowski to the University of Lviv, where he received his habilitation and worked as a professor of history in the years 1898–1919 (he was granted full professorship in 1906). He was an advocate for the assimilation of Jews into the Polish society. He successfully represented assimilationist circles in elections to the Lviv Municipal Council, where he met with strong opposition from representatives of Zionist organisations. He supported the idea of the Polish Legions and cooperated with Józef Piłsudski. During World War I, he visited Switzerland, where he supported the struggle for Polish independence alongside Henryk Sienkiewicz, Gabriel Narutowicz and later also Ignacy Jan Paderewski.

In the years 1920–1923, he was a minister plenipotentiary at the League of Nations in Geneva. He used to describe himself as “a Pole born in Zawichost” who serves “Her Majesty, the Republic of Poland.”

He was denied a position at the University of Warsaw two times (1918, 1924), which was to a great extent the result of actions taken against him by Marceli Handelsman. Askenazy’s works, such as Łukasiński or Prince Józef Poniatowski, shaped the national consciousness of the generation that led to the reconstruction of Poland in 1918. He also published valuable academic books: Gdańsk and Poland (1919), Russia – Poland 1815-1830 (1907), Napoleon and Poland (1918–1919), The Polish-Prussian Alliance (1918).

Szymon Askenazy also conducted scientific research on the history of Polish Jews and their contribution to the history of Poland. For this purpose, he founded the journal Kwartalnik poświęcony badaniu przeszłości Żydów w Polsce (“Quarterly Dedicated to the Study of the Past of Jews in Poland”), which was published in the years 1911–1913.

Szymon Askenazy died in Warsaw on 22 June 1935. His funeral became an occasion for a big patriotic manifestation. The funeral procession stopped at the monument of Prince Józef Poniatowski and then was headed to the Jewish cemetery on Okopowa Street.

His wife Felicja died in 1941, and his only daughter Janina was murdered by Germans during the war.

Bibliography:

  • Adwokaci polscy Ojczyźnie / Polish advocates in the service of their Homeland, ed. Redzik A., Mikke S., Warsaw 2011.
  • Nurowski M., Szymon Askenazy. Wielki Polak wyznania mojżeszowego, Warsaw 2005.
  • Redzik A., Szymon Askenazy. Wielki Polak wyznania mojżeszowego, Warsaw 2005.
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