Did you ever hear of Sholom Schwartzbard? Or Dagmar Šimková? Obscure but intriguing histories

Reply Sun 22 May, 2016 05:00 pm
I had never heard of either Sholom Schwartzbard or Dagmar Šimková until yesterday, when I happened to read separate articles about each of them. They've got close to nothing to do with each other, except for both being figures (victims? heroes?) of history who are unlikely to make the usual history books. And except for both making strident, personal crusades of their lives when some of the most momentous forces of violence in the 20th century bore down upon them.

Both these pieces make no bones about the author's own feelings about what transpired..


The Avenger Of Ukrainian Jewry

The trial of Sholom Schwartzbard for the murder of General Simon Petlura, which began on October 18, 1927, is [..] among the most sensational in French history, [..] comparable to the O.J. Simpson trial here in America in terms of the raw emotion it engendered and the broad international interest it provoked, as all of France focused obsessively upon the trial and the international media went wild.

Atypical of its era in that Jewish sensitivities were respected, Jewish interests ruled the day, and Jewish blood was avenged, the trial stands as the first time in world history that the victimization of a national group was acknowledged in a court of law.

General Petlura was "a renowned Ukrainian hero"; a nationalist leader who "led a Ukrainian separatist movement that opposed both the Tsarist and Leninist regimes, and helmed the provisional Ukrainian government after the Ukrainian puppet state set up by the Germans fell in November 1918". His troops also "killed more than 50,000 Jews, including fifteen members of Sholom Schwartzbard’s family", and there the story begins that would end in Paris eight years later.


Dangerous Women: Branded a threat to communism

Following the communist coup of February 1948 in Czechoslovakia, as many as 100,000 people were prosecuted for ‘political crimes’, most of whom were sentenced to lengthy periods in penal institutions and forced labour camps. The vast majority of Czechoslovak citizens who were interned for political crimes between 1948-1954 were men; [but between 5,000 – 9,000 women] were held in numerous prisons and forced labour camps across Czechoslovakia [..].

[In her] autobiographical account of her experiences in prison, [Dagmar] Šimková explains how her family were targeted after the communist coup of 1948 due to their ‘bourgeois origins’, because her father had been a banker. Their house was confiscated by the Communists and [..] Dagmar became involved in underground resistance activities, printing and distributing anti-communist leaflets and posters mocking the new Czechoslovakian leader, Klement Gottwald. In October 1952, following a failed attempt to help two male friends escape to the West to avoid compulsory military service, she was arrested, aged just 23. As the arresting officer led Dagmar Šimková to his car he told her to ‘take a good look around, you reactionary bitch!’ and taunted her that this could be the last time she saw her home or her mother for a very long time. She was subsequently sentenced to fifteen years in prison.

Šimková turned out to be no easy prisoner for the authorities. She bonded with other prisoners to subvert the prison regime, and even managed to escape a labour camp in Slovakia once for two days. She spent her final years in prison "in the women’s department ‘Hrad’ (Castle), which was specially created to house 64 women who were perceived by the authorities as being the ‘most dangerous’ political prisoners, in order to segregate them from the main prison population. Here, Šimková participated in several organised hunger strikes to demand better prison conditions [..]. She was also an active participant in the secret ‘prison university’ founded by her fellow prisoner Růžena Vacková, a former university professor who gave underground lectures on fine art, literature and languages".
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Reply Sun 22 May, 2016 05:38 pm
No, I haven't. I'm interested in those times though. Also, Vackova sounds interesting too, though not as astoundingly.
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Debra Law
Reply Mon 23 May, 2016 02:55 am
No, I haven't heard about these people. The summaries you provided are interesting. I'll check out the links.
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