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Heryng, Zygmunt

(1854–1931), early Polish socialist, economist, translator, and publicist. Zygmunt Heryng was born in Warsaw to a middle-class assimilated Jewish merchant family that “had been Polonized for several generations,” according to his memoirs. Heryng claimed to have taken part in patriotic demonstrations in Warsaw during the Polish uprising of 1863. In 1868–1869, while a gymnasium student in Warsaw, he first encountered socialist literature and became an activist. After graduation, Heryng studied briefly at the Commercial Academy in Vienna and subsequently, in 1875–1878, at the Mining Academy in Saint Petersburg.


In Russia, Heryng came under the influence of that country’s populist movement, and joined an illegal circle of revolutionary students. In 1878, he returned to Warsaw where, along with Stanisław Mendelsohn and Ludwik Waryński, he founded the Polish socialist movement. Heryng was arrested in April 1879, imprisoned at the notorious Warsaw Citadel, and then banished to Siberia. In Siberia, he met and married Helena Kon (Heryng), the older sister of Feliks Kon, another early Polish socialist of Jewish origin. Upon Heryng’s return to Warsaw in 1882, he supported himself by writing and teaching and became increasingly interested in economics and finance. In 1890, he published a booklet on the history of the ruble.


Heryng remained politically active throughout period before World War I. He joined the illegal Polish Socialist Party (PPS) in 1898, and in 1904 took part in demonstrations organized by the PPS at Grzybowski Square in Warsaw; this confrontation resulted in one of the first armed exchanges between Polish radicals and Russian gendarmes since 1863. During the Revolution of 1905, Heryng was active in the movement calling for the restoration of Polish-language schools in Congress Poland.


After World War I, Heryng refrained from political life but remained active as an economist, lecturer, and translator. He wrote several important economic studies and translated literary and scientific works into Polish. His main publications include Logika ekonomii (The Logic of Economics; 1896), Teoria i praktyka ekonimii (The Theory and Practice of Economics; 1897), Finansowe podstawy bytu ekonomicznego w niepodległej Polski (The Financial Basis of Economic Life in Independent Poland; 1917), and Rola kapitału amerykańskiego w życiu państwowym i gospodarczym Polski (The Role of American Capital in the National and Economic Life of Poland; 1928).


Zygmunt Heryng was the archetype of the early generation of Polish socialists of Jewish extraction. In none of his writings and publications did he refer to his Jewish background. Still, those who were close to him commented that “although [Heryng] was Polish in thought he was not ashamed of his Jewish origin” (Guterman, 1995, p. 61). One of Heryng’s sisters, Stefania, married Maksymilian Horwitz, the Jewish activist of the PPS, and another sister, Jadwiga, became a major activist in the PPS–Left. His son, Jerzy, was a leading member of the Polish Communist Party between the world wars.

Suggested Reading

Alexander Guterman, “Assimilated Jews as Leaders of the Polish Labour Movement between the Two World Wars,” Gal-Ed 14 (1995): 49–65; Stanisław Kalabiński, “Heryng Zygmunt Samuel,” Słownik biograficzny działaczy polskiego ruchu robotniczego, vol. 2, pp. 517–519 (Warsaw, 1987); Bożena Krzywobłocka Tyrowicz, “Heryng Zygmunt,” in Polski słownik biograficzny, vol. 9, pp. 481–482 (Wrocław, Warsaw, and Kraków, 1960–1961).

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