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Lieberman, Hermann

(1870–1941), lawyer and socialist politician. Born in Drohobycz, Galicia, into an assimilated family, Hermann Lieberman became active in Polish patriotic activities while still a high school student. He studied in Paris and at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków; then practiced law in Przemyśl, where he frequently defended political activists. He became active in the Polish Socialist Party (PPS) of Galicia and Silesia and in 1905 opposed the establishment of a separate Jewish Social Democratic Party, modeled on the Bund in the tsarist empire.


Lieberman was elected to the Austrian Reichsrat in 1907 and 1911 and was also a member of the Przemyśl town council. In 1914, he joined the Polish Legion established by Józef Piłsudski to fight as an independent military force alongside the Austrians. For his bravery in the engagement at Kostiuchniówka, he was awarded the Krzyż Walecznych (Cross of Valor). When a small, nominally independent Polish state under German tutelage was established in November 1916 and the bulk of the legionnaires refused to swear an oath of allegiance to the German Reich, Lieberman defended those who were interned in a number of trials.


In 1919, Lieberman was elected on the PPS list to the Polish Sejm. He was a member of the PPS Central Council and between 1931 and 1934 served as vice president of its Central Executive Committee. After the coup of May 1926, despite his earlier links with Józef Piłsudski, he moved quickly into the opposition and was one of the principal figures in the creation of the Centrolew (Center Left) that challenged the new government. In his capacity as marshal (speaker) of the Sejm, he was a key figure in the impeachment of the minister of finance, Gabriel Czechowicz, who had—with Piłsudski’s encouragement—used official funds to support the government party, the Non-Party Bloc for Cooperation with the Government (BBWR) in the election of 1928. When Piłsudski took violent action against the democratic opposition, Lieberman was one of those arrested and mistreated in the military fortress of Brześć (Brest).


In 1933, as one of the leaders of the Centrolew, Lieberman was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment but escaped to Czechoslovakia and later went to France, where he worked in the International Labor Organization and the League for the Defense of the Rights of Man and Citizen. He was the representative of the radical wing of the Polish Socialist Party in-exile and cooperated with the Communists to organize help for the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War. In 1940, he moved to London and in September 1941 was appointed minister of justice for the Polish government-in-exile, thus becoming the first Jew in a Polish cabinet. He died in the following month.

Suggested Reading

Józef Buszko, Ruch socjalistyczny w Krakowie, 1890–1914 (Kraków, 1961); Herman Lieberman, Pamiętniki (Warsaw, 1996); Adam Próchnik, Pierwsze piętnastolecie Polski niepodległej (Warsaw, 1983); Janusz Żarnowski, Polska Partia Socjalistyczna w latach 1935–1939 (Warsaw, 1969).

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