...

The death of Jan Grodkowski, a student of the Academy of Veterinary Medicine

ID: 67

One of the controversial cases, which occurred in Lviv in the early 1930s, was the death of Jan Grodkowski, a student of the Veterinary Academy. The event electrified a certain part of young people at all Lviv educational institutions, and in the nationalist circles the figure of Grodkowski grew into a symbol used for propaganda purposes during anti-Semitic demonstrations.

Related Places

Description

Vul. Shevska, 10 – residential building

Show full description
Description

Vul. Bankivska, 5 – residential building

Show full description
Description

Vul. Mechnikova – Lychakivskyi (Lychakiv) cemetery

Show full description
Description

Vul. Universytetska, 1 – Lviv Ivan Franko National University main building

Show full description
Description

Vul. Basarab, 1 – Academy of Veterinary's dormitory

Description

Pl. Osmomysla, 11 – residential building

History

On the evening of 26 November 1932, some students, who were members of the Lutyko-Venedia Association, which functioned at the Academy of Veterinary Medicine, arranged a party at the Koloński restaurant on ul. Trybunalska, 10 (now vul. Shevska). These parties used to be merry meetings of the members of academic associations, who drank beer and sang songs together. After the meeting, a part of the young men went to the Adria café on ul. Szajnochy, 5 (now vul. Bankivska). Another group, headed by Witold Wawrzynowicz and Tadeusz Winiecki went to the coffeehouse Royal on ul. Rutowskiego, 28 (vul. Teatralna, now pl. Osmomysla,11). When Wawrzynowicz left the Royal and was walking along ul. Legionów (now prosp. Svobody), he was attacked by an unknown man, who hit him in the face. The offender began to run away, and the students followed him in pursuit, towards the pl. Gołuchowskiego (now pl. Torhova), where the persecutors were hampered by a group of people of Jewish origin. A fight started between them and the pursuers.

In the meantime the group of young people, who had agreed to spend the rest of the evening at the Adria café, decided to leave the facility and to move to the restaurant Eldorado (ul. Szajnochy, 2, now vul. Kopernika, 4). Leaving the Adria, the students noticed on the street a group of Jews, who started singing. These were Mojżesz Katz, a baker, Nechemiasz Schmer, Szymon Keller, a printer, Izrael Tune, a waiter, and Stefania Surówka, a registered prostitute. There was a short exchange of replicas between the passers-by and the students, and then they came to blows. Grodkowski was stabbed. When help came, it was decided to take the wounded man to the hospital, but before arriving there he died in the ambulance (the death was caused by the loss of blood from the right axillary artery, which was cut). After Grodkowski was stabbed, Katz began to flee. He was stopped by Nowik, a policeman on point duty, to whom he shouted: "Please search me if I have a knife!". No knife was found. According to the testimony of Stefania Surówka, it was Izrael Tune who had a knife; however, the main accused was Mojżesz Katz, whom the police also suspected of beating another member of the Lutyko-Venedia Association (Tadeusz Winiecki, a student) on that fateful evening.

In spite of the fact that both the head of the Brotherhood of the Academy of Veterinary Medicine, Władysław Borowiak, and the head of the Lutyko-Venedia Association, made an appeal to their colleagues calling for restraint, it ended up in an unrest with an anti-Semitic coloring. During the following days, students broke up windows in Jewish shops and beat passers-by who were taken for Jews. The victims of the attacks were also Christians, including Zdzisław Deszberg, a City Savings Bank official, and Aleksander Hulimka, an estate owner. A group of youngsters stopped to beat the latter with sticks only when he testified that he was a Christian.

On Monday, November 28, the rectors of all Lviv educational institutions suspended classes. They called on young people to stay calm and did not allow to organize an all-university rally, fearing an outbreak of scandals and disorder.

On November 29, at the Lychakivskyi cemetery, the funeral of Jan Grodkowski was held. According to official figures, it was attended by 15,000 people, but the national press overestimated these statistics (Kurier Lwowski informed that the ceremony was attended by 40,000 people). The student's body was placed in the reception hall of the Veterinary Students' House on ul. Stalmacha (now vul. Basarab, 1). The solemn procession with the coffin, which was accompanied by academic associations with flags, went along ul. Szewczenki (now vul. Dniprovska) and ul. Piotra i Pawła (now vul. Mechnikova) streets to the cemetery. Some wrangles were caused by the Rector of the Jan Kazimierz University, Father Adam Gerstmann, who turned up with the rector's chain. After the funeral, the young people, who were returning from the cemetery, were divided into two groups: one part of them went to ul. Akademicka (now prosp. Shevchenka), while another group went to ul. Kopernika. On Akademicka street a group of 200-300 students cried out anti-Semitic slogans. Jews, who happened to pass there, were beaten by the gathered.

On November 30, at about noon, nearly 1,200 students assembled at the Jan Kazimierz University; they were addressed by Czesław Rojek and Adam Macieliński (both were the heads of the Academic Reading Room in different years). The latter called on the students to stay in their dormitories in the evening, persuading them that they could be attacked by armed groups of Jews on the streets. In the afternoon, police patrols stopped violations of public order, which burst out throughout the city. On the same day, Adolf Wille on ul. Kochanowskiego (now vul. Levytskoho), Josenberg Locher on ul. Szewczenki (now vul. Dniprovska), Ignacy Mandel on ul. Zielona (vul. Zelena), and Jakub Bochin on ul. Łyczakowska (vul. Lychakivska) were beaten by student groups. On ul. Leona Sapiehi (vul. Bandery) street some young people forced the Jews to close their shops. In the evening, around 22.15, Mojżesz Segal, who, after getting off the tram, tried to hide in the basement of his house, was attacked and beaten.

On the same day, a joint appeal for the preservation of peace was addressed to the university youth by the Archbishop of Lviv Bołesław Twardowski, the auxiliary bishop Franciszek Lisowski, and the Armenian Catholic Metropolitan, Archbishop Józef Teodorowicz. Three days later, on December 3, the Lviv Academic Committee issued a proclamation calling for calm. On the night of December 3 / December 4 it was quiet in the city, there were no incidents or acts of vandalism registered.

In general, during the unrest 90 students of Lviv educational institutions were detained by the police. 13 of them were sentenced to arrest, while 43 were released after administrative punishment. Many students were punished with a fine. When some young people were under arrest, others distributed leaflets of the following content:

We remind our colleagues that we shall not allow the case of the murder of Grodkowski of blessed memory to be artificially removed from the agenda of Polish public opinion. It is the duty of every one of our colleagues to remember the Jewish question and, according to his or her ability, to solve it daily, investing in it as much effort and self-sacrifice as possible. Not all of our detained colleagues have been released from prison, and this fact forces us to draw all our attention to this matter, in order to express our solidarity with the imprisoned colleagues if necessary.

 

Finally, the case of Grodkowski ended in court. The trial took place in the summer of 1933. For participating in the fight, the fatal injury to the student of the Academy of Veterinary Medicine and inflicting injuries to his colleagues Mojżesz Katz was sentenced to 4 years of imprisonment. Izrael Tune and Nechemiasz Schmer were acquitted for lack of evidence.

Sources

1. State Archive of Lviv Oblast (DALO) 110/4/352: 5, 6
2. DALO 110/4/369:1-3, 15, 25-26, 32.
3. DALO 110/4/370:3.
4. Biedrzycka A., Kalendarium Lwowa 1918-1939, (Kraków: Wydawnictwo Universitas, 2012), s. 639.
5. Chajes W., Semper Fidelis. Pamiętnik Polaka wyznania mojżeszowego z lat 1926-1939, (Kraków: Wydawnictwo Księgarni Akademickiej, 1997), s. 138.
6. Mazur G., "Sprawa śmierci Jana Grodkowskiego. Z dziejów wystąpień antyżydowskich we Lwowie w okresie międzywojennym", Myśl i polityka. Księga pamiątkowa dedykowana profesorowi Jackowi Marii Majchrowskiemu, red. B. Szlachta, (Kraków, 2011), s. 77-97, 86-88.
7. "Noc z wtorku na środę", Ilustrowany Kuryer Codzienny, 1932, nr 334, s. 13.
8. Piasecki W., "Jan Karski. Jedno życie. Kompletna opowieść", tom 1 (1914-1939): Madagaskar, (Kraków: wyd. Insignis, 2015), s. 143, 151.
9. http://www.archiwumkorporacyjne.pl/en/index.php/fraternities-museum/lviv/obotritia/ (accessed on 1.09.2017)
10. http://www.ipsb.nina.gov.pl/a/biografia/adam-maria-macielinski (accessed on 1.09.2017)

By Ewa Bukowska-Marczak