Warsaw mayor bans commemoration of nationalist who assassinated Poland’s first president

The mayor of Warsaw, Rafał Trzaskowski, has banned an event due to take place on Saturday commemorating the nationalist figure who assassinated Poland’s first president in 1922 just five days after he had taken office.

“The idea of ​​honouring a political murderer is scandalous,” wrote Trzaskowski. “There is no place in Warsaw for manifesting hatred. And Polish law clearly prohibits praising a crime. That is why I have issued a ban on the assembly planned for 16 December.”

Rocznica zabójstwa pierwszego prezydenta RP Gabriela Narutowicza to niewątpliwie czas godny upamiętnienia. Ale pamięć należy się zabitemu prezydentowi, a nie jego zabójcy. Pomysł uczczenia mordercy politycznego jest skandaliczny. Nie ma w @warszawa miejsca na manifestowanie…

— Rafał Trzaskowski (@trzaskowski_) December 14, 2023

In 1922, Poland held its first presidential elections since regaining its independence four years earlier. Voting was conducted by members of parliament, and the final round saw Gabriel Narutowicz (pictured above, right) face off against Maurycy Zamoyski.

Narutowicz emerged victorious, having won votes in particular from the centre-left and representatives of Poland’s ethnic minorities. Zamoyski, by contrast, had been supported primarily by right-wing and nationalist elements, particularly those associated with the National Democracy (ND) movement.

The outcome immediately triggered demonstrations against the new president. Then, on 16 December, just five days after taking office, Narutowicz was fatally shot by Eligiusz Niewiadomski while visiting an art gallery.

Niewiadomski was quickly put on trial, sentenced to death and, on 31 January 1923, executed by firing squad. He was subsequently treated as a martyr by some right-wing nationalists.

Today in 1922 Polish president Gabriel Narutowicz was assassinated by a far-right sympathizer only five days into his presidency. Narutowicz had the support of various minorities, for which his right-wing opponents called him a „Jewish pawn”. His murderer was executed in 1923. pic.twitter.com/37ojWnx6Sk

— Stanley Bill (@StanleySBill) December 16, 2020

The name of the event’s organiser has been redacted from the document published by city hall. However, information in the file indicates that he identifies as one of the “comrades” (kamraci), the name adopted by followers of radical-right activist Wojciech Olszański.

Olszański was in 2021 among three men arrested for organising a march in which participants chanted “Death to Jews”.

The Warsaw authorities note that the organiser of Saturday’s planned event had, in a YouTube video, called Niewiadomski a “hero” who “protected Poland” and “held back the actions of freemasons”. (Narutowicz was a mason.)

The organiser had proposed holding a gathering on the evening of 16 December – the anniversary of the assassination – outside the Zachęta National Gallery of Art in the centre of Warsaw, which was where the assassination took place. He estimated 20 to 50 people would have attended.

Two police officers are hospitalised in critical condition after being shot in the head.

The man arrested for carrying out the attack had posted videos online threatening to kill police and expressing conspiratorial views, in particular relating to Jews https://t.co/TyHKr9AqvC

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 4, 2023

Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign PolicyPOLITICO EuropeEUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

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