Digital history & historiography

Tracing the ‘Jewish Freedom Fighter’. The legacy of Naftali Botwin and the construction of a transnational cult of Jewish heroes

This article discusses the transnational heroic cult that developed in Yiddish communist circles around the figure of Naftali Botwin, a young Polish-Jewish communist who was executed by Polish authorities in the city of Lwów, following a trial in which he was convicted for assassinating a police infiltrator in the ranks of the Polish Communist Party (KPP). The discussion highlights how Botwin’s legacy was appropriated in multiple, and sometimes contrasting, ways in the decades following his death, especially within the context of the creation of the Botwin Company in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War. In doing so it will also highlight the transnational nature of this cult, as his memory lived on through poems, plays and publications that circulated through the worldwide networks and communicative spaces of Jewish (leftist) émigrés.

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