THE TRIAL OF SAMUEL SCHWARTZBARD IN OCTOBER 1927 (IN THE LIGHT OF THE FRENCH PRESS)
Ataman Symon Petlura, leader of the Ukrainian émigrés, was assassinated on Boulevard Saint-Michel in Paris on 25 May 1926. The assassin proved to be Samuel Schwartzbard, a French citizen and a Jewish refugee from Ukraine. The event widely echoed throughout Europe. The long-prepared trial, which took place in the second half of October 1927, attracted the attention of public opinion. Several days later, Petlura's assassin was acquitted, a fact which did not come as a surprise to the attentive observers of the trial. The French press published detailed accounts and comments relating to the court proceedings. An analysis of the contents of the press articles makes it possible to formulate a number of conclusions. First and foremost, divergent assessments of the deed committed by Schwartzbard coincided with the political sympathies and antipathies of the particular newspapers, which may be divided into three groups: 1) those which approved of Schwartzbard, stressing the pogroms of the Jewish population, and from the very outset treating the victim of the assassination as a defendant (the most conspicuous example being the communist 'L'Humanité'); 2) papers which restricted themselves to an exact observation of the court trial, but refused to print commentaries, or did so very cautiously ('Le Temps', 'L'Ere Nouvelle' or 'Le Petit Parisien'); 3) newspapers which perceived Schwartzbard's crime in an unambiguously negative light, and treated the assassin predominantly as a Bolshevik agent (centrist publications, especially the right-wing 'L'Intransigeant', 'L'Echo de Paris' or 'L'Action Française'). It must be noted that the French governing circles, headed by Quai d'Orsay, were not interested in granting the case further publicity, since it could deteriorate the already tense relations with the Soviet Union, which the latter threatened to severe. Up to this day, assessments of Schwartzbard, the assassination, the trial and the exonerating verdict differ and even exclude each other. These attitudes are particularly discernible in studies by Ukrainian and Jewish historians.
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