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Sejm

SEJM

SEJM , the Polish parliament (from 1922 also the senate as an upper house) During the existence of the Polish republic between the two world wars, there were six terms which varied in length and electoral principles. The first or legislative term (1919–22) produced the 1921 constitution. It operated in a time of emergency, when the young state was being consolidated while at war with external enemies and undergoing an internal ferment caused by alien national groupings. Jewish representation, with 11 seats, was only 3% as against a proportion of 11% for the general population. The delegates elected from the Jewish lists constituted a parliamentary club called the "Free Union of the Delegates of Jewish Nationality in the Sejm," consisting of Zionists, Orthodox, *Folkspartei, and *Po'alei Zion, most of whom had a definite connection with the "National Jewish Council" which was under Zionist influence. The struggle for national and civil rights against the hostility of most of the Sejm required daring, a capacity for suffering, and perseverance. The small number of Jewish members prevented in the beginning a suitable representation in the parliamentary committees and thus limited their possibilities of political action.

The Second Sejm (and Senate) (1922–27) was of particular importance. It provided a background to considerable political changes in the stormy life of the country and in the means adopted by the Jewish representatives in their struggle, their number having reached 35 in the Sejm and 12 in the Senate as a result of their being organized during the election in the framework of the *Minority Bloc. This enabled them to overcome the obstacles in the perverse election regulations. In that situation of party divisions and social struggle in the Sejm and outside, there was an increase in the importance of the Jewish Club (Kolo Zydowskie) which had become consolidated. Its successive presidents were O. *Thon, Yiẓḥak *Gruenbaum, L. *Reich, and M.A. *Hartglas. The Jewish deputies were active in important committees, and in the plenum were outstanding through their speeches on specifically Jewish subjects and even on general questions. The leadership throughout that entire period was in the hands of the Zionist group, which was split by matters of principle into two schools of thought: the radical faction led by Gruenbaum, standing for greater links with the national minorities and a policy of fighting the government, and the Galician Zionists, headed by Reich and Thon, who had reservations about adhering too closely to the minorities alliance and attempted to achieve a rapprochement with the Polish government by means of an "agreement" (*Ugoda).

The last four Sejms marked a reduction in the importance of the legislature following the progressively stronger Fascist tendencies of the Polish government. These were expressed primarily in a sharp struggle between the "Sanacja" government and the parliamentary opposition, which began in 1935 as a result of the new constitution which attacked electoral freedom through selective candidature and appointment made by ruling circles. In an atmosphere of political pressure by the regime, the disintegration of the Minority Bloc, and the inclusion of Jewish candidates in the government list (bbwr), there began a most drastic process of contraction in Jewish representation in the Sejm and the Senate, as shown in these figures: Third Sejm (1928) – 22 Jewish seats; Fourth Sejm (1930) – 11 Jewish seats; Fifth Sejm (1935) – 6 Jewish seats; Sixth Sejm (1938) – 7 Jewish seats. Under these conditions of internal disruption among the Jewish representatives and intensified manifestations of antisemitism both among the extreme reactionary parties and in the government camp (*ozon), there was no chance of developing real political activity, apart from a defensive attitude of despair and expressions of protest against the injury to the Jewish population, which was caught up in a process of grave decline.

bibliography:

I. Schiper (ed.), Żydzi w Polsce odrodzonej, 2 (1932), 286–359; L. Halpern, Polityka żydowska w Sejmie i Senacie Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej 19191933 (1933); H.M. Rabinowicz, Legacy of Polish Jewry (1965), 45–63; I. Schwarzbart, Tsvishn Beyde Milkhomes (1958), 206–52. add. bibliography: A. Ajnenkiel, Historia Sejmu polskiego (1989); Sprawozdania stenograficzne z posiedzen Sejmu rp 19191922, 19221939; S. Netzer, Ma'avak Yehudei Polin al Zekhuyoteihem ha-Ezraḥiyot ve-ha-Le'ummiyot 19181922 (1980).

[Moshe Landau]

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