Sliozberg, Henry

views updated


SLIOZBERG, HENRY (1863–1937), Russian jurist and communal worker. Born in Mir, Belorussia, Sliozberg was taken to Poltava, eastern Ukraine, by his family. Although he was an honors student in law at the university of St. Petersburg, Sliozberg was not accepted as a teacher there because he was a Jew. He became a successful private advocate but resigned to accept the (unofficial) position of legal counsel for the Russian Ministry of the Interior. In 1889 he became legal counsel on Jewish affairs to Baron H. *Guenzburg. The baron entrusted Sliozberg with various important tasks, including drafting memoranda to the authorities and defending Jews before the supreme judicial institutions in St. Petersburg. Sliozberg then devoted himself to Jewish communal work, adopting a stand somewhere between the old intercession methods and that of the modern public campaign introduced and employed by Jewish intelligentsia at the beginning of the 20th century. In his struggles with his opponents and in his attempts to influence the ruling circles, Sliozberg bolstered traditional intercession tactics with legal argumentation. He joined the "defense bureau" founded by the Jewish intellectuals of St. Petersburg, an office set up to defend the rights of the Jews through organized legal action. He was among the founders of both the *Society for Equal Rights for the Jews in Russia (1905) and the "Jewish People's Group" (1907) into which groups the delegates of the non-Zionist, Russian-Jewish intelligentsia – most of whom were connected with the Cadet (Liberal) Party – had united. Sliozberg also participated in the work of the "Political Bureau Assigned to the Jewish Representatives of the State Duma," whose task it was to guide Jewish representatives at the *Duma on behalf of their fellow Jews. Sliozberg also worked with the legal defense organization which dealt with *blood libels, notably with the *Beilis case (1912). During World War i he was one of the leaders of the committee of assistance to Jewish war refugees (*yekopo). He also acted as chairman of the Jewish community of St. Petersburg. During the revolution, Sliozberg was imprisoned briefly and his property was confiscated. In 1920 he left Russia for France where he participated in the communal life of Russian and Russian-Jewish immigrants and also became head of the Russian-Jewish community in Paris. In 1934 he testified as witness for the prosecution at the trial regarding the Protocols of the *Elders of Zion in Berne. His memoirs, Dela minuvshikh dney ("Bygone Days," 3 vols., 1933), are an important historical account of the Jewish communal life in Russia of the generation preceding the revolution.


V. Jabotinsky, in: G. Sliozberg, Dela minuvshikh dney, 1 (1933), ix–xiv (introd.); Kulisher, in: Yevreyskiy Mir, 2 (1941), 419–21; Kucherov, in: Kniga o russkom yevreystve (1960), 421–4; J. Frumkin et al. (ed.), Russian Jewry 1860–1917, 1 (1966), 226, 233–7, and index.

[Yehuda Slutsky]