The 'Polish Dreyfus' Trial: 'He Wasn’t Executed for Spying, but for Being a Jew'

Tensions were high during the Soviet invasion of Poland a century ago. Rabbi Chaim Shapira was a scapegoat

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
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On August 27, 1920, Hasidic leader Rabbi Chaim Shapira from Płock, Poland, was executed. A Polish military firing squad killed him on the outskirts of town. Wrapped in a prayer shawl, Shapira cried out “Shema Yisrael” just before he died. He was 42 and a father of five.

He had been arrested days earlier on suspicion of collaborating with the enemy and denounced as a traitor. Several Polish residents of the city, including a laundress, a guard and a welder, told the authorities that while they were hiding in their cellars, they peeked out and saw Shapira standing on his balcony and signaling to the Soviet army the location of Polish troops.