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Primed for Violence
Murder, Antisemitism, and Democratic Politics in Interwar Poland

Winner of the Kulczycki Book Prize in Polish Studies

The assassination that changed a nation

In 1922, the new Republic of Poland democratically elected its first president, Gabriel Narutowicz. Because his supporters included a Jewish political party, an opposing faction of antisemites demanded his resignation. Within hours, bloody riots erupted in Warsaw, and less than a week later the president was assassinated. In the wake of these events, the radical right asserted that only “ethnic Poles” should rule the country, while the left silently capitulated to this demand.

As Paul Brykczynski tells this gripping story, he explores the complex role of antisemitism, nationalism, and violence in Polish politics between the two World Wars. Though focusing on Poland, the book sheds light on the rise of the antisemitic right in Europe and beyond, and on the impact of violence on political culture and discourse.


Author. Photo credit, Name Paul Brykczynski is an independent historian who lives in Ontario.





“An outstanding and welcome contribution to scholarship on Polish nationalism, the history of antisemitism, political violence, fascism, and democratic politics [that] will resonate with the public at large as we grapple with contemporary challenges to democracy across the globe.”
Slavic Review

“This assiduously researched, impeccably argued, and well-illustrated book should be required reading for anyone interested in modern Polish history and/or the evolution of the Polish nation more broadly.”
Polish Review

“On the whole, Brykczynski’s study is innovative and ground-breaking. It provides a fascinating window into the role of antisemitism in Polish politics between the two world wars, and clearly demonstrates how hateful rhetoric and violence can transform political culture.”
Antisemitism Studies

“The book is undoubtedly a valuable contribution to the history of interwar Poland.”

“The interwar period was an often violent time in which the demons of the twentieth century increasingly had their way. Brykczynski places the assassination of President Gabriel Narutowicz in the context of growing antisemitism and the emerging challenge to democracy in the recently independent Polish nation. An important story, thoroughly researched and compellingly told.”
—John Merriman, Yale University

“Makes significant, interesting contributions to a wide range of historiographies, including debates about the place of civic nationalism in interwar political discourse and about the power and reach of interwar antisemitism.”
—Eva Plach, Wilfred Laurier University

“As exciting as a good novel, but meticulously researched and offering sophisticated historical analysis.”
—Piotr Wróbel, University of Toronto

“Discusses the 1922 election of Gabriel Narutowicz as the first president of the new Republic of Poland; describes how his victory, with the support of a Jewish political party, enraged the right, provoked riots, and led to his murder less than a week later.”
Chronicle of Higher Education

“Brykczynski gives his narrative considerable immediacy by relying on available newspaper accounts.”


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Primed for Violence
Larger images

New in paperback!

January 2018
LC: 2015036809 DS
240 pp. 6 x 9
21 b/w illus.

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Paper $19.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-30704-2
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Casebound $65.00 s
ISBN 978-0-299-30700-4
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