SOMMERSTEIN, EMIL

SOMMERSTEIN, EMIL (1883–1957), Zionist leader in Galicia and Polish Jewish leader. Born in the village of Hleszczawa in the district of Tarnopol, Galicia, Sommerstein practiced law in Lvov. His Zionist activities began during his student years, when he founded the Zionist Students' League in Galicia (1906). He later played a leading role in the Galician Zionist Federation, of which he became chairman. He was a member of the Polish Sejm from 1922 until 1939 (with a break from 1927–29). He was active in several Jewish institutions and organizations, especially economic ones. Due to him, the Jewish Academic House, the first of its kind in Europe, was established in Lvov in 1910. He specialized in economic and financial law and published several books on these subjects in Polish (1924–28). Sommerstein took part in the establishment of the world jewish congress . At the end of September 1939, with the entry of the Soviet army into Lvov, he was arrested and taken to Kiev. He was transferred from prison to prison until he was liberated at the beginning of 1944 in a general amnesty. In spring 1944 Sommerstein was invited by the Soviet authorities to represent Polish Jewry in Moscow and was even received by Stalin. Together with the Soviet-sponsored Association of Polish Patriots, he followed in the wake of the Soviet army's advance into Polish territory. He was co-opted onto the Polish Committee for National Liberation, which was established in Chelm in July 1944 and became the provisional government of liberated Poland. He moved to Lublin with the government and then to Warsaw (February 1945). Sommerstein was among the founding members of the Central Committee of Polish Jewry and also served as its president. He played an important role in arranging for the repatriation of 140,000 Polish Jewish refugees from the Soviet Union. He was a member of the editorial board of the central Jewish organ, Dos Naye Lebn, which commenced publication in liberated Poland. In April 1946 he headed a delegation of Polish Jews to the U.S., where he suffered from a paralytic disease from which he never recovered. He died in New York and his remains were taken to Israel and buried in Tel Aviv (See also poland , Contemporary).   -BIBLIOGRAPHY: N.M. Gelber, Toledot ha-Tenu'ah ha-Ẓiyyonit be-Galiẓyah, 2 vols. (1958), index; AJYB, 59 (1958), 477. (Nathan Eck)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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