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Hessia Meyerovna Helfman


HELFMAN, HESSIA MEYEROVNA (1855–1882), Russian revolutionary. Born in Mozyr near Minsk (Belorussia) into a rich family, Hessia Helfman left home at the age of 16 and joined the revolutionary movement in Kiev. In 1875 she was arrested and was one of the accused in the "Trial of Fifty." She was sentenced to two years imprisonment and on her release was banished to Staraya Russa. She escaped, however, and joined the terrorist Narodnaya Volya party in St. Petersburg where she helped to run a clandestine press and distributed propaganda among students and workers. In 1881 Hessia Helfman was sentenced to death, together with five other revolutionaries, for complicity in the assassination of Czar Alexander II. Because she was pregnant at the time, her execution was delayed, and as a result of protests from abroad, the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. She died in the Peter-and-Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg shortly after the birth of the child, which was taken from her. Hessia Helfman did not take part in the assassination itself and was the only Jewish person among the six condemned. Nevertheless antisemitic groups blamed the Jews for the murder of the Czar.

Sources:Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.