Local Heroes & Villains

more than a year ago
As Poland's fifth biggest city and one of its oldest, it's only sensible to assume that a few famous (and infamous) people have hailed from these parts.

A few need no introduction, take Paul von Hindenburg for example, the former president of the Weimar Republic. And Jan A.P Kaczmarek (1953) a composer who grabbed an Oscar in 2005 for the score of Finding Neverland. Another who found fame in Hollywood was Krzysztof Komeda (1931 – 1969), a jazz legend who also scored themes for Roman Polański’s classics Knife in the Water and Rosemary’s Baby. He died falling off a rock. Other names, however, will have you scratching your head and staring into space. Take for instance the marvellously titled Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki (1797-1873). This guy lead quite a life and his story includes being exiled out of town for trying it on with a fifteen year old girl. An aristocrat, explorer and geologist he escaped Russian ruled Poland for life in England where he became friends with Florence Nightingale and later went on to discover gold in Australia. In 1840 he became the first man to scale Australia’s highest peak.

Then there's Paul Leonhardt, a German chess genius who died during a match in 1934. More famous Germans who hailed from Posen/Poznań come in the form of Lothar von Arnauld de La Periere, recognised as the most successful U-Boat ace ever with 141 sinkings to his name.

One thoroughly nasty product of Posen/Poznań was Arthur Liebehenschel who would go on to achieve infamy as Commandant of Auschwitz and Majdanek concentration camps. Justice caught up with him and he was executed in 1948. Then there is Gunther von Kluge (1882-1944) - a Nazi field Marshall, born in Posen (as Poznań was known in its German days), who was aware of the plot to kill Hitler, but failed to support the conspirators after it failed. Having been summoned to meet a fuming Hitler he took his life with cyanide.

On a less sinister note there is Lilli Palmer (1914-1986) a Posen born, German actress once married to screen smoothie Rex Harrison.

On the sporting front there's Maciej Żurawski (1976) the hotshot striker who played for Wisła Krakow and Glasgow Celtic as well as the Polish national team.

Finally many will recognise the name of Małgorzata Dydek (1974-2011), the Polish basketball player who tragically passed away in the spring of 2011, aged just 38. Dydek, who was pregnant with her third child, was reported to have suffered a heart attack from which she never recovered. She had held the record for the tallest woman (218cm) ever to play in the WNBA where she played for Los Angeles Sparks.


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