Dr Gotlib’s cigarette case

The collections of the JHI enriched by a precious bequest from a private donor.

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In the last month, the artistic collection of the Jewish Historical Institute was enriched by a precious bequest from Cracow that includes – among other objects – a silver cigarette case belonging to doctor Gabriel Gustaw Gotlib, a portrait of his wife, writer Barbara Czałczyńska by Henryk Gotlib, and an anonymous plaster sculpture of Jewish boy, made in the interwar period. Our benefactor is Mrs Teresa Reguła, a concentration camp prisoner as a child, and later a sociologist who worked at the Psychiatry Clinic of Collegium Medicum, Jagiellonian University. 

Mrs Reguła, being attached to her Jewish family roots, has been collecting Judaica for decades, and she already presented some of them to the JHI last spring (for example, a spice tower, a chanukiah, a kiddush cup and a tefillin bag). The abovementioned cigarette case deserves special attention, being both a decorative object of high quality and an historical memento reminding us of an interesting personal story. It was made in 1944, in the workshop of Morgan & Boon, a well-known luxury silverware maker based in Birmingham, that apart from cigarette cases also produced ash trays as well as „all requisites for the smoker” (according to the firm’s advertising materials). The firm operated since 1918 and its headquarters were situated then in Vyse Street, thus in the famous Jewellery Quarter, one of the biggest centers of silverware production in Europe. Gabriel Gustaw Gotlib (or alternatively Gotlieb), a graduate of Lviv and Vienna Universities, received the case on 22th March 1945 as a gift from x-ray ward staff at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, Scotland, with whom dr. Gotlib co-worked during the 2nd World War as the director of radiology department at Royal Northern Infirmary in the same city – inside the case, there is an inscription with dedication and outside the GGG monogram (referring to the owner’s initials) adorns the covering. It is probable that the date inscribed here was the one after which dr. Gotlib returned from Scotland to Poland, where he assumed the directorship of radiology at the Hospital of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Cracow. Dr. Gotlib already lived there before the war, having a private x-ray laboratory in Grodzka street. He married Barbara only in this post-war period – she was much younger than him and many years after his death she became the president of the Cracow branch of the Club of Catholic Intellectuals. 

Dr Gotlib was a brother of the painter Henryk Gotlib (1890–1966), a member of an informal artistic association called the Cracow Group, with which dr. Gotlib was closely associated himself. Henryk Gotlib painted a portrait of his brother in 1929 (now in private collection) that was on view during the historic exhibition Żydzi – Polscy (lit. in English: Jews – Polish) at the National Museum in Cracow in 1989.

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