Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Henryk Nitschmann, a polonophile, translator and composer from Prussian Elbląg

Henryk Edward Nitschmann was born on April 26, 1826 in Elbląg in the family of Henryk Leopold Nitschmann, court councilor, and Krystyna Florentyna Weinreich. From early childhood he showed an exceptional talent for languages. As a student of the Elbląg Gymnasium, he wrote poetry and translated literature into German. However, his poor health forced him to discontinue his studies. In 1843–1846 he was an apprentice on various estates in Masuria, where he became acquainted with the Polish culture. He had further encounters with Poles in Woroniny near Ostróda, where he leased a small estate (as compensation for military service), and in Pożary near Działdowo, in an estate bought by his father. In 1855–1856 he lived in Berlin, where he attended lectures of many famous scholars. After several educational trips in Europe, Nitschmann settled permanently in Elbląg in 1884. Here he spent the rest of his life. He never married and shared a household with his sister Augusta. He lived on the income from the inherited lands, which allowed him to devote himself exclusively to his interests and research. Nitschmann’s activity and especially his translations from Polish into German brought him fame in the circles of Polish intellectuals. He was also known locally as a citizen committed to the cultural life and philanthropy. Nitschmann died on April 27, 1905, a few years after the death of his beloved sister. Under his will, a foundation of his and his sister’s name was established whose mission was to support craftsmen and workers in need, musicians and music teachers who had fallen into poverty, and orphans. Seven years after his death, one of the streets in Elbląg was named after him.
1. The view of Rybacka street and the tower of St. Nicholas church in Elbląg according to the drawing of E. Gabel (1875–1938). The collections of the Museum of Archaeology and History in Elbląg.
2. The house in Rybacka street (Fischersstrasse) where Nitschmann lived. The first townhouse on the left. The collections of the State Archive in Gdańsk.