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HISTORY OF THE JEWS IN RUSSIA AND POLAND - S.M. Dubnow




jewish genealogy in Argentina

HISTORY OF THE JEWS IN RUSSIA AND POLAND

FROM THE DEATH OF ALEXANDER I UNTIL THE DEATH OF ALEXANDER III

by S.M. Dubnow

A Project Gutenberg EBook

4. FURTHER OUTBREAKS IN SOUTH RUSSIA

The barbarism displayed in the metropolis of the south-west communicated itself with the force of an infectious disease to the whole region. During the following days, from April to May, some fifty villages and a number of townlets in the government of Kiev and the adjacent governments of Volhynia and Podolia were swept by the pogrom epidemic. The Jewish population of the town of Smyela [1] and the surrounding villages, amounting to some ten thousand souls, experienced, on a smaller scale, all the horrors perpetrated at Kiev. It was not until the second day, May 4, that the troops proceeded to put an end to the violence and pillage which had been going on in the town and which resulted in a number of killed and wounded. In a near-by village a Jewish woman of thirty was attacked and tortured to death, while the seven year old son of another woman, who had saved herself by flight, was killed in beastly fashion for his refusal to make the sign of the cross.

[Footnote 1: In the government of Kiev.]

In many cases the pogroms had been instigated by the newly arrived Great-Russian "bare-footed brigade" who having accomplished their "work," vanished without a trace.

A similar horde of tramps arrived at the railway station of Berdychev. But in this populous Jewish center they were met at the station by a large Jewish guard who, armed with clubs, did not allow the visiting "performers" to leave the railway cars, with the result that they had to turn back. This rare instance of self-defence was only made possible by the indulgence of the local police commissioner, or _Ispravnik_, who, for a large consideration, blinked at the endeavor of the Jews to defend themselves against the rioters. In other places, similar attempts at self-defence were frustrated by the police; occasionally they made things worse. Such was the case in the town of Konotop, in the government of Chernigov, where, as a result of the self-defence of the Jews, the mob passed from plunder to murder. In the villages the ignorant peasants scrupulously discharged their "pogrom duty," in the conviction that it had been imposed upon them by the Tzar. In one village in the government of Chernigov, the following characteristic episode took place. The peasants of the village had assembled for their work of destruction. When the rural chief, or Elder, [1] called upon the peasants to disperse, the latter demanded a written guarantee that they would not be held to account for their failure to comply with the imperial "orders" to beat the Jews. This guarantee was given to them. However, the sceptical rustics were not yet convinced, and, to make assurance doubly sure, destroyed six Jewish houses. In various villages the priests found it exceedingly difficult to convince the peasants that no "order" had been issued to attack the Jews.

[Footnote 1: The president of the village assembly.]

The series of spring pogroms was capped by a three days' riot in the capital of the South, in Odessa (May 3-5), which harbored a Jewish population of 100,000. In view of the immense riff-raff, which is generally found in a port of entry of this size, the excesses of the mob might have assumed terrifying dimensions, had not the authorities remembered that the task entrusted to them was not exactly that of forming an honorary escort for the rioters, as had actually been the case in Kiev. The police and military forces of Odessa attacked the rioting hordes which had spread all over the city, and, in most cases, succeeded in driving them off. The Jewish self-defence, organized and led by Jewish students of the University of Odessa, managed in a number of cases to beat off the bloodthirsty crowds from the gates of Jewish homes. However, when the police began to make arrests among the street mob, they drew no line between the defenders and the assailants, with the result that among the eight hundred arrested persons there were one hundred and fifty Jews, who were locked up on the charge of carrying fire-arms. In point of fact, the "arms" of the Jews consisted of clubs and iron rods, with the exception of a very few who were provided with pistols. Those arrested were loaded on three barges which were towed out to sea, and for several days were kept in that swimming jail.

The Odessa pogrom, which had resulted in the destruction of several city districts populated by poor Jews, did not satisfy the appetites of the savage crowd, whose imagination had been fired by stories of the "successes" attained at Kiev. The mob threatened the Jews with a new riot and even with a massacre. The panic resulting from this threat induced many Jews to flee to more peaceful places, or to leave Russia altogether. The same lack of completeness marked the pogroms which took place simultaneously in several other cities within the jurisdiction of the governor-general of New Russia. In the beginning of May the destructive energy characterizing the first pogrom period began to ebb. A lull ensued in the "military operations" of the Russian barbarians which continued until the month of July of the same year.

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