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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

2. THE POGROM PANIC AND THE BEGINNING OF THE EXODUS

The feeling of safety, which had been restored by the published portion of the imperial reply at the audience of May 11, was rapidly evaporating. The Jews were again filled with alarm, while the instigators of the pogroms took courage and decided that the time had arrived to finish their interrupted street performance. The early days of July marked the inauguration of the second series of riots, the so-called summer pogroms.

The new conflagration started in the city of Pereyaslav, in the government of Poltava, which had not yet discarded its anti-Jewish Cossack traditions. [1] Pereyaslav at that time harbored many fugitives from Kiev, who had escaped from the spring pogroms in that city. The increase in the Jewish population of Pereyaslav was evidently displeasing to the local Christian inhabitants. Four hundred and twenty Christian burghers of Pereyaslav, avowed believers in the Gospels which enjoin Christians to love those that suffer, passed a resolution calling for the expulsion of the Jews from their city, and, in anticipation of this legalized violence, they decided to teach the Jews a "lesson" on their own responsibility. On June 30 and July 1, Pereyaslav was the scene of a pogrom, marked by all the paraphernalia of the Russian ritual, though unaccompanied this time by human sacrifices. The epilogue to the pogrom was marked by an originality of its own. A committee consisting of representatives of the municipal administration, four Christians and three Jews, was appointed to inquire into the causes of the disorders. This committee was presented by the local Christian burghers with a set of demands, some of which were in substance as follows:

[Footnote 1: Comp. Vol. I, p. 145.]

  That the Jewish aldermen of the Town Council, as well as the Jewish   members of the other municipal bodies, shall voluntarily resign from   these honorary posts, "as men deprived of civic honesty" [1]; that   the Jewish women shall not dress themselves in silk, velvet, and   gold; that the Jews shall refrain from keeping Christian domestics,   who are "corrupted" in the Jewish homes religiously and morally;   that all Jewish strangers, who have sought refuge in Pereyaslav,   shall be immediately banished; that the Jews shall be forbidden to   buy provisions in the surrounding villages for reselling them; also,   to carry on business on Sundays and Russian festivals, to keep   saloons, and so on.

[Footnote 1: This insolent demand of the unenlightened Russian burghers met with the following dignified rebuttal from the Jewish office-holders: "What bitter mockery! The Jews are accused of a lack of honesty by the representatives of those very people who, with clubs and hatchets in their hands, fell in murderous hordes upon their peaceful neighbors and plundered their property." The replies to the other demands of the burghers were coached in similar terms.]

Thus, in addition to being ruined, the Jews were presented with an ultimatum, implying the threat of further "military operations."

As in previous cases, the example of the city of Pereysslav was followed by the townlets and villages in the surrounding region. The unruliness of the crowd, which had been trained to destroy and plunder with impunity, knew no bounds. In the neighboring town of Borispol a crowd of rioters, stimulated by alcohol, threatened to pass from pillage to murder. When checked by the police and Cossacks, they threw themselves with fury upon these untoward defenders of the Jewish population, and began to maltreat them, until a few rifle shots put them to flight.

The same was the case in Nyezhin, [1] where a pogrom was enacted on July 20 and 22. After several vain attempts to stop the riots, the military was forced to shoot at the infuriated crowd, killing and wounding some of them. This was followed by the cry: "Christian blood is flowing--beat the Jews!"--and the pogrom was renewed with redoubled vigor. It was stopped only on the third day.

[Footnote 1: In the government of Chernigov.]

The energy of the July pogroms had evidently spent itself in these last ferocious attempts. The murderous hordes realized that the police and military were fully in earnest, and this was enough to sober them from their pogrom intoxication. Towards the end of July, the epidemic of vandalism came to a stop, though it was followed in many cities by a large number of conflagrations. The cowardly rioters, deprived of the opportunity of plundering the Jews with impunity, began to set fire to Jewish neighborhoods. This was particularly the case in the north-western provinces, in Lithuania and White Russia, where the authorities had from the very beginning set their faces firmly against all organized violence.

The series of pogroms perpetrated during the spring and summer of that year had inflicted its sufferings on more than one hundred localities populated by Jews, primarily in the South of Russia. Yet the misery engendered by the panic, by the horrible apprehension of unbridled violence, was far more extensive, for the entire Jewish population of Russia proved its victim. Just as in the bygone Middle Ages whenever Jewish suffering had reached a sad climax, so now too the persecuted nation found itself face to face with the problem of emigration. And as if history had been anxious to link up the end of the nineteenth century with that of the fifteenth, the Jewish afflictions in Russia found an echo in that very country, which in 1492 had herself banished the Jews from her borders: the Spanish Government announced its readiness to receive and shelter the fugitives from Russia. Ancient Catholic Spain held forth a welcoming hand to the victims of modern Greek-Orthodox Spain. However, the Spanish offer was immediately recognized as having but little practical value. In the forefront of Jewish interest stood the question as to the land toward which the emigration movement should be directed: toward the United States of America, which held out the prospect of bread and liberty, or toward Palestine, which offered a shelter to the wounded national soul.

While the Jewish writers were busy debating the question, life itself decided the direction of the emigration movement. Nearly all fugitives from the South of Russia had left for America by way of the Western European centers. The movement proceeded with elemental force, and entirely unorganized, with the result that in the autumn of that year some ten thousand destitute Jewish wanderers found themselves huddled together at the first halting-place, the city of Brody, which is situated on the Russo-Austrian frontier. They had been attracted hither by the rumor that the agents of the French _Alliance Israelite Universette_ would supply them with the necessary means for continuing their journey across the Atlantic. The central committee of the _Alliance_, caught unprepared for such a huge emigration, was at its wit's end. It sent out appeals, warning the Jews against wholesale emigration to America by way of Brody, but it was powerless to stem the tide. When the representatives of the French _Alliance_, the well-known Charles Netter and others, arrived in Brody, they beheld a terrible spectacle. The streets of the city were filled with thousands of Jews and Jewesses, who were exhausted from material want, with hungry children in their arms. "From early morning until late at night, the French delegates were surrounded by a crowd clamoring for help. Their way was obstructed by mothers who threw their little ones under their feet, begging to rescue them from starvation."

The delegates did all they could, but the number of fugitives was constantly swelling, while the process of dispatching them to America went on at a snail's pace. The exodus of the Jews from Russia was due not only to the pogroms and the panic resulting from them, but also to the new blows which were falling upon them from all sides, dealt out by the liberal hand of Ignatyev.



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