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jewish genealogy in Argentina



by S.M. Dubnow

A Project Gutenberg EBook


Outside the Pale of Settlement the net of disabilities was stretched out even more widely and was sure to catch the Jew in its meshes. Throughout the length and breadth of the Russian Empire, outside of the fifteen governments of Western Russia and the ten governments of the Kingdom of Poland, there was scattered a handful of "privileged" Jews who were permitted to reside beyond the Pale: men with an academic education, first guild merchants who had for a number of years paid their guild dues within the Pale, and handicraftsmen, so long as they confined themselves to the pursuit of their craft. The influx of "illegal" Jews into this tabooed region was checked by measures of extraordinary severity. The example was set by the Russian capital, "the window towards Europe," which had been broken through by Peter the Great. The city of St. Petersburg, harboring some 20,000 privileged Jews who lived there legally, became the center of attraction for a large number of "illegal" Jews who flocked to the capital with the intention, deemed a criminal offence by the Government, of engaging in some modest business pursuit, without paying the high guild dues, or of devoting themselves to science or literature, without the diploma from a higher educational institution in their pockets. The number of these Jews who obtained their right of residence through a legal fiction, by enrolling themselves as artisans or as employees of the "privileged" Jews, was very considerable, and the police expended a vast amount of energy in waging a fierce struggle against them. The city-governor of St. Petersburg, Gresser, who was notorious for the cruelty of his police regime, made it his specialty to hunt down the Jews. A contemporary writer, in reviewing the events of the year 1883, gives the following description of the exploits of the metropolitan police:

  The campaign was started at the very beginning of the year and   continued uninterruptedly until the end of it. Early in March the   metropolitan police received orders to search most rigorously the   Jewish residences and examine the passports. In the police stations   special records were instituted for the Jews. St. Petersburg was to   be purged of the odious Hebrew tribe. The contrivances employed were   no longer novel, and were the same which had been successfully tried   in other cities. The Jews were raided in regular fashion. Those that   were found with doubtful claims to residence in the capital were,   frequently accompanied by their families, immediately dispatched to   the proper railroad stations, escorted by policemen.... The time for   departure was measured by hours. The term of expulsion was generally   limited to twenty-four hours, or forty-eight hours, as if it   involved the execution of a court-martial sentence. And yet, the   majority of the victims of expulsion were people who had lived in   St. Petersburg for many years, and had succeeded in establishing   homes and business places, which could not be liquidated within   twenty-four hours or thereabout.... The hurried expulsions from the   capital resulted in numerous conversions to Christianity.... Amusing   stories circulated all over town concerning Jews who had decided to   join the Christian Church, and had applied for permission to remain   in the capital for one or two weeks--the time required by law for a   preliminary training in the truths of the new faith--but whose   petition was flatly refused because the police believed that a   similar training might also be received within the boundaries of the   Pale of Settlement.

As a matter of fact, fictitious conversions of this kind were but seldom resorted to in the fight against governmental violence. As a rule, the evasion of the "law" was effected by less harmful, perhaps, but no less humiliating and even tragic fictions. Many a Jewish newcomer would bring with him on his arrival in St. Petersburg an artisan's certificate and enrol himself as an apprentice of some "full-fledged" Jewish artisan. But woe betide if the police happened to visit the workshop and fail to find the fictitious apprentice at work. He was liable to immediate expulsion, and the owner of the shop was no less exposed to grave risks. Some Jews, in their eagerness to obtain the right of residence, registered as man-servants in the employ of Jewish physicians or lawyers. [1] These would-be servants were frequently summoned to the police stations and cross-examined as to the character of their "service." The answers expected from them were something like: "I clean my master's boots, carry behind him his portfolio to court," etc. Several prominent Jewish writers lived for many years in St. Petersburg on this "flunkeyish" basis--among them the talented young poet Simon Frug, [2] the singer of Jewish sorrow who was fast establishing for himself a reputation both in Jewish and in Russian literature.

[Footnote 1: Under the Russian law [see p. 166] Jews possessing a university diploma of the first degree were entitled to employ two "domestic servants" from among their coreligionists.]

[Footnote 2: See p. 330.]

It can easily be realized how precarious was the position of these men. Any day their passports might be found ornamented by a red police notation ordering their expulsion from the capital within twenty-four hours. All Russia was stirred at that time by the sensational story of a young Jewess, who had come to St. Petersburg or Moscow to enter the college courses for women, and in order to obtain the right of residence found herself compelled to register fictitiously as a prostitute and take out "a yellow ticket." When the police discovered that the young woman was engaged in studying, instead of plying her official "trade," she was banished from the capital. In 1886, England was shocked by the expulsion from Moscow of the well-known English Member of Parliament, the banker Sir Samuel Montagu (later Lord Swaythling). Despite his influential position, Montagu was ordered out of the Russian capital "within twenty-four hours," like an itinerant vagrant.

None of these tragedies, however, was able to produce any effect upon the ringleaders and henchmen of the Russian inquisition. The energy of the authorities spent itself primarily in the fight against the natural, yet, according to the Russian code, "illegal" struggle of the Jews for their existence and against the sacred right of man to move about freely. The merciless Russian law, trampling upon this inviolable right, drove human beings from village to town and from one town to another. In the hotbed of militant Judaeophobia, in Kiev, raids upon "illegal" Jewish residents were the order of the day. During the year 1886 alone more than two thousand Jewish families were evicted from the town. [1] Not satisfied with the expulsion of the Jews from the towns prohibited to them by law, the authorities contrived to swell the number of these towns by adding new localities which were part of the Pale and as such open to the Jews. In 1887, the large South-Russian cities Rostov-on-the Don and Taganrog were transferred from the Pale of Settlement [2] to the tabooed territory of the Don Army. Those Jews who had lived in these cities before the promulgation of the law were allowed to remain, but the new settling of Jews was strictly forbidden.

[Footnote 1: These intensified persecutions were popularly explained as an act of revenge on the part of the highest administration of the region, owing to a quarrel which had taken place between a rich Kiev Jew and a Russian dignitary.]

[Footnote 2: They formed part of the government of Yekaterinoslav.]

Not satisfied with constantly lessening the area in which, without any further restrictions, the Jewish population was gasping for breath, the Government was on the look-out for ways and means to narrow also the sphere of Jewish economic activity. The medieval system of Russian society with its division into estates and guilds became an instrument of Jewish oppression. The authorities openly followed the maxim that the Jew was to be robbed of his profession, to the end that it may be turned over to his Christian rival. Under Alexander II, the Government had endeavored to promote handicrafts among the Jews as a counterbalance against their commercial pursuits, and had therefore conferred upon Jewish artisans the right of residence all over the Empire. The change of policy under Alexander III is well illustrated by the ukase of 1884 closing the Jewish school of handicrafts in Zhitomir which had been in existence for twenty-three years. The reason for the enactment is stated with brazen impudence:

  Owing to the fact that the Jews living in the towns and townlets of   the south-western region form the majority of handicrafts-men, and   thereby hamper the development of handicrafts among the original   population of that region, which is exploited by them, the existence   of a specific Jewish school of handicrafts seems, in view of the   lack of similar schools among the Christians, an additional weapon   in the hands of the Jews for the exploitation of the original   population of that region.

Here the pursuit of handicrafts is actually stigmatized as a means of "exploitation." The true meaning of that terrible word, an invention of the Russian Government, is thereby put in a glaring light: the Jew is an "exploiter" so long as he follows any pursuit, however honorable and productive, in which a Christian might engage in his stead.

The slightest attempt of the Jew to enlarge his economic activity met with the relentless punishment of the law. The Jewish artisan, though permitted to live outside the Pale, had only the right to sell the products of his own workmanship. When found to sell other merchandise which was not manufactured by him he was liable, under Article 1171 of the Penal Code, not only to be immediately expelled from his place of residence but also to have his goods confiscated. The Christian competitors of the Jews, shoulder to shoulder with the police, kept a careful watch over the Jewish artisans and saw to it that a Jewish tailor should not dare to sell a piece of material, a watchmaker--a new factory-made watch with a chain (being only allowed to repair old watches), a baker--a pound of flour or a cup of coffee. The discovery of such a "crime" was followed immediately by cutting short the career of the poor artisan, in accordance with the provisions of the law.

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