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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

CHAPTER XXVII



RUSSIAN REACTION AND JEWISH EMIGRATION

1. AFTERMATH OF THE POGROM POLICY

In this wise, beginning with the May laws of 1882, the Government gradually succeeded in monopolizing all anti-Jewish activities by letting bureaucratic persecutions take the place of street pogroms. However, in 1883 and 1884, the "street" made again occasional attempts to compete with the Government. On May 10, 1883, on the eve of Alexander III.'s coronation, a pogrom took place in the large southern city of Rostov-on-the-Don. About a hundred Jewish residences and business places were demolished and plundered. All portable property of the Jews was looted by the mob, and the rest was destroyed. As was to be expected, "the efforts of the police and troops were unable to stop the disorders," and only after completing their day's work the rioters fled, pursued by lashes and shots from the Cossaks. The Russian censorship strictly barred all references to the pogroms in the newspapers, for fear of spoiling the solemnity of the coronation days. The press was only allowed to hint at "alarming rumors," the effect of which extended even to the stock exchange of Berlin. Not before a year had passed was permission given to make public mention of the Rostov events.

There was reason to fear that the pogrom at Rostov was only a prelude to a new series of riots in the South. But more than two months had passed, and all seemed to be quiet. Suddenly, however, on July 20, on the Greek-Orthodox festival dedicated to the memory of the prophet Elijah, the Russian mob made an attack upon the descendants of the ancient prophet at Yekaterinoslav. The memory of the great biblical Nazirite who abhorred strong drink was appropriately celebrated by his Russian votaries in Yekaterinoslav who filled themselves with an immense quantity of alcohol and became sufficiently intoxicated to embark upon their daring exploits as robbers.

The ringleaders of the pogrom movement were not local residents but itinerant laborers from the Great-Russian governments, who were employed in building a railroad in the neighborhood of the South-Russian city. These laborers, to quote the expression of a contemporary, attended to the "military part of the undertaking," whereas the "civil functions" were discharged by the local Russian inhabitants:

  While the laborers and the stronger half of the residents were   demolishing the houses and stores and throwing all articles and   merchandise upon the street, the women and children grabbed   everything that came into their hands and carried them off, by hand   or in wagons, to their homes.

The looting and plundering continued on the second day, July 21, until a detachment of soldiers arrived. The mob, intoxicated with their success, attempted to beat off the soldiers, but naturally suffered defeat. The sight of a score of killed and wounded had a sobering effect upon the crowd. The pogrom was stopped, after five hundred Jewish families had been ruined and a Jewish sanctuary had been defiled. In one devastated synagogue the human fiends got hold of eleven Torah scrolls, tearing to pieces some of them and hideously desecrating other copies of the Holy Writ, inscribed with the commandments, "Thou shalt not murder," "Thou shalt not steal," "Thou shalt not commit adultery"--which evidently ran counter to the beliefs of the rioters.

The example set by Yekaterinoslav, the capital of the government of the same name, proved to be contagious, for during August and September pogroms took place in several neighboring towns and townlets. Among these the pogrom at Novo-Moskovsk on September 4 was particularly violent, nearly all Jewish houses in that town having been destroyed by the mob.

The year 1884 was marked by a novel feature in the annals of pogroms: an anti-Jewish riot outside the Pale of Jewish Settlement, in the ancient Russian city of Nizhni-Novgorod, which sheltered a small Jewish colony of some twenty families. While comparatively circumscribed as far as the material loss is concerned, the Nizhni-Novgorod pogrom stands out in ghastly relief by the number of its human victims. A report, based upon official data, which endeavors to tone down the colors, gives the following description of the terrible events:

  The "disorders" [a euphemism for excesses accompanied by murder]   began on June 7 about nine o'clock in the evening, due to the   instigation of several half-drunk laborers who happened to overhear   a Christian mother telling her child, who was playing with a Jewish   girl, to stop playing with her, as the Jews might slaughter her. The   work of destruction began with the Jewish house of prayer which was   crowded with worshippers. It was followed by the demolition of five   more houses owned by Jews. In these houses the mob destroyed   everything that fell into its hands. The doors and windows were   broken and everything inside was thrown into the streets. On this   occasion six adults and one boy was killed; five Jews were wounded,   two of whom died soon afterwards.

The governor of Nizhni-Novgorod reported that the disorders could not possibly have been foreseen. Yet there can be no doubt that the people were to a certain extent prepared for them. The investigations of the police and the judicial inquiry both converged to prove that the Nizhni-Novgorod excesses were prompted primarily, if not exclusively, by the desire for plunder. In all demolished houses not a single article of value that could be removed was destroyed, and not only money but anything at all that was fit for use was looted. That the disorders broke out on the seventh of June was, in the opinion of the governor, entirely accidental, but that they were directed against the Jews was due to the fact that the _people had been led to believe that even the the gravest crimes were practically unpunishable, so long as they were were committed against the Jews, and not against other nationalities_.

An additional reason for the pogrom was the reputed wealth of a goodly number of the Jewish families of Nizhni-Novgorod. The judicial investigation brought out the fact that before attacking the offices of Daitzelman, a big Moscow merchant, the mob was directed by shouts: "Let us go to Daitzelman; there is a lot to be gotten there." The murder of Daitzelman, who was beloved by his Russian laborers, and that of other Jews, was not prompted by revenge, but by mere purposeless savagery. It is impossible to assume that the mob was moved to action by the rumor which had been spread by the ringleaders of the rioting hordes concerning the kidnapping of a Christian child by the Jews--the more so since at the very beginning of the excesses the police produced the supposedly kidnapped child whole and intact, and showed it to the crowd. The pogrom was due primarily to the savagery of brutal and unenlightened mobs, who found an opportunity to vent their beastly instincts, fortified by the conviction of complete immunity, which is referred to in the report of the governor.

Even the central Government in St. Petersburg was alarmed by the St. Bartholemew night which had been enacted at Nizhni-Novgorod. At the recommendation of Governor Baranov, the murderers were tried by court-martial and suffered heavy punishment. Nevertheless, the same governor thought it his duty to appease the Russian popular conscience by ordering the expulsion of those Jews whom the police had found to live outside the Pale "without a legal basis." In this wise, the Russian administration once more managed to follow up a street pogrom by a legal one, not realizing the fact that the atrocities perpetrated upon the Jews by the mob were merely a crude copy of the atrocities perpetrated upon them by the Government, and that the outlawed condition of the Jews bred the lawlessness and violence of the mob, which was fully aware of the anti-Semitic sentiments of the official world. The bloody saturnalia of Nizhni-Novgorod had, however, the beneficent effect that the Government, fearing the spread of the conflagration outside the Pale and even outside Jewry, took energetic steps to prevent all further excesses. As a matter of fact, the Nizhni-Novgorod pogrom was the last in the annals of the eighties--with the exception of a few unimportant occurrences in various localities. For six years "the land was quiet," and the monopoly of "silent pogroms," in the shape of the systematic denial of Jewish rights, remained firmly in the hands of the Government.



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