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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 XXX



BARON HIRSCH'S EMIGRATION SCHEME AND UNRELIEVED SUFFERING

1. NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT

Towards the end of the eighties the plan of promoting Jewish emigration from Russia, which had been abandoned with the retirement of Count Ignatyev, was again looked upon favorably by the leading Government circles. The sentiments of the Tzar were expressed in a marginal note which he attached to the report of the governor of Podolia for the year 1888. The passage of the report in which it was pointed out that "the removal of the Jewish proletariat from the monarchy would be very desirable" was supplemented in the Tzar's handwriting by the words "and even very useful." In reply to the proposal of the governor of Odessa to deprive Jewish emigrants of the right to return to Russia, the Tzar answered with a decided "yes." The official Russian chronicler goes even so far as to confess "that it was part of the plan to stimulate the emigration of the Jews (as well as that of the German colonists) by a more rigorous enforcement of the military duty "--a design which, from the political point of view, may well be pronounced criminal and which was evidently at the bottom of the severe military fines imposed upon the Jews. The same open-hearted chronicler adds:

  It may be easily understood how sympathetically the Government   received the proposal of the Jewish Colonization Association in   London, which had been founded by Baron de Hirsch in 1891, to   remove, in the course of twenty-five years, 3,250,000 Jews from   Russia. [1]

[Footnote 1: This figure represents the official estimate of the number of Russian Jews. In other words, the Government hoped to get rid of all Jews.]

The name of Maurice de Hirsch was not unknown to the Russian Government. For a few years previously it had had occasion to carry on negotiations with him, with results of which it had scant reason to boast. This great German-Jewish philanthropist, who was resolved to spend hundreds of millions on the economic and agricultural advancement of his co-religionists in Eastern Europe, had donated in 1888 fifty million francs for the purpose of establishing in Russia arts and crafts schools, as well as workshops and agricultural farms for the Jews. It was natural for him to assume that the Russian Government would only be too glad to accept this enormous contribution which was bound to stimulate productive labor in the country and raise the welfare of its destitute masses. But he had forgotten that the benefits expected from the fund would accrue to the Jewish proletariat, which, according to the catechism of Jew-hatred, was to be "removed from the monarchy." The stipulation made by the Russian Government to the representatives of Baron Hirsch was entirely unacceptable: it insisted that the money should not be handed over to Jewish public agencies but to the Russian Government which would expend it as it saw fit. Somebody conceived the shameful idea, which was accepted by the representatives of Baron Hirsch, of propitiating Pobyedonostzev by a gift of a million francs for the needs of his pet institution, the Greek-Orthodox parochial schools. The "gift" was accepted, but Hirsch's proposal was declined. Thus it came about that the Russian Jews were deprived of a network of model schools and educational establishments, while a million of Jewish money went to swell the number of the ecclesiastic Russian schools which imbued the Russian masses with crass ignorance and anti-Semitic prejudices. The Hirsch millions, originally intended for Russia, went partly towards the establishment of Jewish schools in Galicia, a work which met with every possible encouragement from the Austrian Government.

The generous Jewish philanthropist now realized that the assistance he was anxious to render to his Russian coreligionists could not take the form of improving their condition in their own country but rather that of settling them outside of it--by organizing the emigration movement. Hirsch's attention was called to the fact that, beginning with 1889, several groups of Russian Jews had settled in Argentina and, after incredible hardships, had succeeded in establishing there several agricultural colonies. The baron sent an expedition to Argentina, under the direction of Professor Loewenthal, an authority on hygiene, for the purpose of investigating the country and finding out the places fit for colonization. The expedition returned in March, 1891, and Hirsch decided to begin with the purchase of land in Argentina, in accordance with the recommendations of the expedition.

This happened at the very moment when the Moscow catastrophe had broken out, resulting in a panicky flight from "Russia to North and South America, and partly to Palestine. Baron Hirsch decided that it was his first duty to regulate the emigration movement from Russia, and he made another attempt to enter into negotiations with the Russian Government. With this end in view he sent his representative to St. Petersburg, the Englishman Arnold White, a Member of Parliament, belonging to the parliamentary anti-alien group, who was opposed to foreign immigration into England, on the ground of its harmful effect upon the interests of the native workingmen. Simultaneously White was commissioned to travel through the Pale of Settlement and find out whether it would be possible to obtain there an element fit for agricultural colonization in Argentina.

White arrived in St. Petersburg in May and was received by Pobyedonostzev and several Ministers. The martyrdom of the Moscow Jews was then at its height. Shouts of indignation were ringing through the air of Europe and America, protesting against the barbarism of the Russian Government, and the latter was infuriated both by these protests protests and the recent refusal of Rothschild to participate in the Russian loan. The high dignitaries of St. Petersburg who had been disturbed in their work of Jew-baiting by the outcry of the civilized world gave full vent to their hatred in their conversations with Baron Hirsch's deputy. White reported afterwards that the functionaries of St. Petersburg had painted to him the Russian Jew as "a compound of thief and usurer." Pobyedonostzev delivered himself of the following malicious observation: "The Jew is a parasite. Remove him from the living organism in which and and on which he exists and put this parasite on a rock--and he will die." While thus justifying before the distinguished foreigner their system of destroying the five million Jewish "parasites," the Russian Ministers were nevertheless glad to lend a helping hand in removing them from Russia, on condition that in the course of twelve years a large part of the Jews should be transferred from the country--in the confidential talks with White three million emigrants were mentioned as the proposed figure. White was furnished with letters of recommendation from Pobyedonostzev and the Minister of the Interior to the highest officials in the provinces, whither the London delegate betook himself to get acquainted with the living export material. He visited Moscow, Kiev, Berdychev, Odessa, Kherson, and the Jewish agricultural colonies in South Russia.

After looking closely at Jewish conditions, White became convinced that the perverted type of Jew which had been painted to him in St. Petersburg "was evolved from the inner consciousness of certain orthodox statesmen, and has no existence in fact." Wherever he went he saw men who were sober, industrious, enterprising business men, efficient artisans, whose physical weakness was merely the result of insufficient nourishment. His visit to the South-Russian colonies convinced him of the fitness of the Jews for colonization.

  In short--he writes in his report--if courage--moral courage,--hope,   patience, temperance are fine qualities, then the Jews are a fine   people. Such a people, under wise direction, is destined to make a   success of any well-organized plan, of colonization, whether in   Argentina, Siberia, or South Africa.

On his return to London, White submitted a report to Baron Hirsch, stating the above facts, and also pointing out that the assistance which should he rend red to the emigration work by the Russian Government ought to take the form of granting permission to organize in Russia emigration committees, of relieving the emigrants of the passport tax, [1] and of allowing them free transportation up to the Russian border.

[Footnote 1: The tax levied on passports for travelling abroad amounting to fifteen rubles ($7.50).]



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