THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS — Friday, April 5, 1963
An Historic Anniversary: Detroit's
Role in American Protests Against
Czarist-Perpetrated Kishineff Pogrom
When we speak of freedom on Passover, we also imply courage. This Passover, more than
on any previous observance of the Festival of Freedom in the present century, we will be
thinking of the courage of a brave group of men, women and children who defied the Nazis,
who risked their lives in order that they could die as human beings rather than submit to the
fate that was in store for them in the ovens of Auschwitz and Treblinka.
While marking the 20th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto resistance which took place on
the Passover 20 years ago, we also recall many humiliations which inspired action and defense.
Our people in Russia formed self-defense groups after the pogroms in the first years of this
century. The story of the Kishineff pogrom and the manner in which American public opinion
was mobilized in condemnation of the outrages deserve special attention and this page is
devoted to it.
Reminder of Tragic .Years Under Czarism
Announcement has been made by the World
Federation of Bessarabian Jews, in Tel Aviv, that
the 60th anniversary of the frightful Kishineff pog-
rom will be commemorated in Israel on April 18.
Because the observance will occur on the 20th
anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, the me-
morial will assume special significance. But it stands
out as an event to be remembered on its own
infamous merits—as a reminder of the tragic years
when Jews were pawns in the hands of the black-
guards in Russia.
A rich literature is available describing the
events that transpired in Kishineff, the plotting
against the Jews that was encouraged by Russian
officials, the protests that were uttered against the
The Kishineff experience was so tragic that the
Jewish Publication Society of America published a
book, "The Voice of America on Kishineff," in 1904.
The 500-page volume was edited by the late Dr.
Cyrus Adler, the president of Dropsie College, who
later became president of the Jewish Theological
Seminary of America and of the American Jewish
In his lengthy introduction, Dr. Adler reviewed
the history of the events that led to the massacres.
A wealthy young Russian, Michael Ribalenko, was
murdered on Feb. 16, 1903, at Dubossary, a village
in the Southwestern Russian Government of Kher-
son, not far from the Bessarabian town of Kishineff.
It developed later that a relative of the murdered
young man had committed the crime, in the hope of
acquiring his fortune.
Ribalenko's body was found on Feb. 22, 1903,
but the rumor soon spread that Jews had committed
the crime in order to obtain Christian blood for
Passover matzos. The noted anti-Semite Krushevan's
anti-Semitic newspapers began a campaign of propa-
gating anti-Semitic propaganda in Kishineff and St.
Petersburg. Dr. Adler wrote in the volume he com-
piled for the JPS:
"The agitation against the Jews was fomented
throughout the month of March and during April,
until it culminated, at the Easter holidays, April
19-21, in a three days' riot directed against the Jews
of Kishineff. During this period of agitation, secret
societies were formed whose object was the exterm-
ination or the harassing of the Jews, and hordes of
Moldavian, Albanian, and Macedonian ruffians were
hired in outlying villages to come to the town at the
time designated for the attack upon the Jewish
"That the onslaught upon the Jews was not due
to an overmastering impulse of the moment, but had
been carefully planned, was obvious from the events
of the first day. There was not one mob, but several
mobs, operating at the same time in different local-
ities. The police were inactive, and the military was
not summoned, although representatives of the Jew-
ish community had called upon the Governor before
the riots began, and had warned him of the dangers
of the situation. Citizens belonging to the upper
classes of society permitted it to appear that their
sympathies were with the rioters, and on the part of
the authorities nothing was done until the second
day of the outrage was well advanced.
"The official report (June 7) of the Central
Relief Committee at Kishineff makes the following
statement of the depredations committed by the
`The number of families affected by the out-
rages is 2,750 of whom 2,528 reported to the Com-
mittee damages amounting to 2,332,890 roubles
(about $1,190,000). The number of victims killed on
the spot and dying in consequence of injuries was
47; the number of severely wounded, 92; slightly
injured, 345 (not including those treated by physi-
cians outside of the hopsitals). The 4'7 victims left
widows and 123 orphans. These figures do not take
into account the temporarily or permanently dis-
abled, nor can statistical inquiry reach those whose
business, trade, or position has been affected, more
or less seriously, by the industrial and economic
crisis that has ensued."
There were strong protests in this country. A
former president — Grover Cleveland — and many
leaders in Government, the press, the clergy, joined
in condemning the outrages.
Adding insult to injury, in spite of the contempt
that was expressed for Czarist Russia in all free
countries, was a statement issued by the Russian
Ambassador to the United States, Count Cassini,
who stated, on May 18:
"There is in Russia, as in Germany and Austria,
a feeling against certain of the Jews. The reason
for this unfriendly attitude is found in the fact that
the Jews will not work in the field or engage in
agriculture. They . prefer to be money lenders. Give
a Jew a couple of dollars and he becomes a banker
and money broker. In this capacity he takes advan-
tage of the Russian peasant, whom he soon has in
his power and ultimately destroys. It is when the
patience of the peasant is exhausted that a conflict
between peasants and Jews occurs. Ordinarily the
Russian is a patient person, but it is only natural
that he should entertain a feeling of resentment for
the one who has wrought his ruin. . . ."
Thus a spokesman for a great country proceeded
to misrepresent the facts and to deny realities as
they were exposed to indicate that a barbaric gov-
ernment fomented wholesale murders.
The Jewish Publication Society took the lead to
perpetuate the facts of that manifestation of horrors
and of the bestialities that were condoned by von
Plehve, the Russian Internal Minister, and other
members of his government.
As Dr. Adler indicated in his book, there were
meetings of protest in 50 towns in 27 states—includ-
ing Detroit. Hundreds of speeches, many sermons
and other public declarations were heard in condem-
nation of what had taken place in Kishineff. There
is included, in Dr. Adler's book, "an American Kish-
ineff dairy," giving a day-by-day account of the pro-
tests in this country.
The Mayor of Detroit at the time was William
C. Maybury, who was elected to the Mayoralty in
1897 and remained in office through 1904. There
were then 34 Aldermen representing 17 Wards. The
Aldermen at the time were:
George P. Codd, David E. Heineman, Edwin Jerome,
Clarence A. Black, William Gutman, William Nagel, Maurice
J. Keating, Albert T. Allan, Alois A. Deimel, Frederick Mohn,
Hugh R. Burns, Robert J. McClellen, Anthony Weiler, John
Weibel, William W. Magee, John Harpfer, Louis E. Tossy,
Basil A. Lemke, Edward J. Jeffries, Patrick O'Brien, Max
C. Koch, Herman F. Zink, Otto Reinhardt, Philip H. A.
Balsley, Joseph F Dederich, Louis Brozo, William F. Moeller,
Henry C. Nevermann, Jr., William H. Mates, Charles H.
Wieber, Edmund Atkinson, Hiram L. Rose, Fred W. Smith,
Of interest is the fact that one of the most
prominent Aldermen at that time was David E.
Heineman, one of Detroit's leading Jews in the early
part of this century, who was the designer of the
Flag of Detroit.
Dr. Adler's book, under the section reporting on
the Voice of Detroit against the Kishineff outrages,
includes the following:
In Detroit, Mich., a special committee of the Common Coun-
cil met with the Mayor and the Citizens' Committee. and at
a special session of the Common Council summoned for May
23, 1903, the following action was taken:
TO THE HONORABLE THE COMMON COUNCIL:
Gentlemen: Your special committee, appointed to consider
the communication of His Honor the Mayor, as to the action
of the citizens' committee, regarding the persecution of the
Jews in South Russia, beg leave to report that the committee
took up with the citizens' committee and the Mayor the
question of giving expression to our protest against perse-
cution for religion's sake of any people, and knowing it to
be un-American as well as unjust and unfair, we are united
in our recommendation that a formal protest be sent to the
Secretary of State of the United States, urging him to take
such action as may seem proper to end these persecutions,
or at least to intercede with the Russian Government in
Your committee therefore recommends the adoption of the
following preamble and resolutions, and would suggest that
they be forwarded to Senator Alger and Congressman
Lucking, both of whom are to be in the City of Washington
during the early days of the ensuing week. These repre-
sentatives and fellow-citizens can avail themselves of the
opportunity to present our protests to the Secretary of State
in person. The resolutions are appended herewith.
Respectfully submitted, -
David E. Heineman,
Max C. Koch,
Alois A. Deimel,
The following is the preamble and resolutions:
In pursuance of the resolutions of the citizens' meeting,
submitted to this body by His Honor the Mayor, and having
reference to the persecution of the Jews in South Russia,
it is unanimously
Resolved, By the Common Council of the City of De-
troit, that the massacres of the Jews in South Russia fill
the civilized world with a sense of horror and detestation,
and the sufferings of that people under the fearful cruelties
inflicted upon them, because of their religious faith, arouse
the deepest sympathy and pity of the American people.
Resolved, That we denounce these atrocities and the
perpetrators and abettors thereof, as wholly outside the pale
of Christian civilization.
Resolved, That on behalf of the united people of De-
troit we solemnly protest against the persecution of these
people, and appeal to the Government of Russia to suppress
such outrages and to visit upon the perpetrators the pun-
ishment they so richly deserve.
Resolved, That we urge upon the State Department
at Washington that the protest of the American people be
laid before the Government of Russia, to the end that that
Government may be fully advised of the attitude of the
American people in this most serious matter.
Resolved, That these resolutions be certified by the
City Clerk with the city seal, and signed by the Mayor, the
special committee of this body and the special citizens' com-
mittee, and forwarded to Senator Alger and Congressman
Lucking, with the respectful request that they present the
resolutions in person to the Secretary of State of the
In the section in Dr. Adler's book recording the
expression of editorial opinions in protest against
the Russian outrages, appears the following:
(Evening News, Detroit, Mich., May 25, 1903)
A WEAK CZAR AND A STRONG ANTI-SEMITE MINISTER
The present is hardly a time for a reasonable consideration
of the attitude of Russia toward the Jews. Every utterance
is proof that human passitins are too turbulent as yet to
consider all its aspects dispassionately.
Hebrews all over the world are justly indignant over the
recent massacre at Kishineff, Russia. All they can say in
execration of the government which allows such horrors as
have been committed is entirely justifiable. There is no
question but there is a fanatical religious element which is
struggling to make the state religion the universal faith, to
oppress all other religionists but those of the Greek Ortho-
dox church. This element has for its head one of the ablest,
most ruthless and intolerant of all the Russian ministers,
the procurator of the holy synod, K. P. Pobyedonostseff.
lie and his policy belong to an age that is past. He seems
to entertain the fatuous belief that an absolute despotism, in
which the civil ruler is made the nominal head of a hier-
archy, can dominate by force over spiritual as well as tern-
poral affairs. That many will die for their faith makes little
difference to a man of this type. He would harass heretics
without compunction, and would stop at little in his deter-
mination to coerce Jews, Lutherans, Roman Catholics and
other religious sects other than the Greek church.
The Czar appears to be a man of kind heart and actuated
by altruistic motives. A natural question is: Why does he
not carry into effect his good intentions? He could order
the governor of Kishineff, the local military authorities and
all the leaders in the outrages off to the Siberian mines,
or to the island of Saghalien. for life. Why does he not do
it? That would be a reasonable question if the present Czar
had the characteristics of Peter the Great and perhaps one
or two other Czars, who ruled as well as reigned. The present
Czar is a man of delicate constitution. He is the victim of a
nervous disease which robs him of the stamina that is needed
by any man who would be a real autocrat. He grew up in
an atmosphere of terror. His grandfather, the emancipator
of 20.000,000 serfs, was blown to pieces by an explosive bomb
when the present Czar was a lad of 12 years. His father was
under constant menace of death and had hundreds of hair-
breadth escapes. In some respects the Czar resembles Louis
XVI, a weak, amiable, well-meaning scion of more rugged
stock, who has fallen heir to problems not of his own cre-
ation. and which he may not be able to solve. It is easy
to see how such a monarch may be dominated by an ecclesi-
astic of great energy. Nicholas associated with Pobyedonos-
tseff, might be like Louis XIII with Richelieu and Mazarin.
The fact that he is a man of religious Tendencies and of high
ideals would make him peculiarly susceptible to clerical
Persuasion that is eager to crush the Lutherans in Finland
and the Jews everywhere.
The list of names of those who joined in the
Protests reads like a Who's Who in Jewry and Who's
Who in America. The great orator Zvi Hirsh Maslian-
sky, Simon Wolf of Washington, Dr. Marcus Jastrow,
Prof. Richard Gottheil, U. S. Senator Chauncey
Depew, Dr. Joseph Krauskopf, Joseph Barondess,
Judge Mayer Sulzberger, Jacob de Haas, Dr. Harry
Friedenwald, Felix Adler and many other prominent
Jews appeared at public meetings.
The tests of some of the addresses, in addition
to the editorials, appear in Dr. Adler's book.
Among the important exposes of the tragedy was
the book "Within the Pale, the True Story of Anti-
Semitic Persecution in Russia," by Michael Davitt,
who was sent to Kishineff to get the facts by the
New York American and the Evening Journal.
It was in response to a petition prepared by the
Bnai Brith for submission to the Emperor of Russia
that Secretary of State John Hay said:
"The fact that no civilized government has yet
taken action would bid us to proceed with care."
Thus, there always was, as there still is today,
President Theodore Roosevelt received the dele-
gation that presented the suggested petition, and he
"In any proper way by which beneficial action
may be taken, it will be taken, to show the sin-
cerity of the historic American position."
In addition to Grover Cleveland, Jane Addams,
Clarence Darrow, and the Rev. Madison C. Peters,
other noted Christian clergymen • spoke up against
• This is an abbreviated account of what
had taken place 60 years ago in Kishineff, the De-
troit protest against the outrages, America's voice in
condemnation of the inhumanities.
Much has happened since 1903 to lengthen the
record of the catastrophes that were faced by Jews
in Europe. None of the voices heard in disapproval
of pogroms, whether they were in Russia or in
Germany, should be silenced. By recalling the events
of 60 years ago, by supplementing them with ac-
counts of the heroism during the resistance against
Nazism in Warsaw 20 years ago, we retain a record
that puts to shame those who are responsible for
instigating man against man, those who instill
hatred in human society.
Non-Separation from Community
One of the important duties on Passover is that
we keep our community intact, that we live up to
the admonition in Pirke Aboth — Sayings of the
Fathers: "Separate not thyself from your community."
There have been too many evidences of Maverick
actions in our midst. Not all rabbis' names, for
example, appeared in the appeal setting aside a
special Sabbath to aid the United Jewish Appeal
and the Allied Jewish Campaign. One rabbi purport-
edly said that he could not, as an Orthodox, link
himself with Conservative and Reform rabbis. This
hardly spells non-separation. It negates the al tifrosh
min hatzibur principle. It is contrary to our tradi-
tions. It invites condemnation and rejection.
Unless, by such an approach, extremists wish to
write off at least two million American Jews who
adhere to the Conservative and Reform practices,
their action makes no sense and must be rejected
We have objected to degrading entertainment so
often that we had come to believe that our commu-
nity will not be plagued by them again. But a major
event here resulted in humiliations to attendees.
The excuse offered by the sponsors of the pro-
gram was that they had contracted for artists and
had no way of knowing what was in store for them.
That's hardly an excuse. Those ordering entertain-
ment must ask—in advance—for explanations of
what the entertainers plan to do. They even have
an obligation to demand scripts—for the protection
of their audience. Let that be done in the future.
Let this, too, as a matter of self-respect, be a lesson