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April 15, 1983 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-04-15

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2 Friday, April 15, 1983


Purely Commentary

Kishinev, the Pogromed-City of 80 Years Ago, Left
a Legacy of Terror, and It Also Served to Ignite
Resentments in Which U.S. Was Leading Protester

By Philip

Kishinev: A Reminder of the Terror and Brutality of 80 Years Ago

Kishinev is a term reminiscent of terror and brutality. The name of the Bessarabian
papers. The rumor was spread that Jews had used the murdered man's blood for Passover.
city is a reminder of one of the most inhuman bestialities perpetrated against Jews.
The hoary blood libel instigated the April 1903 pogrom that lasted for three days.
On the 80th anniversary of the brutalities of Kishinev there also are reminders of the
The Kishinev outrage affected 2,750 Jewish families, of whom 2,528 reported dam-
historic role that was played by America and Americans — Jews and Christians — in the
amounting to 2,332,890 rubles — about $1,190,000 in American money at the rate of
protests against the Czarist-encouraged pogrom. A similar role is now being played by
exchange of that time. The dead numbered 66, while 92 were severely wounded and 345
America and Americans in human rights declarations against the practice of the Krem-
were less seriously wounded.
lin to persecute and imprison Jewish as well as non-Jewish activists and dissidents in the
Protest petitions were signed by some of the nation's most prominent citizens,
Soviet Union.
including former President Grover Cleveland. The voice of America spoke loudly against
Kishinev is now a mere memory, steeped in tragedy, denoting the destruction of
the discriminations, but the Russian Czar was too powerful to be swayed from anti-
generations of life and achievements of many Russian-Jewish communities. At the time
Semitic murderous instigations.
of the Kishinev Czar-inspired massacre in 1903 there were 80,000 Jews in that city's
It was the Kishinev pogrom more than any other incident that inspired mass
population of some 115,000.
of Russian Jews to the United States, some to other countries, and an impres-
The present record of their existence there is a shambles of a synagogue, the last of
sive number to Palestine. Then Zionism became recognized as the great libertarian
the perhaps 25 or more of 80 years ago. (The Kishinev pogrom was not an isolated
movement in the ranks of men and women who later became the leaders in the estab-
incident. It was followed by others in the Ukraine and White Russia. There was also a
lishment of the state of Israel.
second pogrom in Kishinev in October 1905.)
(Copyright 1983, JTA, Inc.)
The American protests then, in 1903, equate with the nationwide protests now when
Jews who are denied visas to emigrate to Israel and dissidents who will not knuckle down
to Communist bias dare to speak their minds against tyranny.
It was as a result of the tragedies in Russia, primarily after the inhumanities in
Kishinev, that the American Jewish Committee was founded. That's when Jacob H.
Schiff, Cyrus Sulzberger, Julius Rosenwald, Louis Marshall and many of their associates
came forth with a voice so strong that mankind was aroused.
Shortly, thereafter, the Jewish Publication Society issued a full-length volume, "The
Voice of America on Kishinev," in which there were recorded the hundreds of protest
meetings, the many scores of sermons in churches, the innumerable editorials in news-
papers throughout the land.
A great Christian, John Hay, who served as Secretary of State under Presidents
William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt — the great scholar who had studied Hebrew
— then gained a permanent place in American history as chief interpreter of our foreign
policy under two Administrations. Hay first recorded his name in defense of Jews who
were oppressed in Romania. Then came the Kishinev outrages. Once again he played an
historic role in defense of oppressed Jews.
The Russian and Romanian questions first came to the fore during the administra-
tion of President Rutherford B. Hayes. Hay was then acting Secretary of State. On Oct.
22, 1880, he wrote a note regarding "the expulsion of American citizens from Russian
cities on no other ground than profession of the Hebrew faith."
The Genesis of Resistance
He continued the role of champion of religious freedom and on Aug. 11, 1902, he
to Pogroms and to Terror
stated that the United States "is constrained to protest against the treatment to which
the Jews of Romania are subjected, not alone because it has unimpeachable grounds to
Out of the Kishinev pogrom of 1903 grew the resistance to terror and to pogroms. It
remonstrate against the resultant injury to itself, but in the name of humanity."
was the beginning of an era of resistance, and it had its echo in the Warsaw Ghetto
Then, as Secretary of State, Hay registered a protest against the violation by
Uprising 40 years later. The Kishinev pogrom inspired the great Hebrew poet laureate
Romania of the Berlin Treaty of 1878 under which Jews were to be accorded protections
Chaim Nahman Bialik to write his Poems of Wrath in which he protested the in-
by Romania.
humanities and pleaded for justice:
Hay, humanitarian, had earlier expressed his personal feelings when he sent a check
Heavens, intercede for me!
for $500 to a relief fund that was established for Romanian Jews. Yet there were some
If there is a God within you Who
who felt that not enough was done for them. Schiff had written to him to express
can be reached
indignation and on May 30, 1903, Hay wrote to Schiff: "I feel precisely as you do in regard
path I have not found —
to it, but you are free to express your feelings and I am not."
Pray you for me!
It was in this exchange of letters that there was evidenced the state of affairs effected
My heart is dead within me: there
by diplomacy and the caution that often prevents action. A statement had been prepared
is no prayer on my lips,
by Bnai Brith for presentation to the Russian Czar protesting the Kishinev pogrom. John
My strength is gone, my hopes are
Hay then said: "The fact that no civilized government has yet taken action would bid us to
withered —
proceed with caution."
How long, how long, how long!
This statement is proof of the recurring eternal caution which often militates against
prevention of repetitive crimes against humanity.
All the world's our scaffold,
Roosevelt did receive an organized Bnai Brith delegation that protested against the
for we are but a few!
Kishinev pogroms, and he told them: "In any way by which beneficial action may be
Our death finds no retribution —
taken, it will be taken to show the sincerity of the historic American position." But all
There can be no vengeance for the
that ensued was a petition which the Czarist government rejected and the Russian
blood of a small child.
Ambassador to the United States, Count Cassini, venomously attacked Jewry, thus
adding insult to injury.
It was the Kishinev pogrom that brought forth the historic message of wrath against
Hay did not succeed in securing assurances from Russia that there would be better
the indignities with which Jews in Russia were treated, in the famous Bialik poem "The
City of Slaughter."
protection for Russian Jews, but he had interceded and Roosevelt, in concert with him,
expressed horror over the Kishinev happening. Is that experience being repeated today
Bialik's "City of Slaughter," in a translation from the Hebrew by the eminent
in the Communist language of rejecting Jewish protests against indignities?
scholar, the late Dr. Israel Efros, published in a 1948 Histadrut Ivrit of America volume,
The Kishinev agitation against the Jews started with the murder on Feb. 1, 1903, of
drew attention to the perpetrated horrors:
a wealthy young Russian, Michael Ribalenko. His body was found Feb. 22, 1903, and it
developed that he was killed by a relative who hoped to acquire his fortune. But the
Arise and go now to the city of slaughter;
Into its courtyard wind thy way;
agitation against the Jews was pushed with vigor by the notorious anti-Semitic news-
There with thine own hand touch, and with the eyes of
thine head,
Behold on tree, on stone, on fence, on mural clay,
The spattered blood and dried brains of the dead.
Proceed thence to the ruins, the split walls reach,
Where wider grows the hollow, and greater grows the
Pass over the shattered hearth, attain the broken wall
Whose burnt and barren brick, whose charred stones reveal
The open mouths of such wounds, that no mending
Shall ever mend, nor healing ever heal.

There will thy feet in feathers sink, and stumble
On wreckage doubly wrecked, scroll helped on manuscript,
Fragments again fragmented —
Pause not upon this havoc; go thy way.
The perfumes will be wafted from the acacia bud
and half its blossoms will be feathers,
Whose smell is the smell of blood!
And, spiting thee, strange incense they will bring —
Banish thy loathing — all the beauty of the spring .. .


These men were among the 66 Jews killed during the Kishinev pogrom.
Hundreds were injured and several thousand were left homeless.

Thus, the Warsaw Revolt and the Kishinev horror merge into a single related
anniversary, both jointly calling forth adherence to the resistance which created the
Sami Oborona Jewish self-defense in Russia, developed into the revolt in Warsaw, grew
into the Hagana in Israel and sent forth the message of "Never Again" in response to
anything resembling either the Holocaust or any attempt to destroy Israel.

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