Pogrom of 1919

In 1919, The Jewish community of Fastov severely suffered from several pogroms. The most brutal pogroms were caused by the Denikin Volunteer Army that slaughtered over 1,000 Jews in the city [1] [2] [3] [4].

According to Gofman’s report, the first Denikin’s pogrom occurred on August 25, 1919, (as per old style calendar) [2]. Violent riots began as soon as Denikin’s troops entered the city. Cossacks, that partially constituted the Volunteer Army, broke into Jewish homes under the slogan: “Kike, get us money or we are going to hang you!” [2] For several days, thugs attacked and robbed Jewish population, often killing and sexually assaulting Jewish residents. To protect themselves from pogrom-makers (mainly Cossacks who often got commanders’ approval to commit pogroms [2]) most Jewish families invited officers or commanders to stay over and paid them up to 10,000 rubles per night (which was approximately equal to $140 in 1919). This way Cossacks did not dare to vandalize homes where their commanders stayed. Such “protection pay offs” saved a lot of Jewish lives and properties from the thugs. The riots completely ceased when Denikin troops, retreating from Bolsheviks, left the city.

Denikin pogrom victims
Denikin pogrom victims in Fastov (September 1919)
Burials of victim remains collected from different areas*

After defeating Bolsheviks and regaining control over Fastov the Volunteer Army returned to the city on September 8, 1919. This time Denikin troops committed one of the most sinister Jewish pogroms in Ukraine between 1918 and 1922. The pogrom began on September 9, 1919 (according to old style calendar) or on Elul 25th 5679. For six days, thugs robbed and brutally massacred Jewish residents. By the end of the pogrom, the thugs had so much money in their possession that they did not know what to do with it [3]. Most families were trapped and then burnt alive in their own homes. Pogrom-makers frequently executed their victims directly in synagogues where poor residents sought to find protection. Thugs did not spare even infants or young children who they preferred to kill with bayonets or sabers. Many women and girls, as young as 8-10 years old, were gang raped in front of their fathers, husbands or brothers. Jews who tried to escape from the city to suburbs were often caught and shot in nearby ravines. Sometimes Jewish residents tried to disguise themselves as Russian peasants in order to flee the city by train. That is why Cossacks repeatedly searched trains and if they managed to find Jews the thugs pulled their victims outside and shot them on the spot [2]. By the end of the 6th day the pogrom was finally stopped by military authorities that arrived in Fastov to restore the order.

Fastov ruins
Fastov ruins (September 1919)

The results of the pogrom were devastating [5] [6]. The entire Jewish quarter was in ruins. Fastov market place was looted and burned down. The streets were strewn with dead bodies of men, women and children. Over 1,000 Jews were massacred (according to Goldman’s account [7] up to 4,000 died due to the pogrom: some of them were slaughtered, while others died aftermath from wounds)**. Many were wounded and mutilated. Here is what Emma Goldman writes about Fastov pogrom during her trip to Russia from 1919 to 1921 [7, p. 131]:

Fastov market place
Fastov market place looted and incinerated by Denikin soldiers (September 1919)

That Town [Fastov], once prosperous, was now impoverished and reduced to less than one third of its former population. Almost all activity was at a stand-still. We found the market place, in the centre of the town, a most insignificant affair, consisting of a few stalls having small supplies of white flour, sugar, and butter. There were more women about than men and I was especially struck by the strange expression in their eyes. They did not look you full in the face; they stared past you with a dumb, hunted animal expression…

Every evening our car was filled with the unfortunates of Fastov. Among them was a particularly interesting visitor, a former attorney, who had repeatedly braved the pogrom makers and saved many Jewish lives. He had kept a diary of the pogroms and we spent a whole evening listening to the reading of his manuscript. It was a simple recital of facts and dates, terrible in its unadorned objectivity. It was the soul cry of a people continuously violated and tortured and living in daily fear of new indignities and outrages.

Memorial rally
Memorial rally to the cemetery on the anniversary of Denikin pogrom in Fastov

Unfortunately, sufferings of the Fastov Jewish community did not stop with the civil war pogroms. In 1941, 22 years after the pogroms, the Jewish residents were again subjected to genocide this time committed by Nazis and their collaborators (see the Holocaust section).

References:

  1. Ostrovsky, Z. Evrejskie pogromy 1918–1921 (Jewish Pogroms of 1918–1921) (in Russian). Moscow, 1926.
  2. Kniga pogromov. Sbornik documentov (Book of pogroms. Pogroms in Ukraine, Belorussia and European part of Russia during the civil war of 1918-1922. Collection of documents); pp. 241–255 (in Russian). Moscow, 2007
  3. Kozerod, O.V. & Briman, S. Y. A.I Denikin’s regime and the Jewish population in Ukraine in 1919–1920
  4. Anton Denikin // Wikipedia
  5. Lincoln, Bruce. Red victory: a history of the Russian civil war. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989
  6. Cohn, Norman. Warrant for genocide: The Myth of the Jewish World Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. London: Serif, 2006.
  7. Goldman, Emma. My disillusionment in Russia (initially printed in 1923). Dover Publications, 2003.

* All the photographs for this section were taken from Ostrovsky’s book “Jewish pogroms of 1918 – 1921”

** There is an intensive discussion in the literature (especially among Ukrainian historians) on whether or not the number of Jewish casualties during the pogrom was exaggerated. We believe that such a discussion is more than irrelevant because it re-directs public attention from the major topic: the genocidal essence of pogroms.

Content last updated Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 04:45 PM Mountain Standard Time

Fastov, Ukraine
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