Chapter 1
Early Childhood, Family & Education

Chapter 2
Religious Life

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5
Kretinga & Neighborhood

Chapter 6
Chapter 7

Chapter 8
Emigration & Journey


Chapter 6 : Pogroms & Relationship with Non-Jews

Subsections : 


Pogroms & Relationships With Non-Jews   [back to top]

The accession of Tsar Alexander III (in 1881) was inaugurated by a series of pogroms in South Russia. The first outbreak of the storm took place in Elisabethgrad, a large city in new Russia with a Jewish population of 15,000. This was followed by serious pogroms in Kiev, Odessa and numerous other cities and towns, chiefly in the South but outbreaks spread to many other parts of the Russian Empire. The panic that this aroused amongst the Jewish communities led to an exodus from various parts of Russia and Poland. In the early months of 1882, following the large number of pogroms, mass emigration started on a large scale, mainly to North America by way of some Western European centres, through which most of the fugitives went. Besides the heavy stream of emigration to America and a small number to England and South Africa, there was also a tiny trickle to Palestine.

Krottingen and the numerous towns around that district occupied by Jews, were happily spared from the horrors experienced by so vast a number of Jewish communities in other parts of Russia, Poland and Romania. The repercussions of the pogroms, however, had their affect upon our towns-people and on us youngsters as well as on adults. We had little or no contact with any of the non-Jewish boys in town, who were confined to the slums of Krottingen. That was an insalubrious district, a little removed from that of the local Jews, a street called "the hazer Gass", which later assumed the more dignified name of "Swine Strasse", when it came under the occupation of Germany after the first world war.

Although we lived in fairly close proximity to the non-Jews in town, we seldom saw any of their children in the Jewish streets. Occasionally they came with their parents, usually on market days. Some of the older non-Jewish lads were often seen in the countryside near the town. When we Jewish boys encountered them, we were always filled with a sense of fear in case they attacked us. Although these skozimlech (urchins) did not attempt to assault us, except for throwing some stones at us from a distance, yet we became afraid of them when they made threatening gestures, by pulling out pocket knives which some of the lads carried. That was especially when they exceeded or even equalled our number of boys. On such occasions we even submitted to their demands for payment of a ransom rather than start fighting with them. The ransom was some buttons cut off our jackets.

Even grown-ups were seized by fear whenever a drunk set up a row. This occasionally happened on market days, when a number of peasants from neighbouring villages came into town with their produce or wares they had for sale. These peasants created a source on income to the local tradespeople, since they spent part of the proceeds from the sale of their merchandise in the Jewish shops. So apart from the unpredictable consequence of a disturbance, this could also have had a serious economic effect on the shopkeepers in town.

A further incident which I remember causing alarm in the town was when a couple of non-Jews tried to desecrate the cemetery. That occasioned for the mobilisation of all the Jewish stalwarts of the town. They armed with stout cudgels and formed themselves into a formidable cavalcade. This was led by a giant of a man, who was reputed to be the strongest man in Krottingen. They thus set out for the cemetery, (25-30 strong) and were followed by a number of non combatants, marching with a determined look on their faces, ready to join the "enemy" in mortal combat! I did not join the crowd that followed the cavalcade but I was told afterwards that the would be desecrators of the Cemetery ran for their lives them moment they caught a glimpse of the procession.

The Jews had a dread of most of the non Jews around them, whom they could not help considering as potential murderers. That was only natural on the part of the Jewish people since they were well aware of the terrible atrocities perpetrated by them upon their brethren during the pogroms which raged in so many parts of Russia. Although the majority of the peasantry and the working classes of Russia were quite illiterate, yet they seemingly were cognisant of the fact that the ruling powers had enacted special restrictive laws against the Jews. It was therefore quite natural that they were under the impression that any injury inflicted by them on Jews would escape punishment by the government, which in fact proved to be the case in many instances.

Nevertheless there were many non-Jews in the small towns of Lithuania who had a high regard for the Jew. They were well disposed towards the Jews with whom they were always ready and willing to trade. They admired them for their honesty and integrity and even sought advice from them. But unfortunately, most non-Jews were dominated by their priests and if the latter were antisemitic, which was often the case, they managed to turn them against the Jews. It was well known that many a priest was responsible for onslaughts upon Jews.

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