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Pogroms in Bialystok 

Discussion from BIALYGen Mailing List


MARCH 1, 2005


1906 Bialystok pogrom

 

I am doing research on the June 1906 pogrom in Bialystok, which killed
at least 100 Jews and wounded approximately 200.  I have read some
short pieces in various books and one summary on a Bialystok website,
but would very much like to obtain more details.  I'm interested in
facts, descriptions and firsthand accounts by witnesses.  There seems
to be an extraordinary amount of writing on the Kishinev pogrom three
years earlier, but very little on Bialystok.  Can anyone steer me to
some good sources?

Thanks for your help.

Caryl Simon-Katler, Massachusetts

csimon@localnet.com


Family recollections from Bialystok

 

Before WW2, our family, SZEJNMAN, lived on Ulica  Suiento-Janske, in
Der Nowe, apparently a 'new' suburb of Bialystok, not far  from the
Central Park, according to the map.  It was a two story  house. 
I recall this distinctly because of my mother's telling about the 
big Pogrom in 1922, where the Cossaks entered the house and threw her
brother  out of a second-story window.  He died soon after of multiple
fractures and  internal hemorrhage.

I also recall that every Friday afternoon, I would walk with my
grandmother  to the baker's.  He had already shut down his ovens for
Shabbes but since  the heat remained overnight, all the ladies in the
neighborhood would bring him  their big, heavy pots of cholent, which
cooked overnight to  perfection.  Then on Saturday morning, my mother
and I walked to the Shul  to pick up my grandmother.  On the way home,
we stopped at the baker's to  collect our cholent, which was always
our Shabbes noon meal.  And was it  ever delicious!

At the corner of our street was the Aptek or pharmacist, who always 
had candies for me.

Another of my mother's recollections was of her grandmother, Bluma 
JASKOLKA, who was very tiny and wiry and was always knitting something
as she  walked.  On just such a walk, paying no attention to her
whereabouts, she  was knocked over and killed by a horse and wagon.

Mama remembered going to high school fairly close by, where she had
to  cross a railroad trestle on the way.  One day, she and a friend
played  hookey from school in order to watch the new train (a real
novelty then) pass  underneath.  When it did, it emitted so much
smoke and soot that their  faces turned black -- so much for an alibi. 

Among other subjects, she  studied Latin, French and German, and quickly
picked up all the neighboring  Slavik tongues.  She used to sing me
lullabies in Latin and French, as well  as Yiddish, Polish and
Russian.

  I have a number of issues of 'Bialystoker Vegn,' published in Buenos 
Airies, and also 'Der Bialystoker Stimme,' published by the Bialystoker
Home in  New York.  I plan to upload some of the articles to the web site 
soon.  The ones from Argentina are in Yiddish and Spanish, while the NY 
ones are in Yiddish and English.  Expect some photos as well in the near 
future.

B'shalom, Susan Pearlman

Suprlmn@aol.com 
nee Szejna-Dwera SZEJNMAN-KOSLOVSKY, in Bialystok
[Also researching JASKOLKA, LEVITAN, KAM, KAMINSKY, MALETSKY, RUDY, 
SASLOVSKY, WISHNIATSKY, YELLIN, YOSHPE,  ZELIKOWICZ all from the same 
general area.]


Re: 1906 Bialystok pogrom

 

Hi,

I have a webpage dedicated to the victims of the 1906 pogrom. Here is a
link, http://www.zabludow.com/bialystokpogromdavidsohn.html

I'm pretty sure there were reports of the pogrom in the press. I don't
know of any first hand accounts.

Tilford Bartman

bartmant@earthlink.net


MARCH 2, 2005


Re: Family recollections from Bialystok

 

Great stuff Susan. Thanks for sharing it. I look forward to seeing the
issues of Bialystoker Vegn and the Stimme.

I'm not sure about the historiography of the 1922 pogrom? Poland gained
independence in 1918 and defeated the Bolsheviks in 1920. Technically I
don't think there would have been Cossacks in Bialystok in 1922. I know
they were in the area early in WW I before the German occupation. I'm
not aware of any pogrom in 1922, but of course that doesn't mean there
wasn't one. Perhaps someone else knows about it. There were well known
pogroms in Bialystok in 1905 and 1906 that I think were organized
primarily by Russian Czarist authorities.

Thanks Again,

Tilford Bartman
bartmant@earthlink.net


Re: Family recollections from Bialystok

 

I had a private response to my posting re 1906 Bialystok pogrom from Peter
Levene of the UK. I thought I would share my answer to him with the
list, since the information may be of general interest.

He had been told that his great aunt Pearl Lewin/Levine died in a pogrom,
but no date.  He could not see her name on the list on my site.  He had a
great uncle Movshe Lewin who would have been 35 at that date. Do I think,
Peter asked, he could have been the Mordechaj Lewin 38 listed?
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I don't know about your uncle Mordechaj?  Lewin is a name that you
frequently see in Bialystok, and I think it's likely that there was more
than one Lewin family. . . that they weren't all related.

My impression is that pogroms were not a common feature of Jewish life
in the Bialystok region.  I've been told by people who were there that
in the Shetels Jews and Poles lived very closely together. Even though
they were socially and certainly religiously quite separate Jews had for
hundreds of years been very well integrated into a larger socio economic
system. Jews and Poles mostly got along and were able to cooperate for
the common good of their towns. I'm told that in Bialystok (the big
city) things were not as good.  All over Eastern Poland the situation
worsened in the period between the two world wars, particularly in the
1930's.  And it's with this particularly horrible period that we tend to
be most familiar. Also you have to put this in some context and realize
that even in America at that time anti semitism was very widespread. You
can't evaluate it by 21st century standards of human rights and
political correctness, or people who do need to know what they are doing.

While Polish anti semites participated in the 1906 pogrom, I think it
was organized and instigated by Czarist authorities and carried out with
a sizable number of  Czarist troops.  Don't get me wrong, there was
widespread "Christian" anti-Semitism among the Poles. There were pretty
frequent fights, often between Polish and Jewish tuffs.  But Poles
running wild in the streets inflicting violence and mayhem on Jews was
not something that took place often at all. Also my experience is that
some Jews wrongly attribute some events to the Poles that actually had
at least as much if not more to do with Russian Czarist authorities or
troops.  As I previously mentioned particularly in the early 1930's
things between Poles and Jews started getting worse and went down hill
quickly from there.  But that is another story.

If anyone has another take on this subject, or information on the
subject of Polish-Jewish relations in the Bialystok area I'd be
interested to hear it.

Tilford Bartman, www.zabludow.com
bartmant@earthlink.net


MARCH 3, 2005


Pogroms

 

My mother told me of many such attacks as she was growing up (born 1898) 
in Bialystok.  While they were instigated by the Czar or the local Graf 
(count) and later, by the Communist regime, they were invariably carried 
out by paid cossacks.  Whenever that happened, the family would take 
shelter in the cellar of the Polish neighbors, where they sometimes
had to  remain hidden for several days.  Obviously, when my uncle was
killed, not  everyone made it to the shelter on time.

B'shalom, Susan Pearlman, nee SZEJNA-DWERA SZEJNMAN-KOSLOWSKY,
in  Bialystok.

Suprlmn@aol.com 


Re: Pogroms

 

The Bialystok 1905 and 1906 pogroms I think are pretty well documented
and well understood. I think it was before the 1905 pogrom that the
Polish Bialystok Police Chief stated that there would not be a program
against the Jews in Bialystok as long he was Chief. It was only after
his assassination that the pogrom occurred.  I don't know of any other
pogroms in Bialystok in the 20th Century. That's not to say that there
wasn't any, but I've never seen any documentation of one.  There were
fights. I think it was on Tish b'av that the students of the Bialystok
Hebrew Gymnasium would march. In the 1930's this frequently became an
occasion for a fight with Polish tuffs.  I'm sure there must have been
countless "incidents" and various anti semitic acts, but I haven't seen
any evidence of pogroms.  I think there were anti Czarist riots and
various political unheavils. Bialystok was somewhat of a hot bed of anti
Czarist activity. There were also threatening times when Jews felt
vulnerable and at risk of violence. I spoke to one woman who told me
that as a girl in the 1930's she experienced quite a bit of fear of rape
by Polish men.  It was unclear if this was based on actual incidents.

There were no pogroms carried out by the Soviets during their occupation
of sept. 1939 to June 1941. I'm pretty certain of that. There's no
question that the communists favored the Jews over the local Polish
population for a number of reasons.  There's a lot of evidence that a
disproportionate number of Jews became functionaries of the communist
regime, and held positions that they had previously rarely if ever held.
Also a disproportionate number of members of the militia during this
period were Jews. Communist Jews were "imported" from Belorussia and in
fact took over the Hebrew Gymnasium where they outlawed Hebrew, and
spewed their Stalinist propaganda non-stop. Some of the Shtetls like
Zabludow had Jewish Commissars. They closed the wooden synagogues and
many of them were turned into warehouses. Thousands of Jews were
arrested and sent East into the Gulag where some died. You were
particularly vulnerable if you were from a certain socio economic class,
had strong Zionist leanings, or were particularly religious in a certain
way. The communists used the Jews to get at a certain element among the
Poles, and at the same time suppressed the Jewish religion, and carried
out their immoral and misguided social engineering projects on Jewish
society. The communists were expert at manipulating this. Jews figured
prominently among both victims and perpetrators under the communists. 
1.5 million Polish citizens of all nationalities from Eastern Poland
were sent into the Gulag during this period. Many died a very horrible
death in Siberia eaten alive by lice, or dead from dysentery, or starvation.

If anyone else on the list has information on Pogroms in Bialystok or
information on Polish/Jewish relations in the area I'm interested to hear.

Tilford Bartman,  www.zabludow.com
bartmant@earthlink.net


MARCH 4, 2005


Re: Pogroms

 

I read with interest about the pogroms in Bialystok. My grandmother, born 
Sora Bella Schuster, spoke of them when I was very little..terrible  stories.
Besides the pogroms of 1905 and 1906, were there earlier ones that are  known
that happened between 1885 and 1903? Thank you for any information.

 Jack Fackerell

JACK219@aol.com 


Re: Pogroms

   

Apparently, the Russian Duma prepared a lengthy report on the June
1906 pogrom in Bialystok.  Does anyone know whether it has been
translated into English and where to obtain it?  That would certainly
provide some more answers.

    Regarding relations between Jews and Poles, I can't speak for
Bialystok per se, but in the shtetls there seems to have been a rather
ambivalent set of interactions.  In the book, Life is With People: The
Culture of the Shtetl, the authors say that contact on matters of
business or government was generally peaceful, even friendly, but
subject to explosions of violence.  Neighbors would suddenly become
pillagers and murderers, then when the pogrom ended would revert to the
old benign routine.  Jan Gross's recent book, Neighbors, which documents
the deliberate and vicious murder of the Jews of Jedwabne (a town not
far from Bialystok)  during the holocaust by their Polish neighbors  --
an act which was not instigated by the Nazis  --  certainly confirms
this.

Caryl Simon-Katler
csimon@localnet.com


Re: Pogroms

 

I've read descriptions of the 1905 and 1906 pogroms and they were indeed
very gruesome

No wonder they sparked a wave of immigration. The first one of my
Bartnowski family (great uncle David Bartnowski) in Zabludow came to
Detroit in 1912.  I also think there were earlier pogroms in Bialystok
but I know nothing about them. In Zabludow there was a blood libel in
the 1700's. It was called the Gruvella Libel for the name of the Polish
child who it was thought was killed for his blood to be used in Jewish
ritual.

Also in the Russian-Polish war that took place in about 1560 I know
that the Russians killed many Zabludow Jews, and also took captives
that had to be ransomed for 600 goldens. Other than the pogroms of 1905
and 1906 I'm not aware of any pogroms in Bialystok in the 20th century. 
The pogroms around 1905 and 1906 had to do with the climate after the
Russian loss in the Russo-Japanese war, and the threats to the monarchy.

Tilford Bartman, www.zabludow.com
bartmant@earthlink.net


Re: Pogroms

 

Yes, ambivalent is probably not a bad way to describe it.  I think Jews
feared that their Polish neighbors (even the good ones) were potentially
subject to manipulation and instigation by anti semites in part because
they felt that pretty much all Poles had a certain basis for anti
semitism "breed" into them. This I think is how most Jews rightly or
wrongly looked at Poles. You may remember Menachem Begin's remark about
Poles which reveals this.

I think the reality is that thru much of the lifespan of many Shtetls
relations were generally pretty good, and Jewish life was able to
prosper and develop within a certain place and larger socio economic
system.  I think from the 1500's until at least the early 1800's most of
the shtetls were not poor places where Jews were downtrodden. They were
places of relative prosperity where Jews reached  a high level of
organization and cultural achievement. I think things got worse after
the 2nd partition of Poland in 1793, and gradually worse yet during the
1800's when modernization and certain macro trends for a variety of
reasons started to have a bad effect. The 20th century is another story.

Jedwabne is not an isolated phenomena within the Bialystok region. There
was a wave of attacks and brutalities inflicted on Jews by Poles in the
Bialystok region mostly between the end of June and August of 1941.
Jedwabne was I think by far the worst, and probably involved the Poles
acting more independently without as much German instigation than any of
the others. A guesstimate is that 2,000 - 2,500 Jews were killed.

Incidents occurred in many of the Shtetls. In my family's Zabludow the
Germans ordered that the Jews tear down the Statue of Lenin that the
Russians had built in the town square. They forced a group of Jewish men
to take the pieces to the Jewish cemetery and give lenin a "Jewish
funeral". On the way to and from the cemetery groups of Poles collected
and came at the Jews with farm impliments. The Jews were told to pray to
their god to save them. I think a few were actually killed and others
injured. A relative of mine by marriage was one of these men. He
survived the war and ended up in Melborne Australia. 

This kind of thing was very common.  A lot of Polish people would
tell you that while this was very unfortunate and that they don't
condone such a thing, they will explain that for several years Poles
had seen their Jewish neighbors collaborate with the Soviets, that
their families were sent to Siberia with the help of Jewish commissars,
Jewish NKVD, Jewish Milita, and that a certain element within Polish
society could not control their impulse for revenge against Jews who
they felt had sold out Poland and persecuted them.  That is how it
is explained by many otherwise very nice, educated, cultured, people
in Poland.

Tilford Bartman, www.zabludow.com
bartmant@earthlink.net


MARCH 5, 2005


Pogroms around Bialystok

 

Verbal history is that my maternal GGF's family, cousins, sibs were
wiped out in a progrom near Briansk near Bialystok about 1884. Soon
after this my GGF wife and chiuldren left Warsaw for Ireland.

Does anyone have reading material or suggestions on research of that
year for Briansk, as I have not found anything on the Jewishgen
listings so far.

Thanks
Ros Romem
Jerusalem


Re: Pogroms around Bialystok

 

I think the town you may be referring to is Bransk? I was there a couple
of years ago.  Bransk became very well known from the USA Public
Broadcasting television special, "Shtetl". Here is a link,
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shtetl/

Tilford Bartman


APRIL 28, 2005


The ongoing discussion about the Bialystok pogroms inspired me to
transcribe and publish short audio excerpts about the Bialystok pogroms
from two audio interviews of my grandfather Meyer MEISLER recorded in
1976 and 1979. I have put the interviews online on the website about
Meyer's brother Hona MAISLER (www.maisler.org). Meyer was born in
Bialystok in 1899; he came to the United States in 1913.

The year and number of people killed varies in the interviews (1976
interview: pogrom in 1906, 210 people killed; 1979 interview: pogrom
in 1905, 127 people killed). He was six to seven years old at the time
of the 1905-1906 pogroms. My best guess is that he is talking in
both interviews about the 1906 pogrom.

He lived on the street nicknamed Jatke Gas (butchers street), at the
time called Zielona Street (Zielona Verda Strato), now Zamenhofa Street
(named after Ludwik Zamenhof, creator of Esperanto).

The audio for the 1976 interview is of very poor quality (even after
removing much of the cassette noise). The audio quality of the 1979
interview is much better. "???" means the missing words were
undecipherable. CAPITAL letters followed by "???" means the word is
unknown to me but is spelled out phonetically. Any help with these
unknown words would be much appreciated.

Any further information about the Jatke Gas neighborhood in Bialystok
would also be very welcome.

There's not much detailed info in these interviews, but you do get a
certain sense of the experience from one family's perspective.

click for 1976 interview

click for 1979 interview

all the best,

Joshua MEISLER
Paris, France


APRIL 29, 2005


I read the interviews. Some of what your grandfather said is consistent
with what I've read about the Bialystok pogrom. I read that some Jewish
neighborhoods were more or less spared because they were inhabited by
Jews organized in occupations such as butchers (that your grandfather
mentioned) who were tuff and prepared to defend themselves and their
families. As I understand it the pogroms were organized and instigated
by Czarist authorities, and carried out by both solders and local
"hooligans".

Tilford Bartman, www.zabludow.com



 

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