Warsaw pogrom (1881)
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Part of Jewish history
A contemporary Jewish-Russian historian, Simon Dubnow, gives details of this event: on Christmas Day 1881 the outbreak of panic after a false warning of fire in the crowded Holy Cross Church resulted in the deaths of twenty-nine persons in a stampede. It was believed that the false alarm was raised by pickpockets, who used the ruse to allow them to rob people during the panic. A crowd gathered on the scene of the event and some unknown persons started to spread a rumour, which subsequently proved to be unfounded, that two Jewish pickpockets had been caught in the church.
The mob began to attack Jews, Jewish stores, businesses, and residences in the streets adjoining the Holy Cross Church. The riots in Warsaw continued for three days, until Russian authorities (who controlled the police as well as military in the city) intervened, arresting 2,600 people. During the Warsaw pogrom two people were left dead and twenty-four injured. The pogrom also left about a thousand Jewish families financially devastated. In the months afterwards about one thousand Warsaw Jews emigrated to the United States. The pogrom worsened Polish-Jewish relations, and was criticized by almost the entire Polish elite, including writers Eliza Orzeszkowa, Boleslaw Prus and several other notable activists.
Historians Simon Dubnow, Yitzhak Gruenbaum, Frank Golczewski and Magdalena Micinska, among others, noted that the pogrom might have been instigated by the Russian authorities, trying to drive a wedge between Jews and Poles or show that pogroms, increasingly common in Russian Empire after the assassination of the tsar Alexander II in 1881 (in that period over 200 anti-Jewish events occurred in Russian Empire, notably the Kiev and Odessa pogroms), were not a Russia-only phenomena. However historian Michael Ochs disagreed with this explanation, citing insufficient evidence. Ochs calls those explanations conspiracy theories, arguing that they fail to present what the Russian authorities would have gained from the pogroms. He notes that period from 1863 to 1881 was witnessing the increase of anti-Semitism in Poland, with disillusionment among Poles with the idea of assimilation of the Jews was growing, and hence there was less need for the Russian authorities to orchestrate a pogrom, which might have been spontaneous. However, Ochs explanation doesn't take into account numerous, evidenced examples of riots and murders instigated by the Russian Ochrana (secret police) in occupied Poland after the Tsar's assassination in 1881.
- Simon Dubnow History of the Jews in Russia and Poland, Avotaynu Inc, 2000, ISBN 1-886223-11-4, p. 342
- Brian Porter When Nationalism Began to Hate, Oxford University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-19-513146-0, p.162
- John Doyle Klier, Shlomo Lambroza, Pogroms: Anti-Jewish Violence in Modern Russian History, Cambridge University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-521-52851-8, p.182
- (Polish) Magdalena Micinska, INTELIGENCJA ŻYDOWSKA W POLSCE, 2002
- (Polish) Pogrom, based on Alina Cała, Hanna Węgrzynek, Gabriela Zalewska, "Historia i kultura Żydów polskich. Słownik", WSiP
- Dubnow wrote: "Evidently, someone had an interest in having the capital of Poland repeat the experiments of Kiev and Odessa, and in seeing that the "cultured Pole" should not fall behind the Russian in order to convince Europe that pogroms were not exclusively a Russian manufacture." See Klier and Lambroza for more details.