02 December 2009

Pogroms: 250 events 1903-1905

We've all heard the stories of our immigrant ancestors. Their memories included their personal experiences of pogroms, raids and riots committed against Jewish residents of towns and villages across Europe.

My great-grandmother Riva BANK TALALAI (Tollin) described her frightening nights as she and her two children (toddler Leib and infant Chaya Feige) hid in church basements during these events as they made their way to safety to the boat for America.

She knew that if either child had cried out, the others in hiding would have had no compunction about smothering them to prevent the refugees from being discovered.

Fortunately, they did not cry. The family made it to the boat to join her husband and the children's father, Aron Peretz TALALAI (Tollin) in Newark, New Jersey.

In 1904, the following pogroms occurred in and around Mogilev, Belarus, which surely impacted our TALALAI family in the city and in area towns and villages.

On October 24, 1904, there were 14,000 Jews in a population of 22,093 in Mogilev; 120 Jews were injured; the chief of police had earlier said that a riot would occur and that Jews would not be protected. On the same day, in a place not far north of the city, called Gorki (where other Talalai relatives lived), some 69 shops were looted and demolished with a loss of 200,000 rubles.

A few days later, on October 27, there were a series of attacks on shtetls in the area: Amtchislav, Bykhova and Bunitchi (northeast of Vorotinschtina and Zaverezhye, where many Talalai had lived since the 1830s, about 12 miles south-southwest of Mogilev) Sielzi, Sukhany, Tchausy (where Talalai relatives lived), Tcherikov and Juravitch.

The table showed that in Bykhova, where Jews were 3,172 in a population of 6,536, all the Jewish shops and stalls were destroyed, with an estimate of 200,000 rubles lost. Army reservists caused the riots. In Tchausy (Chausy, Chaus), Jews numbered 3,000 of the 5,550 residents.

Unfortunately, I never heard my great-grandmother mention the towns in which she hid with the children. But I do know where relatives lived.

I know from other relatives - who stayed in Mogilev until immigrating in the 1980s and later - that the Gorki survivors moved into Mogilev soon after that pogrom, as did the Tchausy relatives (including a chief rabbi and religious court judge).

Steve Lasky at the Museum of Family History has announced a new report and table of pogroms committed 1903-1905.

The report was published in the American Jewish Year Book (Vol. 8, 1906-1907), by the American Jewish Committee. If you have not seen these volumes, do try to access them. They contain much information about Jewish communities around the world and in the US.

The table includes more than 250 European towns and cities where pogroms occurred from 1903-1906. There is a supplementary table of pogroms in other places in November 1905.

Comments sometimes include damage and other remarks about each event, and the table includes the date, geographical location, sometimes the Jewish and general population at each place.

There is a report of the Duma Commission of the Bialystok Massacre in June 1906 - it was published in the London Jewish Chronicle (July 13,1906) - providing many details of what happened. If your family had a connection to Bialystok - as did some of my family - read the report to see if any names are listed.

Read about the Duma debates as the report was presented, as well as the US Congress resolutions proposed and passed (1905-6).

The Museum's information is courtesy of the American Jewish Committee Archives. Access all this information here.

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