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June 11: Prelude to the Bialystok Pogrom

June 10, 2015

seder-olam-bialystok-pogrom-1905-2The police chief of Białystok, Poland was murdered on this date in 1906 — which removed a protector from the city’s 50,000 Jews, three-quarters of its population. On an earlier occasion, Police Chief Derkacz (sometimes spelled “Derkatcheff”) had used his police to deter a pogrom in the Bialystok marketplace by Russian soldiers, and warned that a pogrom would occur “only over his dead body.” Derkacz was Polish, generally seen as liberal, and supported by the Jewish Bund and Polish socialists; his murder is thought to have been an act of revenge by Russian commissar Szeremietiev, a confirmed Jew-hater. Three days later, a three-day pogrom began in Bialystok, which would take the lives of more than 80 Jews (some sources say 200) and wound scores of others. Jewish self-defense units actively fought the pogromists, however, and kept them out of some neighborhoods, which saved hundreds of Jews from death, rape, or injury. The Bialystok pogrom was one of a series of urban pograms at the time in the Russian Empire, including in Kishinev, Odessa, and Kiev.

“Russian authorities tried to blame the pogrom on the local Polish population in order to stir up the hatred between two ethnic groups (both of which generally opposed the Tsar). However Jewish survivors of the violence reported that the local Polish population had in fact sheltered many Jews during the pogrom and did not participate in it. Apolinary Hartglas, a Polish Jewish leader and later a member of the Polish Sejm, together with Ze’ev Jabotinsky, managed to obtain secret documents issued by Szeremietiev which showed that the pogrom had been organized well in advance by Russian authorities who had actually transported Russian railroad workers from deep within Russia to participate.” —Wikipedia