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May 5: Blame the Jews

May 5, 2014
imagesFour years of pogroms against Jews in Ukraine and southern Russia were set in motion on this date in 1881 by mobs of peasants who attacked Jewish stores and homes in the Ukrainian villages of Konsky-rosdor, Popiko, Andreyevka, and the city Orekhov, after Jews were incorrectly blamed for the assassination of Tsar Alexander II by Narodnaya Volya on March 13th. Through the spring and summer the rioting would spread to Odessa and other sites, large and small, and after a brief remission, to Warsaw on Christmas Day and to Balta on Easter, 1882, with increasing ferocity and casualties, including many rapes and deaths. “In Belorussia and Lithuania,” according to Jewish Virtual Library, “where the local authorities adopted a firm attitude against the rioters, large fires broke out in many towns and townlets; a considerable number of these were started by the enemies of the Jews. The murder of individual Jews and even whole families also became a common occurrence during this period.” In May, 1882, Tsar Alexander III, who publicly blamed the Jews for the assassination of his father, promulgated the May Laws, which restricted Jewish mobility, property ownership, occupations, education, and many other basic rights and tools for living. These laws, in combination with continuing outbreaks of violence, prompted the mass emigration of Jews to the U.S. and Latin America, which would bring some two million Jews from the Russian Empire to the Western Hemisphere between 1881 and World War I. “Pogrom is a Russian word ‘to wreak havoc, to demolish violently.’ ” -U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum