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The Palmer Raids

November 7, 2017

Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, and Mollie Steimer were among the large number of activist Jews arrested and eventually deported in the wake of the Palmer Raids, launched on this date in 1919 (the second anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution) by Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer and his assistant, J. Edgar Hoover. Between November and January, more than 10,000 suspected anarchists and communists would be taken into custody and held without trial; a few hundred would be deported, including many Russian Jews. (For Goldman, Berkman, and Steimer, the USSR would be a huge disappointment and none of them remained there.) Among the places targeted by Palmer was the Brownsville Labor Lyceum in Brooklyn, where more than a thousand folks, mostly Jews, attended the Brownsville Socialist Sunday School and helped sustain a cooperative bakery, a bank, a consumer league, and tenant organizations, according to historian Wendell Pritchett.

“There is no time to waste on hairsplitting over infringement of liberties.” —The Washington Post, January 4, 1920