THE EVIDENCE AS TO THE ANTI-JEWISH RIOTS. 4i . T the Mansion-House
meeting on Wednesday, Lord i Shaftesbury stated that the narrative of the persecu- tion of the Jews in Russia has been "supported by every testimony that could possibly be adduced ;" and farther, that "the evidence in support of the charges is so overwhelming, as to remove all hesitation in believing that they are sub- stantially true." We agree with Lord Shaftesbury that "if one-tenth of all that is stated be true, it is sufficient to draw down the indignation of the world ;" and from this point of view, we heartily sympathise with the speeches made at the Mansion House. It is too much, however, to say that the charges set out in the Times have been uncontradicted. When Lord Shaftesbury speaks of "overwhelming evidence" having been offered in support of them, we do not know to what he refers. The only evidence that bears in any way on the statements in the Times that we have seen is contained in a letter from an English resident at Odessa, which appeared in the Daily News, and in two letters from a correspondent of the Pall Mall Gazette, who is vouched for by that journal as "an impartial English eye-witness, who knows Russia well." Now, though these letters, especially the latter, confirm the narrative of the Times in several important particulars, they contradict them in others ; and where the statements differ, the testimony of a man actually living in Odessa at the time when the riots took place, and of another who, though not, as the Pall Mall Gazette calls him, an actual eye-witness of the riots, was still, as he himself tells us, compelled, by the importance of his business connections in the towns of Odessa, Kieff, and Warsaw, to " hurry to the spot on receipt of the first news of the disturbances of which they were the scene," is of greater value than that of a writer who has confessedly only com- piled his narrative at second-hand. It is worth while, there- fore, to examine how far the statements in the Times are sus-
tained, contradicted, or qualified by the testimony of these two witnesses.
First, as regards Kieft The account in the Times is as follows :— " The riot had been definitely announced for the Sunday, and the Jews sent a deputation to the Governor, requesting him to call out his soldiers to prevent disturbance. Ho bluntly refused, saying that he would not trouble his soldiers for the sake of a pack of Jews.' Daring the riot which broke out on the day fixed, the police and the soldiers again acted the same part that they had done at Elizabeth. grad. The first procedure of the mob had been to storm the dram. shops, and, staving in the brandy-casks, to wallow in the spirit. During the period of licence that followed, four Jews were killed, twenty-five women and girls were violated, of whom five died in con- sequence, as was proved at the subsequent frisk' At the house of Mordecai Wienarski, the mob, disappointed in the search for plunder, caught up his little child, three years old, and brutally threw it out of the window. The child fell dead at the feet of a company of Cos- sacks who were drawn up outside, yet no attempt was made to arrest the murderers. At last, when several houses were set on fire, the military received orders to make arrests, which they proceeded to execute with much vigour, making 1,500 prisoners, among whom 150 were Jews arrested for protecting their lives and properties. No less than 2,000 Jews were left without shelter by the dismantling or the burning of their houses, and for the relief of immediate necessi- ties a Kieff Committee soon afterwards had to disburse the sum of R30,000."
The correspondent of the Pall Mall Gazette did not reach Kieff until order had been completely restored, but even then the Jewish quarter of the town,— " Presented an appearance which I shall never forgot. Rows of houses were completely wrecked. Not only had every article of
furniture and other property been pillaged and removed, but the very doors and windows had been torn off their hinges Huddled together in a god of encampment in the fortress I found some 2,000 miserable creatures—men, women, and children—who had lost all they ever possessed in the world, and were living on the rations served out by the authorities, until the assistance of their co-religion- ists should provide them with the possibility of making a fresh start in life. Among these poor refugees were not only those who had once been rich, but also, as the report issued by the Government showed, a very large proportion of industrial labourers, carters, porters, and other individuals whose poor lodgings had been wrecked and rendered uninhabitable from sheer wantonness. I naturally made all possible inquiries as to what had taken place, but beyond what the evidence of my own eyes established, I found it most difficult to obtain any trustworthy information. The authorities resorted to every possible device to prevent the truth being known.
The criminality of the-authorities daring the first two days of the riots at Kieff was only equalled by the disgraceful attitude which they assumed at the subsequent trials of the rioters. The Government prosecutor, in hip opening speech, distinctly expressed sympathy with the motives of the outbreak, and the lightness of the majority of the sentences passefi showed that his sentiments were not unshared by the Court. Among other facts connected with the Kieff riots, that mild excuse offered by the authorities as to their un- willingness to risk a collision between the soldiers and the mob is utterly untenable, as the following facts will prove :—The warehouse and dwelling of the Jew merchant with whom I have my most im- portant business in Kieff are situated in the central market-place, where the first fury of the mob was witnessed, and where the greatest numbers assembled. A Russian officer chanced to lodge in this house, and to him the Jew merchant, with a promise of money, appealed for protection. Tho officer immediately placed two soldiers at the door of the warehouse, and ordered them, with the promise of a reward, to protect the entrance. The mob several times threatened an attack, but the soldiers presented their bayonets, and successfully frightened the would-be plunderers. By this means, and at the expense of a hundred roubles, my Jew acquaintance preserved his property intact ; while within three hundred yards of his door, at the other side of the square, he witnessed the wholesale destruction of his neighbours' goods, and the cruel assault on an old man, which took place in the presence of the chief authorities of the town, the Cossacks mean- while sitting motionless on their horses, awaiting orders which no one thought fit to give. Besides the blame for inaction which attaches to the authorities at Kieff, it is a sad fact to relate—but one which was proved at the trials—that Russian merchants, soldiers, policemen, and even an officer, took advantage of the general pillage to secure a share of plunder for themselves. It does not appear that at Kieff the soldiers openly joined in the work of destruction, but even from the Government reports of what occurred in some of the smaller towns in the neighbourhood, it is pretty clear that small bodies of military who had been ordered out to protect the Jews simply joined the rioters, when disturbances actually broke out."
At Odessa, according to the Times, the riot "originally announced for May was postponed till the Sunday, May 15th, without, however, any precautions being taken by the Governor, who had, as usual, been duly warned of the impending out- break. Though lasting only for six hours, the riot resulted in the death of a Jew named Handelmann, and eleven cases of violation are reported, one resulting in death. Here the Jews seemed to have been most energetic in their iesistance. Of the 800 arrests made, 150 were Jews, 26 of whom were afterwards charged with carrying revolvers without a permit. The police estimated the damage done at 1,137,831 roubles, while those more immediately concerned raised the sum to three millions." The correspondent of the Pall Mall Gazette, on the other hand, says that, taking all circumstances into con- sideration, no reasonable blame can be attached to the superior officials. The soldiers were called out on the first alarm. But the streets were crowded with holiday-makers, who were taking no part in the riot, and it was not until orders had been given by the Governor to arrest all persons who did not at once retire that the troops were able to act with vigour. The English resident at Odessa naturally goes at much greater length into the particulars of the riot. "It broke out," he says," towards five o'clock in the afternoon, and by nightfall, or nine o'clock at the latest, perfect order was restored. I myself was engaged from ten until eleven the same night in carefully examining the whole of the points where rioting had been attempted, and I met scarcely a civilian in my round. Only patrols were to be seen in the streets,- and soldiers bivouacking for the night in two or three of the more open square'-like places. The number of Jewish houses and shops, whether emptied of their contents or completely gutted, on that occasion did not amount to more than twenty." As to the alleged outrages on women, the English resident says that, till he read the account in the Times, he had never heard of even a single case of violation at Odessa ; nor has he met with any one who has. The correspondent of the Fall Mall Gazette is equally without positive information as to the alleged violations at Kieff. Women, he says, were roughly handled, and occasionally stripped of their clothes, if they appeared worth taking ; but "I did not at the time hear that any of them had been otherwise outraged." Never- theless, he adds, with great truth," It appears unlikely to me that the half-drunken rioters of the lowest classes, who in- dulged unchecked during forty- eight hours in every other species of excess, should have abstained from insulting the numerous defenceless young women who were completely at their mercy, especially in the smaller provincial towns, where the rioters completed their work of destruction and wreaked their will on the wretched Jews and their families, before the possible arrival of any military or other force to check them."
Of the riot at Warsaw' the Times says but little ; but the correspondent of the Pall Mall Gazette declares that, in his view, "based upon a certain knowledge of the facts, the authorities in that town, far from imitating the example given in Odessa, were, if possible, even more culpable than those in Kieff ; for it , was certainly fully forty-eight hours after the first outbreak in Warsaw before any pre- tence was made at taking effective measures to restore order." It is, we think, almost certain that some, at least, of the horrors described by the Times are exaggerations, and have been added to the original narratives in course of transmis- sion. On the other hand, there is every reason to believe that these exaggerations have a foundation in fact, and that where they are in error, it is rather in adding to the number of the crimes committed, and in taking it for granted that crimes committed here and there were committed everywhere, than in actual invention. That the statement in the Times is founded an wholly incorrect information, as regards the con- duct of the officials at Odessa, is plain ; but it seems, unfortu- nately, to be substantially correct as regards the conduct or the officiali at Kieff and Warsaw. If a hundred roubles could secure military protection for one Jew's house, it would have been perfectly possible to give military protection to all the Jews' houses. We should remember, however, that the Russian Government removed the Governor of Kieff for not repressing the riots more efficiently ; which at least proves that they do mean to discourage and to punish remiss officials. hut the inaction of the officials is only what is to be expected from the general temper of the laws relating to the Jews. Wherever a section of the population are systematically treated as alien, and placed under vexatious disabilities, the officials will regard the protection of them as at best a secondary duty. Violence directed against them will eventually be checked, lest the infection should extend inconveniently far ; but it will be checked languidly, and with
a contemptuous conviction that the victims deserve the half, if not the whole, of what they get. Equality before the law is an indispensable condition of that automatic protection which a Government owes to all its subjects. Until the Russian Government learns this elementary truth, outbreaks such as that which now scandalises Europe will be certain to recur, and to be dealt with in the half-hearted fashion in which the anti-Jewish riots have been dealt with.