Enemies for a Day

Enemies for a Day: Antisemitism and Anti-Jewish Violence in Lithuania under the Tsars

Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Enemies for a Day
    Book Description:

    This book explores anti-Jewish violence in Russian-ruled Lithuania. It begins by illustrating how widespread anti-Jewish feelings were among the Christian population in 19 th century, focusing on blood libel accusations as well as describing the role of modern antisemitism. Secondly, it tries to identify the structural preconditions as well as specific triggers that turned anti-Jewish feelings into collective violence and analyzes the nature of this violence. Lastly, pogroms in Lithuania are compared to anti-Jewish violence in other regions of the Russian Empire and East Galicia.

    eISBN: 978-963-386-094-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    Hershl Meyer, the son of a milkman who lived near the small Kovno (Kaunas) Province shtetl of Gargždai, close to the border with Prussia, remembers his father telling him of events there during the 1905 Revolution. At that time, his father lived with his family in the village of Vėžaičiai, not far from Gargždai.¹ Peasants visited his father and asked him what to do, because the local authorities had ordered them to arrange an anti-Jewish pogrom. First, they proposed to imitate a pogrom, so initially they suggested Jews bind their heads in scarves to look as if they were injured...

  6. 1 The Blood Libel in Nineteenth-Century Lithuania
    (pp. 17-62)

    At the turn of the twentieth century, modern nationalisms divided, or rather, began to divide society in Lithuania into competing and conflicting national groups. Nevertheless, society was not monolithic even before this period. In very simplified terms, the Christian part of society can be divided into an educated gentry and a less literate peasantry. Understandably, the views these groups held of Jews were not necessarily the same.

    We can discover the views of educated society from literary works, memoirs, and epistolary evidence. The view of Jews in these sources during the first half of the nineteenth century is negative in...

  7. 2 Antisemitism in Lithuania
    (pp. 63-84)

    With Antisemitism, as with other ideologies or political movements, there is no definition on which all or most researchers agree. Most often, arguments arise over several problems: what is the relationship between the ancient and the modern hatred of Jews, what are the reasons for the rise of modern Antisemitism, and should all forms of antipathy towards Jews be treated as Antisemitism?

    Modern researchers are inclined to separate ancient and modern antipathy towards Jews, even though in some respects a certain continuity cannot be denied.¹ A new term, “Antisemitism,” appeared in the second half of the nineteenth century, which shows...

  8. 3 Lithuania during the “Storms in the South” (Early 1880s)
    (pp. 85-128)

    In the early 1880s the first, and far from the last, wave of pogroms in the Romanov Empire swept through southern Russia. This is known in Jewish sources as the “Storms in the South.”¹ Three waves of pogroms struck the southern provinces in 1881: on April 15–21, April 26–May 10, and June 30–August 16, respectively. As a rule, anti-Jewish violence would start in a larger town and spread in waves to surrounding areas. Such waves did not recur in later months or years, but at this time larger pogroms did take place in Warsaw (December 1881),² Balta...

  9. 4 How Insulted Religious Feelings Turned into Pogroms: Lithuania in 1900
    (pp. 129-170)

    This chapter will concentrate on a single wave of anti-Jewish violence in Lithuania that spread through the Ponevezh (Panevėžys) and Shavli Districts of northern Lithuania (Kovno Province) during the first half of summer 1900.¹ Historians count up to twenty such incidents, but most of them were not mass events, and only a few of them fit the definition of “pogrom.”² The events of 1900 are a useful subject for research, since many sources related to them have survived (the evidence of many witnesses, official reports, and newspaper articles). With the help of comprehensive description techniques, these sources make it possible...

  10. 5 Antisemitic Tensions and Pogroms in the Late Imperial Period
    (pp. 171-210)

    In his 1901 bookMagen ha-Talmud(Shield of the Talmud), Simha ha-Cohen Kahana, the wandering preacher popular in Lithuania and Ukraine, noted that the autocratic regime in the Russian Empire was far more favorable to Jews than the European constitutional democracies. He proposed examining the level of Antisemitism in the Austrian parliament or in France, home of the notorious Dreyfus case. Meanwhile, the tsarist authorities in Russia protected Jews from various expressions of Antisemitism.¹ Inherent in the wandering preacher’s words is the idea that, in the age of mass politics autocratic regimes provide more security than liberal political constitutions. This...

  11. 6 Comparative Perspective
    (pp. 211-250)

    A comparative perspective investigating pogroms is important when trying to answer the question of why in one region—Lithuania—mass anti-Jewish violence was significantly lower than in other lands. In analyzing the situations at the beginning of the 1880s as well as of the 1905 Revolution, we inevitably compared the situation in Lithuania and other regions of the Russian Empire. Meanwhile, this chapter will compare in detail the anti-Jewish violence in Lithuania in three cases. A discussion of the anti-Jewish violence in Belarus and Eastern Galicia (Habsburg Empire) should help explain the small scale of anti-Jewish violence in Lithuania.¹ Meanwhile,...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 251-256)

    This research has revealed that during the long nineteenth century, there were approximately ten pogroms in Lithuania, not counting those organized at the beginning of World War I by Russian army units. However, even though the scale of collective violence was small, it does raise questions as to why and how violence took place.

    One of the readily identifiable reasons for the rise in Judeophobic sentiment in Lithuania was news of pogroms in other parts of the empire. This information strengthened an existing conviction that beating up Jews and destroying their property was permitted, and this encouraged pogroms. Granted, this...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 257-280)
  14. Index
    (pp. 281-284)