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1903-1905 – Kishinev Pogroms

In 1903, the young Shlomo Ruven (Sam) Banarsky experienced a great anti-Jewish riot in his hometown of Kishinev; another such pogrom occurred two years later in 1905. These events most likely prompted Sam’s flight to less anti-Semitic lands at least by 1910, when official documents locate him first in Vancouver, Canada and then shortly thereafter in Sydney, Australia. The background of these attacks follows:

In 1903 a Christian child was found murdered in Kishinev and this triggered the resurgence of the notion of Blood Libel, an accusation that the Jews used the blood of a Christian child to create their Passover matzo. A bloody wave of pogroms broke out and continued through 1905 leaving an estimated 2,000 Jews dead. Many more were wounded as the Jews of Kishinev took to arms to defend their families and property from the attackers. The New York Times described the so-called First Kishinev pogrom of Easter, 1903 as follows:

“The anti-Jewish riots in Kishinev, Bessarabia are worse than the censor will permit to publish. There was a well laid-out plan for the general massacre of Jews on the day following the Orthodox Easter. The mob was led by priests, and the general cry, ‘Kill the Jews’, was taken up all over the city. The Jews were taken wholly unaware and were slaughtered like sheep. The dead numbered 120 and the injured about 500. The scenes of horror attending this massacre are beyond description. Babies were literally torn to pieces by the frenzied and bloodthirsty mob. The local police made no attempt to check the reign of terror. At sunset the streets were piled with corpses and wounded. Those who could make their escape fled in terror, and the city is now practically deserted of Jews.”

The Kishinev Massacre of 1903 was protested throughout the world (Click on this photograph)

A second pogrom took place on October 19-20, 1905. This time the riots began as political protests against Czar Nicholas II, but turned into an attack on Jews wherever they could be found. By the time the riots were over, 19 Jews were killed and 56 were injured. Jewish self-defense leagues, organized after the first pogrom, stopped some of the violence, but were not wholly successful.

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