|Vol. I, No. 12
Adar 5604 March 1844
Respecting the Removal of the Jews From the Polish Frontiers.*
We have already had occasion to refer to the publication of the Russian Ukase, requiring the Jews to remove from the frontiers of Poland. According to the best information received from our correspondents in Poland, and the statements which have appeared in the "Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums," it seems that the Jews were of opinion that they had no reason "seriously to apprehend being translocated into the interior," provided that "they were free from the suspicion of smuggling."
The well-known benevolence of the emperor gives us good reason to hope that this opinion will be found to have been well-grounded, as it regards the great body of the Jews who reside near the Polish frontiers; but we are sorry to find, from the "Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums" for Nov. 20, that the ukase has been proclaimed in Radziwillow, near Brody. This is the first time that we have met with any statement in the Jewish periodicals, showing that steps had been actually taken to carry the ukase into effect. We anxiously await further intelligence concerning the measures adopted with respect to this regulation. Whatever may have been the fault of individuals among the Jews, as alluded to in the following communication, it is most painful to hear that a whole congregation should be exposed to a punishment, which must be most severely felt, and which, if carried into effect to the extent spoken of, must involve the innocent and guilty in the same common suffering:—
Brody, Oct. 26.
Our last holidays have been changed into days of mourning. On the concluding days of the festival we received the distressing and overpowering intelligence that in Radziwillow, the village nearest to us on the Russian frontier, the chief of the police had proclaimed in the synagogue that the ukase issued some time back (referring to the removal of the Jews residing within fifty wersts of the frontier) is really to be of full force and effect, and that only two years are to be allowed for the disposal of houses and property. Thus, after so many protestations that this decree affected only the inhabitants of the open country; after the assurances given by the correspondents of the "Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung," who usually draw from authentic sources, that residents in towns were to be spared from this scourge; we, who are so unhappy as to be eye-witnesses of the lamentable misery of our brethren, must nevertheless be once more startled by the calamitous news that all Jews resident on the frontiers are to be driven from their homes! We may easily imagine what great and manifold miseries hundreds and thousands of human beings will thus be subjected to, and it cannot fail to touch the feelings of even the most heartless. "A fugitive and a wanderer shalt thou be," and "In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread," may indeed be but too often repeated and exemplified in the case of the Russian Jew, and enforced too; but of so comprehensive and universal an expulsion, causing the misery of such a multitude, even bygone centuries have scarcely afforded an example.
This ukase is said to be merely intended as a preventive against smuggling, but cannot, in our opinion, effect that object, for even if we were to admit that those engaged in these illegalities are all of them Russian Jews (which, however, especially on our frontiers, where most of the smugglers are to be found among the Christian inhabitants of Gallicia, is certainly not the case) yet this evil cannot be expected to be alleviated by such a measure, as the Christian population which would succeed the expelled Jews, would by no means disdain profiting by the opportunities that offer for illicit trading, for where there is a frontier and a prohibitive system in existence, smuggling will be a necessary consequence . . . . . And is it not as if some one, suffering from toothache, would have all his teeth drawn out, as a certain means of getting rid of the one which causes the pain?
We must not, however, overlook the fact that it has never been the intention of the emperor to oppress the Jews; on the contrary, we have proofs enough that he feels convinced of their sincerity, their attachment, and their patriotism; that he regards them equally with his Christian subjects; and that he desires to see them improved, progressing, and prospering. But the great mass of the Russian officials, to whom executive power is committed, hate and despise the Jew so much, that neither his property nor even his life have any value in their eyes; and they are not ashamed to resort to the basest means of persecution and oppression, in order to effect the baptism or the expatriation of a Jew . . . . . .
These servants of the state are constantly planning and contriving calumny, and the vilification of the children of Israel; and if they can but once succeed in obtaining the imperial sanction to an ambiguous and apparently unimportant decree, these gentlemen so comment upon and explain it, as to render it most adverse to the Jews, and as favourable as possible to their own purses. In the same way they mutilate, curtail, or procrastinate, in a great measure, the favourable concessions which the emperor so frequently grants; and the Russian Jew is, alas! as yet too ignorant, and stands too much in awe of the official, to dare to complain to the emperor himself of these unjust and legal vexations. Should any one have the courage to attempt it, there are ways and means by which the complaint is prevented ever reaching that exalted personage, and the complainant is always a marked man, so that he will have cause to repent his temerity . . . . . .
Our only hope is founded in the moral conviction that the emperor had certainly no intention of allowing his ukase to be interpreted in this manner; and we may expect, from his well-known sense of justice, that as soon as he is informed of the interpretation, so calamitous for his Jewish subjects, which has been given to this decree, he will order its immediate revocation. . . .