Rare Torah, collection, recall Kishinev pogrom

Stark symbols in Israel's National Library remind the viewer of devastation on the 108th anniversary of infamous massacre of Jews, the Kishinev Pogrom.

April 28, 2011 18:14
2 minute read.
Kishinev museum materials

Kishinev. (photo credit: courtesy)


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A leather-bound photo album in the archives of Israel's National Library depicts in graphic detail the devastation and death wrought by the the Kishinev Pogrom of 1903.

In that pogrom, which took place 108 years ago this month, mobs brutally murdered nearly 50 Jews. They wounded and maimed hundreds more and looted and destroyed hundreds of buildings and businesses.

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“The fact that our photographs, documents and posters were sent to us by the Jewish community of Kishinev makes this collection unique,” said archivist Gil Weissblei, who also serves as curator of the Archives' photograph collection.

The collection includes anti-Semitic posters from the streets of Kishinev, depicting Kishinev locals holding broomsticks in a symbolic call to sweep Jews and other undesirables from their midst.

A German-Jewish newspaper illustration contrasts the relative calm of a Passover seder in Budapest with the illustrations of Kishinev's dead and wounded.

Postcards of the pogrom – whether through illustrations by E.M. Lilien or through the use of graphic  images of the victims – were distributed by Kishinev's Jews  in the aftermath of the atrocity in an effort to draft international support for the besieged community.

Also in the collection are scores of press clippings in numerous languages, illustrating the attention and outrage the killings elicited. 

Also among the hundreds of photos are images from the mass gatherings of Kishinev's Jews at the funerals for Torah scrolls that were torn to shreds by the marauding mobs.

“Inside Israel” recently discovered a Torah scroll that survived the pogrom. Its Israeli owner, who insisted on anonymity, described what he heard from his late father:  

“One of our family members was reading from the Torah during the Sabbath service on Passover, when one of them burst into the synagogue, removed his sword and beheaded the reader in front of the entire congregation,” the owner recalled. “The Torah was covered with blood, and traces of that stain remain today on the scroll's sacred parchment.” 

The owner of the Torah plans to read from it during the forthcoming Passover holiday.

Though the Kishinev Torah remains in private hands and is not available to the public, the National Library's collection may be viewed, by appointment, during the Archive's regular hours.

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