The The Polish Pogrom
[The Independent; December 14, 1918]
As soon as the Austrian monarchy collapsed, strife broke out between the Poles and the Ruthenes over the possession of Galicia. The Ruthenes wanted to join with the Ukrainians of Southern Russia, who are their next neighbors to the east and are of the same race and religion. Before signing the Brest-Litovsk treaty with the Central Powers, the Ukrainians secured a promise from the Austrian government in the event of a break-up, of the Empire, that only the western part of Galicia, namely, the Grand Duchies of Auschwitz, Zator and Cracow should go to Poland, while the eastern part, namely, the ancient kingdoms of Galicia and Lodomeria, should go to the Ukraine. This division corresponds fairly well with the distribution of population, for in two-thirds of Galicia the Ruthenes predominate. But the cities, especially Lemberg or Lvov, are chiefly inhabited by Poles and Jews. The Jews, who form 11 per cent of the population of Lemberg, sympathize with the Ukrainians, for they have suffered persecution under Polish rule and they fear it for the future.
When the armistice was signed the Poles took possession of Cracow, an ancient Polish-city at the western end of Galicia. Then the Polish army under General Vitaldorski started eastward to conquer the whole of Galicia so as to appear before the peace conference with the disputed territory already in their possession. They easily captured Przemsyl, the fortress that stood a long siege by the Russians three years ago. Then they marched on Lemberg where the Ruthenes, reinforced by Ukrainian troops, put up a stout resistance, but were finally overcome.
From Jewish sources it is reported that when Polish troops entered Lemberg they formed a cordon around the ghetto and proceeded to sack and burn the Jewish houses, and shops. The water supply was shut off to prevent the extinguishing of the flames, and Jews trying to escape were shot in the streets. Jewish girls were raped and then thrown from the windows. A synagog in which the Jews had sought refuge was set on fire and hundreds are said to have perished. The massacre continued for three days without any attempt of the Polish officers to stop it. Other observers lay the looting to the townspeople and say it was at length stopped by Polish patrols. According to the Ukrainian minister at Vienna, four thousand men, women and children were killed. Other reports place the number of victims at 1100. According to the Associated Press correspondent, "only a few persons were killed tho many were wounded." He reports that one wing of the Diet building was burnt and the post office, railway station and a few dozen houses were blown up. The American Jewish and Polish organizations have appealed to the President for an investigation. The Polish committee of Berne declares that "the" disorders had no political bearing but were economic in character." The Polish committee of Paris declares that they "had no religious character whatever but were purely political and industrial." The Polish commander declares that the "regrettable reprisals" were provoked by the Jews, who threw boiling water from the houses on the Polish soldiers, and that the Jews were guilty of trying to spread Bolshevism.
© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013
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A Novel of World War One
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