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Lwów or Lemberg pogrom

The Jewish quarter after the pogrom
Location Lwow, Ukraine
Date November 21–23 1918
Death(s) 52–150
Injured 443+
Perpetrator(s) Polish soldiers and civilians

The Lwów pogrom (also called the Lemberg pogrom) of the Jewish population of Lwów (now Lviv) took place on November 21 - November 23 1918 during the Polish-Ukrainian War. In the course of the three days of unrest in the city, an estimated 52-150 Jewish residents were murdered and hundreds injured, with widespread looting carried out by Polish soldiers,[1][2] [3][4][5][6] lawless civilians,[4][7] and local criminals.[7] 270 more Ukrainian Christians were killed during this time as well."[8][9] It took Polish forces two days to stop the pogrom. Over a thousand people, including some soldiers, were arrested by Polish authorities during and after the pogrom.[7][10][11]

The events, widely publicized in the international press, led to US President Woodrow Wilson appointing a commission, led by Henry Morgenthau, Sr., tasked with investigating excesses against the Jewish population in Poland.[12]



In 1918, the Jews of Galicia found themselves caught in the middle of the post-World War I Polish-Ukrainian conflict, and fell victim to a rising wave of pogroms across the region,[1] fueled by post-World War I lawlessness, perpetrated by both sides of the conflict. Throughout the 1918-1919 Polish-Ukrainian conflict, Jews had served as scapegoats for the frustrations of the warring forces.[13] Since the first days of the Polish-Ukrainian conflict Polish quarter of Lwów was defended only by a group of poorly armed volunteers, mainly students and even younger people in their early teens, known in Polish historiography as Lwów Eaglets.[14] On November 9-10, the Jews of Lwów formed a militia and declared their neutrality in the Polish-Ukrainian conflict over the city.[10] Other than reports of isolated instances of Jewish support for the Ukrainian side, Lwów's Jews remained officially neutral; the accounts of sporadic Jewish support for the Ukrainians [15][16] would serve as a rationale for false accusations that most Jews adopted the anti-Polish stance.[7][10][17] The Ukrainian government respected Jewish neutrality and during the two weeks that the city was controlled by Ukrainian forces there were no incidents of anti-Jewish violence.[18] Poles resented the proclaimed Jewish neutrality, and there were reports, leading to exaggerated rumors, that some Jews, including the militia, collaborated with the Ukrainians in various ways, up to actively engaging the Polish forces.[7][10][11] On the morning November 22, after taking the city in the night of November 21 to November 22, and amidst rumors that Lwów's Jews would be made to pay for their "neutrality" in the Polish-Ukrainian conflict, Polish forces interned and disarmed the Jewish militia.[10][11]

Before withdrawing from the town, the retreating Ukrainian forces let the criminals out of the prisons, some of whom volunteered to join Polish militia and fought against the Ukrainians.[7][10][11] The town was also full of Austrian army deserters. Polish authorities also armed a number of volunteers (including some former criminals) who promised to fight the Ukrainians.[10] The riots, including pogroms in the Jewish quarters (but an even larger disturbance in the Ukrainian quarters, with three times as much dead),[9] broke out after Polish forces managed to get control over all parts of the city, including the Jewish quarters, where they encountered resistance from Jewish-Ukrainian sympathizers.[7][10]

The pogrom

Following the retreat of main Ukrainian forces and the disarming and interning of the Jewish militia by the Polish army, Polish troops, including some officers, civilians, criminals, and Polish militia volunteers began the sacking, pillaging and burning of the town's Jewish quarter.[7][10] Writing in the journal Central European History, William W. Hagen reports that the pogrom was carried out by Polish Blue Army forces, together with lawless civilians, with the connivance or toleration of their military superiors.[19]

First-hand accounts differ, for example, according to a report by one Jewish eyewitness, many victims gave testimonies that rioting Polish soldiers claimed that their officers allowed them to 48 hours to pillage Jewish quarters, as a reward for capturing the city from the Ukrainians.[10] A report prepared for the Polish Foreign Ministry noted that the Polish Army "burned with desire for revenge" against the Jews, and soldiers wrongly believed that an order had been issued commanding a "punitive expedition" against the Jews. This report found no evidence that such an order had been issued, but noted that two full days passed before the troops participating in the pillaging were ordered to desist.[10][11] The Polish commanding officer of the 1918 battle of Lwów, Czesław Mączyński, in his account of the battle, acknowledged that there were rumors of such an order, which the criminal elements unsuccessfully attempted to obtain by bribes.[7] An investigation by Israel Cohen on behalf of the British Zionist Organization reported that Jewish leaders in Lwów, protesting the pogrom, were told by Army Chief of Staff Antoni Jakubski that the violence was a "punitive expedition into the Jewish quarter, which cannot be stopped."[10]

Mączyński delayed the implementation of a November 22 order for martial law from Brigadier General Bolesław Roja for a day and a half. In the interim, Mączyński issued inflammatory proclamations, using what has been described as "medieval terminology," of supposed acts of Jewish treachery against Polish troops. He claimed, for example, that Jews had attacked Poles with axes. The Jewish quarter was cordoned off for 48 hours by fire officials, and buildings in the quarter, including 3 synagogues, were allowed to burn. The killing and burning in the quarter had already been done by the time Mączyński allowed patrols to enter the area.[20]

Joseph Tenenbaum, a leader of the Jewish militia and eyewitness to the pogrom, wrote that troops cut off the Jewish quarter and that patrols of 10-30 men, each led by an officer and armed with grenades and rifles went through the quarter banging on doors. Doors not opened were blown open with grenades. Each house was systematically plundered, and its occupants beaten and shot. Shops were likewise looted, with the stolen goods loaded onto army trucks.[21] Mączyński, the Polish commander during the pogroms who had issued the anti-Jewish propaganda,[22] claimed that according to several accounts Jewish militia assaulted Polish forces without provocation, and that the Polish forces tried to stop the pogrom quicker, but were undermanned, and that while the some unruly soldiers participated in the pogrom, officers actively tried to stop them.[7] The Polish Foreign Ministry report, however, concluded that during the days of the pogrom "the authorities did not fulfill their responsibilities." The report noted that delegations of both Christian and Polish Jews hoping to end the violence had been turned away by officials and that during the pogrom, Polish officials and military commanders had spread false inflammatory charges against Jews, including claims that Jews were waging an armed struggle against Poland. Several Polish officers, according to the report, took part in the killings and pillaging, which they said continued for a week afterwards under the guise of searching for weapons.[10][11] In his 1919 report, Henry Morgenthau concludes that in Lemberg, as well as in the cities of Lida, Wilna, and Minsk, captured by Polish troops "the excesses were committed by the soldiers who were capturing the cities and not by the civilian population."[23] Mączyński, the Polish commander who prior to the pogrom had issued anti-Jewish pamphlets, blamed Ukrainian criminals for initiating the pogrom, and claimed that they were the most numerous group among the rioters.[7] Writing in 1971, Adam Ciołkosz, a former leader of the Polish Socialist Party who arrived in Lwów on November 21 as a 16-year-old scout, recalled that rumors circulated that Jews had fired on Polish troops, and maintained that the Polish army had tried to stop the pogroms, not instigate or support it.[8]

Polish forces were able to bring order to the city after one or two days (reports vary), on November 23 or November 24.[10][11] Ad hoc courts handed verdicts during the riots.[11] About one thousand people well jailed for participating in the riots.[10][11] Mączyński notes that between 1300 to 1500 people were jailed, primarily Ukrainians (60%), the rest Polish (30%), but also some Jewish criminals (10%).[7] Mączyński also gives the statistical breakdown of rioters' professional occupations, compiled and published in contemporary press in Lwów by Jewish authors, that includes 18 officers and 54 soldiers among those arrested.[7]


Figures for the death toll vary; according to William W. Hagen, citing a report prepared for the Polish Foreign Ministry, approximately 150 Jews were murdered and 500 Jewish shops and their businesses were ransacked,[10] while the 1919 Morgenthau report counted 64 Jewish deaths. A simultaneous British government investigation led by Sir Stuart Samuel reported that 52 Jews were killed, 463 injured and a large amount of Jewish property was stolen.[24] Jewish contemporary sources reported 73 deaths;[10] official city documents support only 41 deaths.[7] Mączyński noted that some of Jewish deaths were a result of combat between Polish forces and Jewish Ukrainian sympathizers.[7] According to Tadeusz Piotrowski, in the chaotic events of the riot, more Christians than Jews have died,[8] and Morgenthau Report, for example, raised a question of whether the label pogrom it technically applicable to such riots in the times of war.[8] The report submitted to Polish Foreign Ministry cited by Hagen characterized the incident as a pogrom, and criticized the inaction of Polish officials in failing to halt the violence, while accusing the officials of publicizing inflammatory charges against Lwów's Jews.[10] Historian Norman Davies has cited figures of 340 total deaths in the violence, of whom two thirds were Ukrainian Christians and the remaining 70 were Jews.[9] Davies questioned whether these circumstances can be accurately described as a "pogrom," suggesting that Polish forces may have carried out two distinct massacres — an anti-semitic pogrom against Jews and an anti-Ukrainian massacre.[9] Historian David Engel has noted that the Polish Foreign Ministry had conducted a campaign to discourage the use of the term "pogrom" by foreign investigators, although it used the term freely in its own investigation.[25]


Over a thousand people were arrested, hundreds individuals accused of participation in the pogrom were punished by Polish authorities after they established themselves in the city, promises of material compensation were made.[7][11][12]

As a result of the pogrom, an all Jewish unit of around 1000 men was formed in the army of the West Ukrainian National Republic.[26]

The events were widely reported by European and American press,[27] including The New York Times[28] News reports of the massacre, claimed by some historians (ex. Davies, Kapiszewski, Piotrowski) to have been greatly exaggerated, were later used as a means of pressure on Polish delegation during Paris peace conference into signing the Minority Protection Treaty (the Little Treaty of Versailles).[9][11][27] and in 1921, the events also resulted in Polish government awarding liberal minority rights for Polish Jewish population in the March Constitution.[29]

International outrage at the series of similar acts of violence committed by Polish military (Pinsk massacre, Lida, Minsk and Vilna pogroms) and civilian population (Kielce pogrom) against the Jews led to the appointment of an investigation commission by US President Woodrow Wilson in June 1919[30][31]. On October 3, 1919 commission lead by Henry Morgenthau, Sr. published its findings. According to Morgenthau Report excesses in Lwow were "political as well as anti-Semitic in character".[12]

The Polish government also investigated Lwow events. A report prepared on December 17, 1918 for the Foreign Ministry of Poland emphasized the role played by criminals released during the struggle over the city and recruited by the Polish Armed Forces. According to the report this resulted in a "tragic and vicious circle" when a soldier fighting for the Polish cause, also "robbed at every opportunity and wherever he could." The report noted that as of December, sentence had not been passed on some 40 soldiers, along with one thousand civilians identified as "criminals" who had been jailed for robbery and murder, and emphasized that there was no evidence that there had been any desire to immediately stop the pogrom.[10]


  1. ^ a b Ezra Mendelsohn. The Jews of East Central Europe Between the World Wars. Indiana University Press, 1983.
  2. ^ Joanna B. Michlic. Poland's Threatening Other: The Image of the Jew from 1880 to the Present. University of Nebraska Press, 2006. One of the first and worst instances of anti-Jewish violence was Lwow pogrom, which occurred in the last week of November 1918. In three days 72 Jews were murdered and 443 others injured. The chief perpetrators of these murders were soldiers and officers of the so-called Blue Army, set up in France in 1917 by General Jozef Haller (1893-1960) and lawless civilians
  3. ^ Herbert Arthur Strauss. Hostages of Modernization: Studies on Modern Antisemitism, 1870-1933/39. Walter de Gruyter, 1993. "In Lwow, a city whose fate was disputed, the Jews tried to maintain their neutrality between Poles and Ukrainians, and in reaction a pogrom was held in the city under auspices of the Polish army"
  4. ^ a b Gilman, Sander L.; Milton Shain (1999). Jewries at the Frontier: Accommodation, Identity, Conflict. University of Illinois Press. pp. 39. ISBN 0252067924,. OCLC 9780252067921. "After the end of the fighting and as a result of the Polish victory, some of the Polish soldiers and the civilian population started a pogrom against the Jewish inhabitants. Polish soldiers maintained that the Jews had sympathized with the Ukrainian position during the conflicts" 
  5. ^ Marsha L. Rozenblit. Reconstructing a National Identity: The Jews of Habsburg Austria During World War I. Oxford University Press US, 2001. The largest pogrom occurred in Lemberg. Polish soldiers led an attack on the Jewish quarter of the city on November 21-23, 1918 that claimed 73 Jewish lifes
  6. ^ Zvi Y. Gitelman. The Emergence of Modern Jewish Politics: Bundism and Zionism in Eastern Europe. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003. In November 1918, Polish soldiers who had taken Lwow (Lviv) from the Ukrainians killed more than seventy Jews in a pogrom there, burning synagogues, destroying Jewish property, and leaving hundreds of Jewish families homeless
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p (Polish) Czesław Mączyński, Boje Lwowskie, 1921
  8. ^ a b c d (English) Tadeusz Piotrowski (1997). Poland's Holocaust: Ethnic Strife, Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide.... McFarland & Company. pp. p. 41-42. ISBN 0-7864-0371-3. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Norman Davies. "Ethnic Diversity in Twentieth Century Poland." In: Herbert Arthur Strauss. Hostages of Modernization: Studies on Modern Antisemitism, 1870-1933/39. Walter de Gruyter, 1993.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s William W. Hagen. "The Moral Economy of Popular Violence The Pogrom in Lwow, November 1918." In: Robert Blobaum, Antisemitism and Its Opponents in Modern Poland, Cornell University Press, 2005, ISBN 0801489695, Print, p.127-129
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k David Engel. "Lwów, 1918: The Transmutation of a Symbol and its Legacy in the Holocaust." In: Joshua D. Zimmerman, Contested Memories: Poles and Jews During the Holocaust and Its Aftermath, Rutgers University Press, 2003, ISBN 0813531586, Google Print, p.33-34
  12. ^ a b c Morgenthau, Henry (1922). "Appendix. Report of the Mission of the United States to Poland". All in a Life-time. Doubleday, Page and Company.,+therefore,+political+as+well+as+anti-Semitic+in+character%22&dq=%22These+excesses+were,+therefore,+political+as+well+as+anti-Semitic+in+character%22&pgis=1. Retrieved 2008-09-05. 
  13. ^ Scott Ury. Who, What, When, Where, and Why Is Polish Jewry? Envisioning, Constructing, and Possessing Polish Jewry. Jewish Social Studies, Volume 6, Number 3, Spring/Summer 2000:205-228.
  14. ^ In Defense of Lwow and the Eastern Borderlands
  15. ^ Dr. Vladimir Melamed, Jewish Lviv "Despite the official neutrality, some Jewish men had been noticed aiding the combat Ukrainian units
  16. ^ David Vital. A People Apart: The Jews in Europe, 1789-1939 Oxford University Press, 1999.
  17. ^ Vladimir Melamed, JEWISH LVIV, The Independent cultural journal “JI”, Issue No.51 / 2008
  18. ^ Herbert Arthur Strauss. Hostages of Modernization: Studies on Modern Antisemitism, 1870-1933/39. pg. 1032
  19. ^ William W. Hagen. Murder in the East: German-Jewish Liberal Reactions to Anti-Jewish Violence in Poland and Other East European Lands, 1918–1920. Central European History, Volume 34, Number 1, 2001 , pp. 1-30. Page 8.
  20. ^ Carole Fink. Defending the Rights of Others: The Great Powers, the Jews, and International Minority Protection, 1878-1938. Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  21. ^ Joseph Bendow (Joseph Tenenbaum). Der Lemberger Judenpogrom. Nov 1918-Jan 1919. (Vienna 1919).
  22. ^ Carole Fink. Defending the Rights of Others: The Great Powers, the Jews, and International Minority Protection, 1878-1938. Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  23. ^ Henry Morgenthau, French Strother. All in a Life-time. Doubleday, Page and Company, 1922, p. 414. Original from the New York Public Library, digitized Jul 17, 2007>
  24. ^ Cited in: American Jewish Committee. The American Jewish Yearbook 5682. Original from the University of Michigan, Digitized Mar 3, 2005.
  25. ^ David Engel. Facing a Holocaust: The Polish Government-in-exile and the Jews, 1943-1945. University of North Carolina Press, 1993.
  26. ^ Orest Subtelny. Ukraine a History. University of Toronto Press, 2000, ISBN 0802083900. p 369. [1]
  27. ^ a b Andrzej Kapiszewski (2004). Controversial Reports on the situation of Jews in Poland in the aftermath of World War I, Studia Judaica, pp.257-304
  28. ^ "A Record of Pogroms in Poland". New York Times. June 1, 1919. Retrieved 2008-09-06. 
  29. ^ Jacob Goldstein, Abraham Cahan, Jewish Socialists in the United States: The Cahan Debate, 1925-1926, Sussex Academic Press, 1998, ISBN 1898723982, Google Print, p.11
  30. ^ Little, John E. (1999). "Morgenthau, Henry". The United States in the First World War: An Encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0815333536. OCLC 9780815333531. 
  31. ^ Marcus, Jacob Rader (1989). United States Jewry, 1776-1985: The Sephardic Period. Wayne State University Press. pp. 391. ISBN 0814321887. OCLC 9780814321881. Retrieved 2008-09-05. 

See also



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