The Weitzmans and anti-Semitism

Odessa courtyard

When I was first reading the reports about the Odessa pogrom and came upon the Weitzman family, many of whose members were killed, and who featured in many reports and records in the archives, I looked up the names of some of the family members in both English and Russian, along with the keywords Odessa and 1905, to see if their story had been mentioned anywhere else. Strangely the name Chaim Weitzman, one of those who died in the pogrom, did come up in a different but related context. It was an article Одесса теряет лицо (Odessa loses face) on the Odessa Jewish community centre (Migdal) website (http://www.migdal.org.ua/antisemitism/6621/ ) in 2006 about an anti-Semitic attack in the centre of Odessa, on Malaya Arnautskaya St, against a young man called Chaim Weitzman. The article begins:

18 сентября около 10 часов вечера Хаим Вейцман проходил в районе улиц Малой Арнаутской и Белинского. На улице было много людей, возле дверей двух магазинов стояли охранники. Тут же стояла группа молодых людей, которые по дальнейшим показаниям свидетелей происшедшего, часто тусуются на этом месте. Один из них подошел к Хаиму сзади и со словами «Не люблю жидов!» нанес удар по голове. Сколько человек его избивали, Хаим не помнит. Но происходило это все не в темной подворотне, а на людной улице, совершенно безнаказанно. Хулиганы не испугались ни свидетелей, ни того, что кто-то заступится.

Милицию Хаим вызвал сам. Представители закона не рвались выяснять обстоятельства происшествия, хотя один из свидетелей даже назвал имя хулигана – Виталик.
В Приморском отделении милиции Хаима, окровавленного, с рассеченной губой и сотрясением мозга, продержали сорок минут, не очень-то желая принять заявление. «Вот если бы ему что-то сломали…» – был аргумент дежурного милиционера.

Chaim Weitzman

On September 18, at about 10 pm, Chaim Weitzmann was passing through the area of ​​Malaya Arnautskaya and Belinskogo. On the street there were many people, and there were guards near the doors of two shops. There was also a group of young people who, according to further testimony of witnesses to the incident, often hang out there. One of them approached Chaim from behind and struck his head, with the words “I do not like Jews!”. Chaim does not remember how many people beat him, But it all happened not in a dark gateway, but in a crowded street, absolutely with impunity. Hooligans were not afraid of any witnesses, nor that someone might intercede.

He called the police himself. Representatives of the law did not dare to find out the circumstances of the incident, although one of the witnesses even knew the first name of the hooligan – Vitalik.
At the Primorski police station, Chaim, bloodied, with a split lip and concussion, was held for forty minutes, not really wishing to make a statement. “Now if he had broken something…” was the argument of the policeman on duty.

The article continues about anti-Semitism in Odessa in general, beginning with the observation that ‘Just among the staff and visitors of Migdal over the past two years, five people have been beaten with a certain severity of consequences. In none of the cases have the perpetrators been punished.’ Interestingly, Migdal, the Jewish community centre, is also on Malaya Arnautskaya, towards the middle of the street at 46a, in what was once a beautiful old synagogue from 1909. It was not easy finding Migdal on Malaya Arnautskaya as the facade of the old synagogue faces the street around the corner, and the entrance to 46a is simply a gate in a wall with the number, quite a secret entrance.

Migdal façade Leintenanta Shmidta St 10

Migdal entrance Malaya Arnautskaya 46a

The authors of the article then link current anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine and Russia to the 1905 pogrom – ‘The last pogrom in Odessa was in 1905. With the full connivance of the city authorities. But we can name a long list of worthy Odessa citizens who have defended their fellow citizens. And even during the days of occupation, the Odessites, risking their lives and the lives of their loved ones, saved the Jews.’ They go on to say that young people today do not really know Jews in the way that people did before World War II, when Odessa was truly a multicultural city.

One thing that fascinates me about this article is that it mentions the 1905 Odessa pogrom, without knowing the story of the Weitzman family in the pogrom in the Odessa records. In Fond 634, prosecutor of Odessa District Court, 1870-1917, there are investigations of pogrom cases, including the case of Rosa Drutman:

She served at the house of a rich Jewish family of Veitzman-Varshavsky and became a witness of a cruel massacre…Soldiers sent by the local authorities to prevent crimes, in fact marked the beginning of the drama using fire-arms against the Jews. 6 out of 9 members of the family were killed. Rosa were wounded three times but survived after two months of treatment. Her witnesses, medicine card, materials of cross-examinations and protocols of court meetings let us reconstruct the events in details.

 One of the Weitzman victims in the pogrom was Chaim-Chaikel, a 35-year-old and possibly the father of the youngest Weitzman, 13-year-old Naum. It is an eerie coincidence that, in 2006, just one hundred years from the 1905 pogrom, another Chaim Weitzman was attacked by a nationalist, and ironic that no-one saw the connection.

Although the Weitzman-Varshavsky family affected by the pogrom lived in the suburb of Slobodka Romanovka, one Varshavsky family owned a house on Malaya Arnautskaya, Nebe house, number 111, at the end of the street nearer Moldavanka. A Weitzman family owned a house a couple of streets away from Malaya Arnautskaya on Pushkinskaya at 59. Although the pogrom reports focus on the areas worst affected by the pogrom, Moldavanka and other working class suburbs, the hooligans and right-wing marches went through the centre of the city. In the newspapers and the reports, there were stories of violence and looting in the centre at Pushkinskaya and Uspenskaya, a murder at the corner of Kanatnaya and Uspenskaya, pillaging at the corner of Ekaterinenskaya and Evreiskaya, and incidents at Preobrazhenskaya, Politseiskaya, and Pushkinskaya between Novorybnaya and Malaya Arnautskaya. This would have been near the centre of Malaya Arnautskaya.

corner of Kanatnaya and Uspenskaya (murders described in the 1906 report Odessa pogrom and self defence)

62 Pushkinskaya near Malaya Arnautskaya where pogrom incident occurred

But the incident with Chaim Weitzman occurred at Malaya Arnautskaya and Belinskaya streets, which is at the beginning of Malaya Arnautskaya towards the sea and the French Boulevard. The street is called Belinskaya, although now its name is Leontovicha, apparently ignored by everyone. And it was not always Belinskaya. Until some time in the early 1900s, it was Portostarofrankskaya, Old French Port Rd.

Odessa 1917 (X at centre top at corner of Malaya Arnautskaya and Belinskaya)

Odessa 1888 Portostarofrankskaya

While trying to find where this mysterious non-existent Belinskaya Street was, I came upon one of the historical websites of Odessa streets which uses the old name ( Малая Арнаутская улица. От улицы Белинского до улицы Вячеслава Черновола  (http://obodesse.at.ua/publ/malaja_arnautskaja_ulica/1-1-0-255 ), and discovered that it was not only the far end of the street near Moldavanka that was a Jewish area, but many of the houses and businesses at this end, where the street met the beginning of the wealthy houses along the French Boulevard, were also owned or run by Jews.

The building on the corner, Malaya Arnautskaya 1, has a pharmacy on the ground floor and according to the author of the website has been a pharmacy for over a hundred years.

Malaya Arnautskaya 1

The house was originally owned by M Levinson, and the Shapiro brothers were pharmacists there from about 1912. He quotes from Kataev’s memoir, A Mosaic of Life, about his visits as a young child to this pharmacy with his mother, but Kataev’s mother died when he was about six, probably around 1903-4, and his family were living on Bazarnaya Street near the corner with Portostarofrankskaya. Kataev mentions passing by their pharmacy on Bazarnaya on their way to his mother’s funeral. In his short chapter about visiting their pharmacy with his mother to pick up her migraine medicine, he mentions the frightened customers who came to collect oxygen-filled pillows and rushed back home, hoping to save someone’s life. Shortly afterwards it was his own mother who desperately needed the pillows as she was dying from pneumonia a few months after Kataev’s younger brother was born. In the 1904-5 directory there are several pharmacies along the length of Bazarnaya, the first at number 26 and another on the corner of Bazarnaya and Kanatnaya. Bazarnaya is on the 1888 map above although most of the name is missing. It is next to Boshaya Arnautskaya and runs from Portostarofrankskaya to the Old Market Square (Старый Базарь).

Reading about the history of the first few houses on Malaya Arnautskaya and their Jewish owners, I began to see that the pogromists may have worked their way down the entire street and then onto the wealthier Jewish houses of the French Boulevard as had the hooligans who had passed by Kataev’s house on Kanatnaya looking on to Kulikove Pole, where he was living in 1905. I will delve further into the role of Malaya Arnautskaya in revolutionary politics and the pogrom in another post.

While studying a series of old maps for the missing Belinskaya Street, I noticed another symbol of the anti-Semitism around the time of the pogrom – that Evreiskaya St (Hebrew or Jewish St), a major street in the centre, had several name changes after 1905. Many of the streets in the centre were named after the nationalities that originally built Odessa – there was Greek Street, French Boulevard, Jewish Street and Malaya Arnautskaya means Little Greek-Albanian Street. In Soviet times most of the streets were given new names but in 1908 Evreiskaya St changed and became Skobelevskoi or Skobeleva (Скобелева) after a Russian commander and general who liberated Bulgaria from the Turks.

Odessa 1894 Evreiskaya St

1904 Evreiskaya St (second street from top)

1912 Skobeleva St (second street from top)

1917 Sobolevskaya St

In 1920 Evreiskaya Street became Bebel Street in honour of a German Social Democrat, and during the occupation it became Mussolini Street. After the occupation it became Badaeva Street after the head of Soviet security, and finally in 1994, in a return to the past, it became Evreiskaya again. What Odessa actually feels about its Jewish history is probably another story.

 

Bebel Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

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