Category Archives: pogrom death list

The Rekhes family and Malaya Arnautskaya

In the pogrom death records there were two members of the Rekhes or Rekhis family from Vilna. One was Rasya Shifra Rekhis, age 8, and the other Khana Nekhemya Rekhes, age 20, the wife of a Vilna citizen. Also in the Odessa death index is a Meer Rekhis who died 9 November 1905, a couple of weeks after the pogrom. In the 1904-5 directory there is one Rekhes, S. Rekhes (Сруль Евсеевич Рехес) at 28 Malaya Arnautskaya, just across the street from number 29, where 10 Jewish socialists had been arrested a few months before the pogrom. Srul Rekhes continued to own the house until 1908 when I. Rekhes became the owner. Khana and Rasya may or may not have been among this household and their immediate family may or may not have remained in Odessa. Rekhes was probably an uncommon name and they may have all been related.

In the American records, there were only a few families called Rykis or Reikes and there was one Rykis from Odessa, William, born in 1886 according to most of his records, who emigrated in 1912. In 1915 he married Celia Kellner in New York, saying he was born in 1891 in Odessa.

 On his World War I registration William again mentions his birthplace of Odessa and says he is married and living in Manhattan. It was very difficult to find William in the records as his name was transliterated wrongly in 1920 and 1930 but eventually the picture emerged of William working in a laundry and having three children with Celia – Bessie, Louis, and Dorothy. They lived first in Manhattan on the Upper East side and, from 1930, in the Bronx.

In March 1927, when Dorothy was three years old, she appears in the records of the Hebrew Infant Home which was part of the New York Hebrew Orphan Asylum, admitted by a court order. Could it be that the family was so poor or lived in such inadequate accommodation that it was felt the child was at risk? Or was it that her mother was working? On the 1925 census, the Rykis’ were living at 323 E 101th St.

Older houses on East 101 St

On 10 July 1928 Dorothy was discharged from the Infant Home to the Hebrew Orphan Asylum and on 18 July she was admitted to the Willard Parker Hospital for infectious diseases. So how much safer was the asylum than her own home?

She remained at the Willard Parker Hospital until the middle of August 1928, but in February 1929 she was admitted to Mount Sinai hospital where she remained until the end of January 1930. She must have developed a complication from the original infectious illness. The main illnesses treated at the Willard Parker Hospital were diphtheria, scarlet fever and measles. According to a report compiled about the years 1919-1923 at the Willard Parker Hospital, there were 3940 cases of scarlet fever, 8776 cases of diphtheria and 3720 cases of measles. The mortality over the five years was 8.1% for scarlet fever, 16.2% for diphtheria and 15.7% for measles. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1320416/)

The hospital was originally built in 1885 on 16th Street near the East River. By the early 1900s there were separate buildings for each of the major illnesses treated there plus buildings for research, disinfection, toxicology and vaccine research.

The Willard Parker Hospital E 16th St (GW Bromley and Co 1920)

Photograph of fire escapes E 16th St

By the census in 1930 the Rykis family was together in the Bronx, possibly having moved away from less hygienic housing in Manhattan, but by 1940 William was no longer living with the family. Celia was still in the Bronx with the three children but William does not appear on the 1940 census. On his World War II registration he is living in lower Manhattan and his contact/next-of-kin is his place of work. Celia was working in a textile factory, as she had done in 1930. The eldest daughter, Bessie, was also at the factory, Louis was an errand boy for the factory and Dorothy, at 16, was still at school. Louis joined the Air Corps in 1942 and married in 1955. There is a newspaper article from 1951 about the marriage of Dorothy Rykis to Joseph Robb, the son of a policeman, at a Catholic Church in Hewlett, Long Island, on the south shore. There is no mention of her father.

26 June 1951 Nassau Review Star

ROBB-RYKIS

Miss Dorothe Rykis, daughter of Mrs Cecilia Rykis of Manhattan was married Saturday to Joseph L. Robb of 1248 Waverly Street, Hewlett. The ceremony took place at St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, Hewlett. A reception followed. The bride wore a nylon net gown with lace bodice and bouffant skirt. Her fingertip veil fell from a lace cap and she carried an old-fashioned bouquet.

Mrs George Capone of Manhattan was maid of honour. Ralph Robb of Valley Stream acted as best man for his nephew. Mr Robb is the son of the late Joseph L. Robb, retired New York City policeman. He is a veteran of World War 2 and served overseas with the Sixth Marine Division. After a trip to the Poconos, the couple will reside in Hewlett.

Neither William nor Celia had chosen Jewish names for themselves or their children so one presumes they had put aside their religion and possibly did not have a problem with Dorothy marrying into a Catholic family. William died in 1957 and Celia in 1962.

If William had in any way been connected with the Rekhes family affected by the pogrom, it was probably put well behind him, and his children may have known nothing about it or his life in Odessa. While he used Odessa as his birthplace in his marriage and  WW1 records, by  WW2 he says he was born in Jemnitz which is in central Ukraine. It may be that this was his birthplace but that he had previously used Odessa because he had spent his childhood there. One wonders if the Rekhes family in Odessa knew of the socialist meeting place across the road from them and whether they were in favour of such views or not. As the surnames of three members at the meeting were also names in the death records pogrom, one wonders if the police were taking the opportunity to target socialists and revolutionaries during the uproar. And were the young Chana and Rasya Rekhes just innocent bystanders or was their family also involved?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Malaya Arnautskaya and the revolution

Before launching into the links between Malaya Arnautskaya (Малая Арнаутская) Street, the revolutionaries and the pogrom, I will digress into the completely unrelated (I presume) inventive and beautiful metalwork gates on Malaya Arnautskaya.

Malaya Arnautskaya 109

Malaya Arnautskaya 94

Kataev uses 15 Malaya Arnautskaya in his children’s book, The lonely white sail, as a safe house used by Terenti, the revolutionary. When his little brother, Gavrick, finds there is an amnesty for prisoners after the 1905 manifesto by the Tzar, he goes to collect his grandfather from prison. Terenti says he cannot bring his grandfather to their house which is being watched by the police, so he should take him to 15 Malaya Arnautskaya where he should ask the janitor for Joseph Karlovich. When he finds the janitor he should say ‘How’d you do, Joseph Karlovich? Sofia Peterovna sent me to ask if you’ve received any letters from Nikolayev.’ Joseph should answer, ‘No, I haven’t had a letter for two months.’ Joseph lived in a dark cellar, with walls covered in mould.

Courtyard Malaya Arnautskaya 15

In 1905, the real 15 Malaya Arnautskaya was owned by  S Yurischich (С. Юришичъ) who also owned the house behind it on the parallel street, Novo Rybnaya, and the warren of buildings in between.

Malaya Arnautskaya 15

The numbers 15, 28 and 29 (discussed later) Malaya Arnautskaya have been marked on this 1888 Odessa map to show how central this area was.

15, 28 and 29 Malaya Arnautskaya

The jumble of tumbledown buildings in the courtyards of houses on Malaya Arnautskaya, and probably the sympathy of many Jews towards the revolutionary movement, made this street ideal for safe houses. According to the writer of the Odessa street website (http://obodesse.at.ua/publ/malaja_arnautskaja_ulica/1-1-0-254 ):

В 1902 году на Малой Арнаутской улице насчитывалось 1752 бедняка из числа еврейского населения. Это в среднем, примерно, 16 человек на каждый номер дома.

 In 1902, in Malaya Arnautskaya, there were 1752 poor among the Jewish population, an average of about 16 people per apartment.

But Malaya Arnautskaya was only the sixth of the streets with the most poor people. Gospitalnaya (Hospital Street) in Moldavanka had over 4000 people in about 65 houses. Many families affected by the pogrom lived on Gospitalnaya Street.

A list of people wanted by the Okhrana in Odessa is in an online excerpt from an article in Avotaynu Winter,1995 by George Bolotenko with references to reports of the chief of the Odessa  Okhrana to the Department of Police – Odessa Okhrana Detachment March 1905-1906.  Several family names from the pogrom death records were listed. It also mentions a meeting of the Social Democratic Committee at 29 Malaya Arnautskaya.

Azirel Nakhimov GELMAN (member of the Social Democratic Committee)
Zisia Maruksev FEINSHTEIN (19 yrs old of No.83 Preobrashenskaia Street)
Mordko Iankelev GOIKHMAN
These were members who met on January 29, 1905 at the home of the son of  Zhakar Movsheve MIKHELOVSKII at 29 Malia Arnautskaia Street. The police took ten people into custody.

The fond for this list is “102,OO: Opis 6, delo 11/pt.1, p 15; Opis 1905, delo 5.pt 4LA, pp. 17-20).

Malaya Arnautskaya 29

The entry to the side of the building seems to lead to another warren of buildings. Mikhelovski did not own the property, but in the directory there is a second guild wood merchant, Movsha Aronovich Mikhelovski, probably his father, and fairly well off. Movsha Mikhelovski had his business at Privoznaya Square, the enormous market square a couple of streets away from Malaya Arnautskaya, at the bottom right of the map.

Privoz Market

It was often well educated young people who were political organisers and held meetings, recruiting workers to the socialist parties.

Across the road from 29 Malaya Arnautskaya, at 28 Malaya Arnautskaya, lived S. Rekhes (C. Рехес). It is not a common name and there were two Rekhes’ in the pogrom death records – Rasya Shifra Rekhis, age 8, from Vilna and Khana Nekhemya Rekhes, age 20, the wife of a Vilna citizen. Also in the Odessa death index is a Meer Rekhis who died 9 November 1905, a couple of weeks after the pogrom. There were not many children in the records (although reports mention the deaths of many children) and I wondered whether the children were connected with families targeted for particular reasons or in particular areas.

Rekhes (Рехес) 28 Malaya Arnautskaya (corner of Kanatnaya)

28 Malaya Arnautskaya (corner of Kanatnaya)

There is no other information about the Rekhes family in the directories. Using several spellings, there were several possible births – Sara Rekhes 1880, Solomon Rekhes 1881, Gitel Rekhes 1884, Ida Rekhis 1891, and Solomon Rekis 1896. The family who died in the pogrom had come more recently to Odessa from Vilna.

There were no Rekhes’ on the ships travelling to New York after 1905. There was one Morris Reichick, 15 years old, from Odessa, travelling from Southampton to a brother-in-law in New York at the end of December 1905, one month after the pogrom. He was marked down to be deported because of a medical problem, possibly spinal, but there was a chance to appeal. There is no Morris Reichick in the records. There is a William Rykis, born in 1886 (although according to his marriage record it was 1891), from Odessa, living in New York, who married Celia Kellner in 1915. He had come from Odessa in 1912. It is unknown whether he was related to the Rekhes who died in the pogrom, but I will follow his life in New York in another post as it had a few twists and turns uncommon in the usual Jewish immigrant story.

There was also a literary presence on Malaya Arnautskaya at the time of the pogrom and later. At 9 Malaya Arnautskaya there lived the author and publisher Joshua Ravnitsky who worked with Ahad Ha’am in his Zionist group, sponsored by the tea merchant, Wissotzky. Ravnitsky originally published the poems of Chaim Bialik, who went to Kishinev in 1903 and wrote one of the most influential Hebrew poems on the pogrom there. Bialik later also lived at 9 Malaya Arnautskaya.

Another piece of literary history on Malaya Arnautskaya is from Soviet times but seems like a descendant of the Odessa Moldavanka stories of Isaac Babel about the criminal Benya Krik, set at the time of the pogrom but published in 1923 and 1924. A friend of Valentin Kataev, the poet Nathan Shor, who lived at 40 Malaya Arnautskaya, also became a friend of Kataev’s brother, Evgeny and his friend, Ilya Feinzilberg. They were inspired by Nathan’s brother, Osip Shor and his adventures crossing Russia in 1919, and wrote a very popular and influential comic novel together, Twelve Chairs, under the names Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov, which was published in 1928.

Twelve Chairs

Osip Shor became Ostap Bender, an adventurer and conman, in the story, the hero of Malaya Arnautskaya . Twelve Chairs was made into a film in the Soviet Union in the 1970s (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNZkUt0ePas ).

Ostap Bender

Osip Shor

And the last piece of fame for Malaya Arnautskaya was that Vladimir Jabotinsky, author of the novel that commemorated Odessa Jews at the time of the 1905 pogrom, The Five, was, according to Wikipedia, born at 33 Malaya Arnautskaya (№ 33 — здесь родился В. Жаботинский).

The Five

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Counting the dead – the Odessa 1905 pogrom and the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire

Grenfell Tower

When I opened the Guardian on 1 July and saw the headline Grenfell fire: volunteers help residents compile death toll I thought of one of the first blog entries I wrote: How many may have died in the Odessa pogrom? (https://odessasecrets.wordpress.com/2015/06/23/how-many-may-have-died-in-the-odessa-pogrom/ Like most people, I had never thought about how many of the figures we accept about populations, births, deaths, or illness, may not be easy and straightforward to obtain. Shortly afterwards I remember having read an article, possibly in the New Scientist, about the difficulties of calculating civilian casualties in Iraq and  how sample areas are chosen and individual households are contacted, either door-to-door or by telephone, to find out if anyone in that household was killed during the war. But different methods produce widely varying results.

From several articles I have checked in the New Scientist, civilian deaths in Iraq have been estimated to range anywhere from 183,000 to somewhere between 400,000 and 950,000. So the range in Odessa from the 300 in the Jewish death records and eyewitness estimates of 3000-5000 deaths, or the number of deaths at the Grenfell Tower from the official 80 up to whatever the occupancy (estimated at 400-600) is calculated minus the survivors, illustrate a perennial problem of counting the dead in wars or disasters. Besides the fact that no one knows which occupants of Grenfell Tower were actually there that night, and how many non-occupants were staying with friends or relations, some of the flats were sublet without a record of who they were sublet to. And like many horrific disasters, there are few remains. Similarly, in the Odessa pogrom, many houses were set on fire and many families may have disappeared without trace.

Obviously, for a massacre that happened a hundred years ago in Russia, I only expected to be able to find hints from witness statements and newspaper articles that the official figure might not have been accurate. It must be very difficult for witnesses to judge the number of bodies they have seen lying in the streets, or add up the number of deaths in the stories they hear from neighbours. And how many more people might have been hidden away in attics or cellars? The most important pieces of information I gleaned from the newspapers were the observations that carts loaded with dead bodies had been seen being taken away to mass graves in the night, and several reports of gravediggers describing the size and number of mass graves in different cemeteries. There were also eyewitness descriptions in police reports of the slaughter of various families, particularly mothers with children, and children in the street, which did not tally with the very few children in the 300 victims, mostly men, in the official pogrom death records. I tried checking the directories before and after the pogrom, but the owners of buildings were not those who rented the flats, similar to the problem of subletting in Grenfell. The closest and most detailed census was the Russian census of 1897 which would not have given accurate information for 1905. A census was done after the pogrom in December 1905, as so many people had fled the city, estimated at 50,000.

The Times 5 November 1905  Every Jewish bakery has been destroyed, and 600 families have been rendered homeless. Some of the ruffians put their victims to death by hammering nails into their heads. Eyes were gouged out, ears cut off, and tongues were wrenched out with pincers. Numbers of women were disembowelled. The aged and sick, who were found hidden in the cellars, were soaked in petroleum and burnt alive in their homes… The police would not allow any assistance to be given to the wounded, actually firing upon the Red Cross workers. At an early hour this morning the work of plunder was still being carried on in the more remote suburbs. The casualties in yesterday’s disturbances do not exceed 140.

The Manchester Guardian 7 November 1905
Anti-Jewish disorders near Odessa – slaughter and pillage
Of the 6000 victims of the riot in Odessa, it has been ascertained (says Reuter) that 964 were either killed outright or died of their wounds. The bodies of 313 of these have been removed to the Jewish cemetery, and 651 are lying in the various Christian cemeteries. The ferment against the Jews has spread to the villages in the Odessa district.

Aberdeen Daily Journal 7 November 1905

The Grenfell Tower fire had certain similarities to the Odessa pogrom. There was the possibility of blame being apportioned to all and sundry, the local government, central government, construction companies, as, in Odessa, the government, army and police had been blamed for allowing the pogrom to continue for three days and even aiding the hooligans. There were also similarities in the background situations – inequalities between rich and poor, government complacency, increases in immigration, tensions caused by lack of jobs, working conditions and inadequate living conditions. And no one caring enough because many of the victims in both situations were considered to be second-class citizens – immigrants, often newly arrived in the city and struggling to make a living.

Grenfell missing

But it was not obvious to anyone, judging by the outcry, that the police or government officials could not give a count of how many people had survived or were missing or dead from the disaster.

The Guardian 30 June 2017 The shortage of official information, 17 days after the fire, has become one of the most sensitive and controversial issues for residents, who cannot understand why the police have not released a full list of the names of the 80 people presumed dead, or why they have not released the provisional names and numbers of survivors…

Michelle von Ahn, who used to work as Newham council’s senior demographic adviser, has been collaborating with a team of online volunteer investigators. They have allocated names to flats on different floors of the building and are listing 197 survivors, 52 people presumed dead, 24 confirmed dead, two missing. They believe there are a further 27 people unaccounted for – neither reported missing nor safe – raising the probable death toll to 103, von Ahn said, a figure she describes a “conservative estimate”.

The group has analysed the council tax register, electoral register, online telephone books and publicly available Kensington and Chelsea documents about the tower block, cross-checking information with residents’ testimonies and news reports…

Volunteers have put names to most of the 41 one-bedroom, 82 two-bedroom, one three-bedroom and three four-bedroom flats but question why the council has not made public its own list of residents, built up from housing benefit and child benefit data, and information from local schools and GPs’ surgeries.

Whatever the situation, people will continue trying to find out whatever they can about missing family. Now there are far more methods and technologies to try and recover information about people in horrific disasters than there were a hundred years ago, but there is always a limit to what can be found out. Sometimes absence is the only proof.

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The Hebrew Society and the Oxenhandlers

I was looking up the name Sigal on the Ellis Island database, and found myself looking at the manifest of a ship, the Gregory Morch, which began its journey in Odessa in late October 1906, and took a month to travel through the Mediterranean, stopping at Greece and Sicily, and then went on to New York. Only two trips were made with this ship, both in 1906, before it was scrapped. Mindel Sigal was a middle-aged woman travelling alone to her daughter, and her name proved difficult to follow in America. Then my eye travelled down the page to other people from Odessa, particularly a young widow, Leah Rifke Ochsenhandler, usually Oxenhandler, 31, and her five children, Samuel 12, Isaac 10, Idel 7, Mania 5 and Basia 2. This was the only family on the page where, instead of the address of a family member or friend in the United States, it simply said Hebrew Society. She was held for special enquiry as an LPC or ‘likely public charge’. The Hebrew Society may have been enlisted to help her while she and her children were being detained.

Lea Oxenhandler and children SS Gregory Morch October 1906

Oxenhandler Hebrew Society

Lea Oxenhandler held for special inquiry ‘likely public charge’

There was one Oxenhandler in the Odessa 1905 pogrom death records, Osip Oxenhandler (Оксенгедлер, Oksengendler) on one of the last two images where the names were not in alphabetical order and obviously added after the others. Most of the names have the age and birthplace like the others, but in this case they are missing. So if he was identified after the others it seems that the identifier did not have this information.

Osip Oxenhandler Odessa pogrom death records

I wondered how Leah was going to manage in New York without any relations. How could she make a living and look after her five children? I have always assumed that no one would take the journey to America without having a sponsor in America, a family member or friend, someone who could help them until they could support themselves. I thought having a sponsor was a condition of being allowed into the country and if ‘Hebrew Society’ was written in the space for a friend or relation, it meant that the Hebrew Society had agreed beforehand, possibly from Odessa, to sponsor the person until they could support themselves. However, when I looked up the history of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, I found no mention of agents from the society in Odessa or at the ports around Europe. Their main work was at Ellis Island, providing food, translators and preventing deportation by providing temporary accommodation and information about work.

It seems that Leah had taken a gamble on being able to support herself and look after her children in New York. They arrived in the middle of winter, 24 November 1906. The Hebrew Society did look after Leah and her family, giving her accommodation at the Hebrew Sheltering Guardian Society house at 229 E. Broadway.

229-31 E. Broadway Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society 1915

Photograph from the Museum of the City of New York blog

Minnie Fisher, Immigrant and Labor Activist

The Jewish Immigrant 1909

But on Christmas Day 1906, a month after they had arrived, Leah applied for her three middle children to be admitted to the New York City Hebrew Orphan Asylum. The oldest child, Samuel, was considered to be old enough to work. The mother kept three-year-old Bessie with her. According to the orphanage admittance form, the children were rejected because of a case of measles in the family, and were not admitted until March 1907. The application also lists the parents’ names, Joseph and Rifke, born in 1870 and 1876, and the father’s death in 1905, killed in the massacre.

Oxenhandler admission form to the Hebrew Orphan Asylum

The only other time I had come upon a reference to someone killed in the massacre were the parents of the Scheindless brothers who were also at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum at the same time as the Oxenhandler children. The residence of the mother is 229 E. Broadway, the Hebrew Sheltering H (blotched out). In the 1905 census, the Hebrew Sheltering Society housed about 20 old people, several over 100, and a couple of school-age children. By 1910 the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society used the building for free meals and helping people find jobs, but was no longer accommodating people. A final remark on the form was that the mother has $170 with which she wishes to establish a business but is unable to care for her five children and has no relations. It is also clear from the form that Bessie, born 5 September 1903, was admitted on her fourth birthday in 1907. On her separate admittance form, her mother is listed as applicant, but under the column that states whether the child is committed or surrendered, it appears to say that she has died, less than a year after they had arrived in the country.

Bessie Oxenhandler admission to the Hebrew Orphan Asylum

Possibly Rifke had applied while ill to have Bessie admitted, but then died before she entered the asylum. There is no death record for Rifke, which may be a failure of the record-keeping system, or, sadly, one begins to think of a suicide like drowning in one of the rivers surrounding Manhattan where the person may never be found.

The five Oxenhandler children only appear sporadically in the records – the four children at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum appear on the 1910 census in the orphanage. Idel had become Judah (and later Julius), Mania became Minnie, and Basia became Bessie. Isaac kept his name until later when he more often used Isidor. There are discharge forms for Julius and Minnie who left the orphanage in 1916. Julius had a job with a Jewish farmer, Jacob Bloch, in Parksville, New York, in the Catskill Mountains, a little town whose main street has now been bypassed.

Parksville, New York

However, by 1918, when Julius filled in his World War I registration, he was working as a machinist in Brooklyn and married. In 1920, he was living with his in-laws, his wife and his baby daughter, in Brooklyn, but then he and his family disappear from the records. None of the other children appear on the 1920 census, and Sam, the older son who did not go to the orphanage, does not appear at all. It is as if he disappeared with his mother, or changed his name completely. There is one Samuel Oxenhandler of the correct age in the 1940 census, a hotel clerk with a wife and a son who was an electrician, but as that census does not include year of immigration it is difficult to know whether they are the same person.

Isaac was the oldest of the children in the orphanage and probably left before 1916. He first appears on the World War I registration as Isidor, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, working as a milkman and living with the owner of the business. Possibly the orphanage tried to get jobs for the children outside New York City. His nearest kin is an aunt, Rose Lebovitz, in Brooklyn. The next record for him is a naturalisation form in 1936. It lists that he was born in Odessa and came to the US in 1906 on the ship Gregoria. He married Stella in 1918, had four children, lived in the Bronx and had his own window cleaning business. He then appears in the 1940 census and the World War II registration.

Isaac/Isidor Oxenhandler naturalisation form 1936

Minnie does not appear after her discharge from the orphanage in 1916. She was withdrawn from the orphanage by her aunt, S Tartakofsky, as she was able to maintain herself, age 15 or 16. Tartakofsky is a name that appears in the 1904-5 Odessa directory, both a doctor and the owner of an ink factory, although these may not be the same families. Minnie may have married before 1920.

There is a Betty Oxenhandler in the marriage records, who married Benjamin Zuckerman. On the 1930 and 1940 census there is a Betty Zuckerman, who is three years younger than Bessie  and emigrated from Russia in 1905, and Barnett Zuckerman. He is a real estate broker and by 1940 they have two children. A possibility, especially as there is no other Betty Oxenhandler in the records, and the only Bessie Oxenhandlers are all much older than the Bessie in the orphanage. So, from what began as a horrific story of a murdered father and a mother dead a year later, of five children in an orphanage or out working at age 12 or 13 in a strange country where they did not know the language and had no relations, three of the children, although Bessie/Betty is a guess, seem to have done well for themselves with jobs and families. As there is not another form from the orphanage for Bessie, it is a relief to think that these records do belong to her and that she did have a good life after such a tragic beginning, even if she always had a dark hole inside of lacking a parent’ s love and having to grow up and fend for herself as a small child. Who knows whether she had some memories of her mother and the day she was brought to the orphanage. At least some children did seem to find temporary love and kindness at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum from staff and other children. Like many of the Odessa families who emigrated, the other two children, Samuel and Minnie, disappeared from the records.

 

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Lost children – the Weitzmans, Chaits, and Schoichets

The Weitzman (Вейцман) family

Trawling through the family names in the pogrom death records again, this time I focused on children travelling with an older teenager or other family as these were more likely to be orphans from the families affected by the pogrom. Having discovered that these families were sometimes able to get onto ships leaving a few weeks after the pogrom, I started my search from November 1905, and because families often left at different times scattered over several years, I continued my search until 1912. Starting at the end of the alphabet on an Ellis Island search, first in English, then Russian, I quickly found a child of 11, Avrum Weitzman, blacksmith, travelling with his cousin Isaac Ostrovsky, 18, printer, to New York having left Hamburg 22 December 1905, just eight weeks after the pogrom.

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Avrum Weitzman and Isaac Ostrovsky ship 22 December 1905

They were both going to uncles in Boston, Isaac to Moshe Silberberg and Avrum to Pesach Weisberg. It seems strange that a boy of 11 was already being characterised as a blacksmith even if he had begun an apprenticeship at that age. However, neither boy, with many different spellings of their names, and variations on their age and different destinations, reappeared in the records. I tried using the names Weisberg and Silberberg. I could not find out whether the two boys were lurking somewhere, possibly with different names, or whether they had never entered America or left soon after. One of them, possibly Avrum, did have a note on the ship’s manifest saying that he had been seen by a doctor but I could not read the cause. The manifest had several pages of the names of people who were detained, many of whom were temporarily hospitalised, but the boys were not on any of the lists.

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The two uncles and the medical note

The Weitzman family were unique and well-known to the Odessa archives, in newspaper reports and the pogrom death records, as recorded in an earlier blog entry, The pogrom in Slobodka-Romanovka. Four members of the family, all from Balta, are in the records, an older man Avrum Moishe, 58, a middle-aged man of 35, Chaim-Chaikel Avrum-Zus, a young man of 20, Yaakov Abram, and a boy of 13, Naum. There were also two members of another family, the Varshavskys, who were related. The Weitzmans were a prominent family in the working class area of Slobodka. In The Odessa pogrom and self defence, 1906, the story of the Weitzman family is spelled out in more detail. Veitsman and his family wanted to hide at the Slobodka town hospital where he was acquainted with Dr Golovin (professor of ophthalmology); but they were not allowed at the hospital. The policemen Kolloli, Ivanov, Andreev and the coachman killed four of the Veitsman family and five died later in hospital.

In ‘Jewish History as Reflected in the Documents of the State Archives of Odessa Region’ Avotaynu The International Review of Jewish Genealogy.Vol XXIII; 3, Fall 2007. – P. 41-52), Deputy Director of the archive, Lilia Belousova, writes: ‘Materials on investigations of concrete pogrom cases are also in the Fond 634, Prosecutor of Odessa District Court (Prokuror Odesskogo okruzhnogo suda), 1870-1917. One of them is a case of Rosa Drutman, the victim of pogrom in Odessa in October, 1905. She served at the house of a rich Jewish family of Veizman-Varshavsky and became a witness of cruel massacre by the crowd of Christians against the Jews. Soldiers sent by the local authorities to prevent crimes, in fact marked the beginning of the drama using fire-arms against the Jews. 6 from 9 members of the family were killed. Rosa was 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 to reconstruct the events in details.

In the 1904-5 directory, an A Veitsman owns 63 Gorodskaya, at the corner of Krivovalkovskaya in the Slobodka district.

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63b Gorodskaya

Could 11-year-old Avrum have been the grandson of the Avrum Weitzman who was killed in the pogrom? Could he have had an eye problem the doctor at Ellis Island noted, that had led his family to know the ophthalmologist who had not been able to save them? In the 1890s there were four Weitzman families in the list of Odessa Jewish small businesses in the heart of the Moldavanka area, where the pogrom was most active. However, the only property under the name Weitzman in the directory (therefore owned not rented) was the property in Slobodka. The Ostrovsky family or families also had four small businesses, three in the centre and one in Moldavanka. They owned many properties across Odessa, in the centre, Moldavanka and two in Slobodka. One was in Lavochnaya St, which can be seen in Google Streetview pictured below.

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Lavochnaya St

The sidestreets of Slobodka contrasted sharply with those in the centre like the Ostrovsky residence at 21 Bazarnaya.

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21 Bazarnaya

Although there were quite a few Weitzman and Ostrovsky families in Odessa and many in the Odessa birth records for the 1890s, there is no birth record for an Isaac Ostrovsky or Avrum or Abram Weitzman. This might relate to the fact that the population was changing so rapidly and many families may have only been in Odessa a few years. The ship’s manifest for 1906 does not state where people were born, only their last residence, making it difficult to trace them in the US records which occasionally state city of birth. There were no Abraham Weitzmans or Isaac Ostrovskys in Boston. There was one Abraham Weisberg but he was several years older and from the very north of Ukraine, not Odessa or Balta, where most of the family was born. The few Abraham Weitzmans and Isaac Ostrovskys in New York and Philadelphia had very few records and were either the wrong age or had the wrong emigration date, or in one case was someone who had arrived with his whole family. There was also a Weitzman family from Balta, with a son called Abraham of a similar age, who had emigrated to London in the early 1900s. Because the Weitzman family had such a detailed story of their experience in the pogrom, I particularly wanted to follow Avrum’s life in America, but every time I felt I was possibly finding him, he slipped through my fingers.

The Chait (Хаит) family

Another family of probable orphans were the Chaits, an older sister, Leie, 17, and two brothers, Pesach, 9 and Isser, 8, who arrived in New York in August 1907 en route to their aunt, Lily Fellman, in Detroit. They had been living with a relation in Odessa, Feiga Chait. The Chait in the pogrom death records was Shmuel Mordko, 40, from Yanov, who I later found out was not a direct relation of the children. According to one marriage record their father was called Frederick, which may have been a translation of a name like Fishel. There is an F. Chait in the 1904-5 Odessa directory who owned several properties in the centre.

At first I could find no trace of the Chait children, but then I found the two boys as Peter and Oscar Chayte, in a huge Jewish orphan asylum in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1907, when the Chait children had arrived in the US, their aunt, age 25, who was married with a seven-year-old son, had only been in the country a year. Maybe she did not feel she could take on her two nephews or thought the orphanage would give them a better chance at a livelihood.

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Cleveland Jewish Orphan Asylum

Both boys did appear to do well in life and returned to Detroit, one living with his aunt after he married and had a child. By 1921, when Oscar married, they had changed their names to Clayton. Peter sold advertising for a newspaper and Oscar worked as a chemist for a paint company. On the 1930 census, Peter wrote that he was from Odessa in Russia as were his parents, but by 1940 the brothers wrote that they were born in Ohio. The 1940 census was the first census that did not ask where parents were born and was more preoccupied with work and income. The brothers may have decided to avoid their background on an official document because of the rise of fascism, the war and memories of the pogrom and anti-Semitism in their childhood, or they may have decided that they now felt more American and could put the past behind them. Or it was simply easier. On Oscar’s marriage record his parents first names are Frederick and Pauline, so I looked on the Odessa 1904-5 directory for F. Chait. One property was at 9 Raskidailovskaya in Moldavanka.

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9 Raskidailovskaya

The person I could not find at all was the 17-year-old sister who brought the two brothers to America, Leie Chait. There are marriage records for Michigan and Ohio but she does not appear. I tried the various surnames and any first name beginning with L – Leah, Lea, Lizzie, Lena. Had she returned to Odessa or simply disappeared through moving somewhere in the vast spaces of America and not filling out censuses?

The Schoichet (Шойхет ) and Janco (Янко) families

Two more brothers, Jacob, 10, and Isser Schoichet, 7, were travelling with Meier, 30, Sofia, 25, and Rose, 4, Janco from Odessa to New York in August 1912. Their address in Odessa was the Janco’s friend, Ester Schoichet, at 11 Gospitalnaya, one of the streets most affected by the pogrom in the heart of Moldavanka, possibly the boys’ aunt or grandmother.

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11 Gospitalnaya

This was already five years after the pogrom but both families probably lost a relation in the pogrom, a young man, age 31, from Odessa, Moidel Israel Janco, and a 42-year-old from Tuchin, Yankel Duvid Schoichet. Meier Janco had left Odessa in 1903 and married Sophie Jacobs, also from Odessa, in New York, and they were returning to Odessa for a visit. The brothers were on their way to their father who had emigrated to Philadelphia and changed his name to Miller. It was difficult to read the initial of the father’s first name – a straight line with a loop at the top which could have been an I, S, L, or J. I couldn’t find any family in 1920 with two sons called Jacob and Isadore or Irving or another name with an I. There was one family with no mother and a father called Louis who had a son of the right age called Jacob which was a possibility. On the other hand, there may have been a mother and the two sons had stayed in Odessa longer for health reasons. Or the father may have married again. I did find a 1945 California naturalisation form for an Irving Eddie Miller, formerly Itzchok Schoichet. He was 43, so was born in 1902 and would have been 10 instead of 7 in 1912, if his age is correct. I also found the marriage record of his daughter, Constance, in 1952, which included the name of his wife, Lillian Kleinberg, from Hungary. There is also a World War I registration record for Jacob Miller, a carpenter in Philadelphia, the son of Louis Miller, but there are no more records for him which might clarify whether this was the Schoichet family from Odessa and no record of what happened to him after 1917.

The Janco family do appear in many records. Meier Janco received a US passport for himself, his wife and daughter for their trip to Odessa in 1912. He states that he was born in Odessa in 1882 and was a brass moulder. In 1914, Meier got another passport in his name alone and he says he was born in Botoshan, Romania. His profession is still brass moulder and he gives no reason for travelling abroad.

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Botosani 1900

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Botosani main square

Botosani, or in Yiddish,  Botochan, in north-east Romania, is the capital of a county and has an impressive main square, of which this photograph is only a small corner, flanked by 19th-century balconied houses similar to those in Odessa. In 1917 Meier received another passport in order to travel to Canada for his work as a salesman for a metal film box manufacturer. There is a supporting letter from someone at the Impco Indestructible Metal Products Company. In 1920 he was again applying for a passport, this time to travel to Poland, Italy and Switzerland en route to Romania in search of his parents. He has a letter of support from a friend who says that Meier has not heard from his parents, two brothers or any other relations since the beginning of the war and will be looking for them in Poland and Romania. In the 1920 census, Meier’s wife and daughter appear as lodgers at a house in Brooklyn. The couple may have separated as long ago as 1914 when Meier first applied for his own passport. In 1921, Meier had moved to the Bronx and in the move lost his passport. He explains this in a letter attached to his new application for a passport to travel for business purposes to Czechoslovakia, Romania and Switzerland and states that he has lived outside the United States, in Romania, Germany and France, for two periods of several months in 1920 and 1921. He appears on a ship’s manifest in March 1921 travelling from France to the United States saying that his last permanent residence was Paris and his nearest relative in the country from which he came is his mother who lives in Podonliloia, Romania, where he says he was born. On the 1921 passport, he declares that his father, Israel Janco, is deceased.

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Meier Janco

By the 1930 census, the daughter has married and her mother is living with the couple, using her maiden name, Sophie Jacobs. The last piece of the complex jigsaw of Meier’s life is a ship’s manifest from 22 December 1905, a month after the pogrom, on which Meier, age 22, was travelling with his sister Esther, 23 and his mother, Channe, 48, who must have returned to Odessa or Romania. The victim of the pogrom in the death records was Moidel Israelevich Janco, who could have been Meier’s older brother. On all of his passports Meier states that he emigrated to America in 1903 and had remained in America consistently since then until he was naturalised in 1912. He did emigrate in 1903 by himself to a brother in New York, but must have returned at some point between 1903 and 1905. Meier seems to have had a very complex relationship with both Russia and his home country of Romania, and possibly with the deaths of his brother and father, who he said he was looking for after the war but who had not emigrated with the family in 1905. He seems to have spent the years when he might have been concentrating on his family and creating a home with them, travelling and living throughout Europe possibly in a bid to find or recreate a lost family. As I wrote the date that Meier and his family left Odessa, 22 December 1905, I realised that they were on the same ship as the two lost boys, Abraham Weitzman and Isaac Ostrovsky. There were a dozen or so people from Odessa on the ship, but among hundreds of immigrants, these young people probably passed by each other on the decks like ships in the night, never knowing they had suffered and lost family in the same pogrom a few weeks before. Meier died in 1931 at the age of 44 having moved back to Brooklyn. His birthplace is listed as Russia.

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Odessa 1905 pogrom: handwritten list of murdered Jews

The next two entries are about things (documents, people, ghosts) I have not managed to find, but they suggest there is still more to find. In June 2011, a 12 page booklet The pogrom in Odessa on 18-22 October 1905 (Der blutiger pogrom in Odessa fun 18-22 oktober 1905 yor) by David Horowitz, Odessa 1906, was auctioned in Jerusalem (Kedem Auction House, Auction 15, Lot 521, 1 June 2011). The booklet came from the collection of Dr Israel Mehlman and included an additional 4 pages with the handwritten names and ages of Jews murdered during the pogrom. (https://www.kedem-auctions.com/search-page/Pogrom%20Odessa%201906%20leaves%20are%20unknown%20bibliographically)

Is this list copied from the original pogrom death records which are now in the Odessa archive? Was it done at the time or at some unknown time between 1905 and the present? Is it written in the original Russian Cyrillic or translated into Hebrew? Is it exactly the same list as in the records or have other names been added? Or is it a different list altogether? Were there other official lists, such as a police or government list? Or did someone in the Jewish community at the time make another list? The possibilities are endless. It would be fascinating to compile a larger list of those killed in the Odessa 1905 pogrom, if there are additional lists or if people know of others who were killed then. Possibly the owner of this booklet will find this blog and check whether his list is the same as the names in the records. Possibly other people have handwritten lists or know of official lists in records somewhere.

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The pogrom in Odessa 1905, David Horowitz

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