|Montague Burton, aka Meshe David Osinky, pogrom dodger|
Among the "Gifts of the Jews" - the "value proposition" that the Jews offer a prospective host people - is the casual slandering of their historical memory following the Jews' departure. In the case of Russia, we see this in pervasive references to Jews who supposedly "fled pogroms" to move elsewhere, often accompanied by a conspiracy theory that the Tsars or the government apparatus more generally were behind these pogroms or the stirring-up of the antisemitism that inspired them.
Many of these casual references are made by non-Jews in articles that have nothing specifically to do with pogroms. The pogrom meme has been so successfully established in the public mind that non-Jews can now be expected to continue its propagation. We see an example of this today in the Guardian in an article about the tailor who used the name Montague Burton, real name Meshe David Osinky. The author, a non-Jew, says this:
I didn’t know that the surname on the shop front, the little “Montague” stuck into the curlicue “B” like a ticket in a hatband, had probably first been spotted by the suit-maker on a pub window, advertising pale ales and stout in embossed white letters. I had no idea that this remarkable man, the founder of the biggest bespoke tailoring business the world has ever seen, was born Meshe David Osinky in the pogrom-ravaged Russian province of Kovno (now part of Lithuania) in 1885, to turn up alone in Yorkshire with only a few words of English at the age of 15.Source
Kovno, which is now called Kaunas in Lithuania, has come up before in reference to pogroms. The historian Simon Schama, on a Question Time appearance, claimed that his ancestors had fled pogroms in Lithuania to come to Britain. I was sceptical of this and investigated it (link). The only reference I found to a pogrom in Kaunas came under Nazi occupation in 1941. In the 19th century, Kaunas and Lithuania more generally were noted for the unusual tranquility of relations between Jews and non-Jews.
Much of the pogrom fantasy has been debunked by scholarly work in recent years, some of it done by Jews themselves. Nonetheless, the image, slanderous to Russians, lives on in the public mind. UPDATE: I forgot to mention the curious first paragraph in this article.
On Wednesday, in the Jewish Museum in north London, I overheard a guide telling an American couple: “Then there’s Peter Sellers, he was Jewish too, you know. His father wasn’t but his mother was, so he has the bloodline.” “The bloodline is what counts,” said the American woman.The author makes to further reference to this and just goes on to talk about "Montague Burton". The implication, however, is surely that these are some prejudiced goyim having "incorrect" ideas about Jews. We may have come far in the battle against prejudice, but we still have a way to go, is the unarticulated implication.
But the people quoted were almost certainly Jews themselves since the average non-Jew would have no idea that, according to Jewish doctrine, Jewishness is passed on via genetically via the female line. One of the greatest con tricks the Jews ever pulled was to successfully brand as "racist" anyone who merely points out their own racism.
Visualizing Pogroms in Russian History
by Robert Weinberg
For American Jews who trace their family roots to the Russian Empire, the word pogrom, derived from the Russian verbpogromit' (to break or attack), epitomizes Jewish life under the tsars. Stories of antisemitism and anti-Jewish violence in the "old country" - frequently embellished by succeeding generations as tales of tsarist persecution became family lore bordering on fiction - have been reinforced by literary and visual representations of pogroms. Accounts by prominent historians have lent credence to the persistent myth that Russian police, soldiers and Cossacks swept into the Jewish shtetl on horseback and, with sabres unsheathed, mercilessly attacked defenseless Jews at the behest of the tsarist government intent on persecuting the hapless Jewish minority for a variety of imagined crimes and sins.
This kind of popular historical memory and understanding is undoubtedly shaped by visual depictions. But such depictions cloud, and at times distort, as well as they clarify the past, and are essential to the creation of historical myths. Jacques-Louis David's "Napoleon Crossing the Alps" or Eug?ne Delacroix's "Liberty Leading the People" are just two of many examples of drawings that help mythologize historical events and personages. In recent years a variety of historians studying pogroms have laid to rest the received wisdom that pogroms were organized by tsarist officials. Rather, pogroms emerged for a host of social, economic, political, and even religious reasons that had little to do with government connivance and more to do with the frustrations of Russian and Ukrainian peasants, workers and town dwellers who, for the most part, spontaneously took out their frustrations on a time-honored scapegoat, the Jews.
Violence against Jews stemmed from the spontaneous combustibility of a society undergoing the trauma of socioeconomic and political change and was not the result of government intrigue. While tsarist administrators are certainly culpable for not taking more aggressive measures to stem the anti-Jewish disorders when they first broke out (all too often officials initially looked the other way and at times even sympathized with the pogromists), new scholarship on pogroms demonstrates in no uncertain terms that the tsarist government on both the local and central levels did not organize, let alone order the pogroms. To be sure, police and soldiers sometimes actively participated in the pogroms, but their involvement and official indifference to the plight of the pogroms' victims do not translate into deliberate, premeditated government policy.