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FROM THE CHMIELNICKI PERSECUTION OF THE JEWS IN POLAND

jan peczkis|Thursday, April 16, 2015

The following scenario of the 17th-century Khmelnitsky (Chmielnicki) revolt is commonly presented in Ukrainian-Jewish dialogue: The Polish nobility and Jesuits oppressed the Cossacks. Jews were pawns of the nobility. The Jews merely transmitted the orders of the Polish overlords, and then became the innocent victims of Cossack anger over the Polish policies

HISTORY OF THE JEWS. VOL. V. : FROM THE CHMIELNICKI PERSECUTION OF THE JEWS IN POLAND [Kindle Edition]
 
  The Truth About Jews and the Khmelnitsky Uprising (1648-1657) April 2, 2015 By Jan Peczkis The author, Heinrich Graetz (1817-1891), was a German Jewish historian. My review is based on the 1940 English-language edition, and is limited to the first chapter of Volume V, which deals with events in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

THE CENTRAL ISSUES

The following scenario of the 17th-century Khmelnitsky (Chmielnicki) revolt is commonly presented in Ukrainian-Jewish dialogue: The Polish nobility and Jesuits oppressed the Cossacks. Jews were pawns of the nobility. The Jews merely transmitted the orders of the Polish overlords, and then became the innocent victims of Cossack anger over the Polish policies.

The truth is rather different, and told by Heinrich Graetz. While this historian does not deny the acts of the Polish nobility and the Jesuits, he makes it clear that the Jews played a major role in inciting hatred against themselves and the Poles, and that they did so freely. Far from being mere order-fulfillers of the Polish nobility, the Jews had considerable autonomy, and even advised the Poles on how to more effectively exploit the Cossacks. In addition, there were features of the Talmudism and messianism of the time that facilitated Jewish exploitative conduct. Finally, Khmelnitsky had been personally wronged by the Jews, and acted on his grudge. All of the foregoing matters are elaborated in the quotes below.

TALMUDIC BACKGROUND TO JEWS AND THE COSSACKS

Graetz begins, (quote) The study of the Talmud was a greater necessity in Poland than in the rest of Europe. The rabbis, as has been already said, had jurisdiction of their own, and decided according to Talmudical and Rabbinical laws. The great number of Jews in Poland, and their fondness for litigation, gave occasion to intricate law cases. (unquote). (p. 4).

The author elaborates that, (quote) A love of twisting, distorting, ingenious quibbling, and a foregone antipathy to what did not lie within their field of vision, constituted the character of the Polish Jews. Pride in their knowledge of the Talmud and a spirit of dogmatism attached even to the best rabbis, and undermined their moral sense. The Polish Jews of course were extraordinarily pious, but even their piety rested on sophistry and boastfulness. Each wished to surpass the other in knowledge of what the Code prescribed for one case or another. Thus religion sank, not merely, as among Jews of other countries, to a mechanical, unintelligent ceremonial, but to the subtle art of interpretation. To know better was everything to them; but to act according to acknowledged principles of religious purity, and to exemplify them in a moral life, occurred to but few. Integrity and right-mindedness they had lost as completely as simplicity and the sense of truth. The vulgar acquired the quibbling method of the schools, and employed it to outwit the less cunning. They found pleasure and a sort of triumphant delight in deception and cheating. Against members of their own race cunning could not well be employed, because they were sharp-witted; but the non-Jewish world in which they came into contact experienced to its disadvantage the superiority of the Talmudical spirit of the Polish Jews. The Polish sons of the Talmud paid little attention to the fact that the Talmud and the great teachers of Judaism object even more strongly to taking advantage of members of a different faith than those of their own race. The corruption of the Polish Jews was avenged upon them in a terrible way, and the result was, that the rest of the Jews in Europe were for a time infected with it. (unquote). (pp. 5-6).

THE DYNAMICS OF EXPLOITATION OF THE COSSACKS

Graetz writes, (quote) The magnates wished to make profitable serfs of the Cossacks, the Jesuits hoped to convert the Greek heretics into Roman Catholics, the Jews settled in the district expected to enrich themselves and play the lord over these pariahs. They advised the possessors of the Cossack colonies how most completely to humiliate, oppress, torment, and ill-use them; they usurped the office of judges over them, and vexed them in their ecclesiastical affairs. No wonder that the enslaved Cossacks hated the Jews… (unquote). (p. 6).

JEWISH MESSIANISM

The author comments, (quote) In the year 1648, fixed by that lying book, the Zohar, they expected the coming of the Messiah and the time of redemption, when they would be in power, and, therefore, they were more reckless and careless than was their custom at other times. Bloody retribution was not long delayed, and struck the innocent with the guilty, perhaps the former more severely than the latter. (unquote). (pp. 6-7).

KHMELNITSKY’S GRUDGES

Heinrich Graetz informs us that, (quote) Chmielnicki…had been vexed by Jews, when he held the subordinate position of camp secretary (Pisar) of the Cossacks subject to the house of Koniecpolski. A Jew, Zachariah Sabilenki, had played him a trick, by which he was robbed of his wife and property. Another had betrayed him when he had come to an understanding with the Tatars. Besides injuries which his race had sustained from Jewish tax farmers in the Ukraine, he, therefore, had personal wrongs to avenge. His remarks to the Cossacks, “The Poles have delivered us as slaves to the cursed breed of Jews”, was enough to excite them. (unquote). (p. 7).
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