Thursday, February 6, 2014

Why and How Jews Came to Settle in Poland and Lithuania

                    The family of Goldfus came from Germany to Telsiai County in Lithuania

In 1096 German Crusaders massacres Jews in European towns.
In 1290 Jews were cast out of England
In 1306 Jews were cast out of France.
In 1355 in  Toledo, Spain, a mob massacred 12,000 Jews.
Poland was made up of farmers who tilled the soil and raised cattle and landowners who became the nobility of Poland, but there was no middle class.  So Casimir the Great invited Jews to settle there.  He needed the Jews to create a commerical middle class of traders and businessmen and they already had this reputation by the 14th century.  Additional information is that the reason he welcomed Jewish refugees from Germany could have been because his mistress, Esterka, the daughter of a Jewish tailor in Opoczno, was the mother of his 2 sons and a daughter.  Casimir became known as the King of the Serfs and the Jews.

Therefore, in the 1300's, Jews came in large numbers from Western and Central Europe where they had to live in  overcrowded and unsanitary ghettos as well as having  suffered from anti-Semitism.  They settled in Poland's countryside and they had a population explosion, which created an overflow into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

German artisans moved with them to the towns of the Grand Duchy that were Vilna, Grodno, Brest-Litovsk, Minsk, Pinsk, etc.  The Grand Duchy then included Belarus which was the main population center, Lithuania, Livonia, Wallachia and many other lands.

The Grand Dukes received the Jews well and they were given a charter that was written into the Law of the Duchy.  It was ratified by each successive Grand Duke and put the Jews into a class very close to the nobility.  One important clause confirmed for the Jews was the right to have all litigation between Jew and Gentile heard at the Ducal court and not at the courts of bishops or others.

By 1495, Jews were cast out of Lithuania.

In 1569, Poland and the Grand Duchy were united at the treaty of Lublin.  This died in 50 years because the nobility of each country couldn't agree on the choice of a king from their own ranks so decided to elect kings from the Royal houses of other countries; France, Sweden, Hungary.

By the end of the 17th century, a king of Saxony became king of Poland-and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
At this time, Peter the Great was involved in the Great Northern War with Eric XII of Sweden and Sigismond II of Poland got involved in it, so Sigismond had Saxon civil servants to run his affairs in Poland-Lithuania.

Jews had many of the same crafts that German artisans had, so there was a lot of competition between them.  The Germans then organized themselves into Guilds and kept the Jews out.  They had price wars.  The lesser nobility were always in debt to the Jews and so threatened the Jews that they would not pay up their debts unless the Jews undercut the German prices.  Jews had become money lenders then because the Christian Church forbade Catholics from usury practices.  Jews, caught in the middle of this economic battle, had to agree and so hatred between the 2 communities grew.

In 1648 to 1656, The Chmielnicki massacres in Poland took place where 100,000 Jews were murdered.
In 1727 and again in 1747, Jews were cast out of Russia.

Sigismond III came to the throne in 1734.  His coronation was in the Warsaw Cathedral.  Then he returned to Saxony and didn't return for 20 years.  The Germans drove the Jews out of the cities during this time.  They went into Belarus and mostly into Lithuania.  Many refugees arrived at the existing Jewish settlements.  New shtetls were formed between 1730 and 1750.  In 1784 a census was taken in Lithuania (the Grand Duchy). At this time, Telsiai was called Telsz or Telszew.   At this time there were 123 Jews living in Luknik and in Varniai there were only 57 Jews.  The 1795 census of Lithuania for the area of Telshe, where Luknik and Varniai were, cannot be found.  It would have given the ages of those counted.  1795 was an important date for Lithuania and its Jews.  That was the year Catherine the Great annexed most of Poland and Lithuania into the Russian Empire and from then on Jews suffered from the administration of the Tsar.  They were not granted any privileges as before but were treated as 3rd class citizens.without any rights.  

The Russians discovered that they had little control over Jews in taxation and the military draft so in 1807 they had a law that Jews had to take a family name (surname).  It took 25 years for all to get one.  The Russians introduced their own form of census, called Revision Lists because they revised and updated the 1795 census of Catherine the Great.

In 1882 to 1890, 750,000 Jews living in Russia were forced to re-settle in the Pale.of Settlement (Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Latvia).

From 1871 to 1921, anti-Jewish pogroms happened in towns of Russia.  Jews remaining there in the Soviet Uniion were denied the right of national identity.

Resource: the Roots and origins of the Galgut Family by Len Yodaiken
Facts About Israel.Division of Information, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem.

No comments:

Post a Comment