Un adage célèbre dit que lorsque les deux premiers s’affrontent, c’est le troisième qui gagne. Les juifs ont mis à mal cet adage lors de la guerre polono-ukrainienne de 1918. Accusés à tort par les polonais de soutenir les ukrainiens, ils ont été victime du pogrom de Lwów.
Non, les juifs, c’est le troisième qui perd toujours…
Joseph Roth, journaliste juif autrichien
Impossible neutralité. A méditer pour l’avenir…peut-être trop proche.
Jewish pogrom in Lviv in 1918
The pogrom of Jews in the end of November 1918 is ascribed by a number of historians to the Polish military who initiated to such action against the Jewish community because of the Jews` pro-Ukrainian sentiments, although the greater number of Jews observed neutrality in the Ukrainian-Polish conflict. The flames of the dispute go higher when the Ukrainian soldiers are recalled who also became victims of the conflicts of this pogrom . Reports of the commissioner of gendarmerie and dispatches of the command about participation of the Polish soldiers in the pogrom are presented by the historians as the proof of involvement of the Polish command in the pogrom, like recollections of witnesses to the pogrom, for example, reminiscences of doctor Meisels, who worked in a hospital: he spoke of the great number of injured Jews delivered to the hospital . Most if the researchers agree, that the roots of the pogrom were in the popular anti-Semitism, though the author concedes that the pogrom happened because the planned action of the Polish command intended to suppress possible reactionary groups in the Jewish community go out of hand: At the time Jewish community formed their armed militia to defend the themselves from the outside as they were potential allies of the Western Ukrainian People`s Republic. Worthy to note that along with the servicemen of the regular army social dropouts also participated in the pogrom. They had no other purposes but to destroy everything that was beyond their worldview, and such conduct is in line with all downgrade strata of the population regardless of their nationality.
The pogrom started after retreat of the USS (Ukrainian Sich Riflemen) legion and continued for two days. The English-American commission investigating the pogrom that arrived to Poland in 1919 in its conclusion stated that the Polish command was tolerant towards their soldiers mistreating Jews, but these conclusions were superficial and did not quite explain the causes of such violence, indicated that the commission found no evidence of the deliberate order of the Polish military command started the pogrom. Of interest is the fact that the Polish newspapers of that time described the pogrom as fire, in which many buildings burnt in the Jewish quarters, for example, the synagogue “Hasidim Shul” in Syanska St., about 100 ancient manuscripts perished in fire. A reported case is that when several Jews tried to save the Torah from the fire they had no luck to leave the burning synagogue. A special commission that arrived from Warsaw to Lviv also presented its conclusion according to which about 1600 individuals who were suspected in participations in the pogrom were arrested, most of them discharged and 79 individuals received guilty verdicts, of whom 44 were punished and sentenced to 10-18 month imprisonment; three pogrom-mongers were sentenced to death.
The author notes, that in any hierarchical system the initiative always comes from the top. The issue of responsibility is very acute today, and for that reason, it is not worthwhile to equate the country’s government and the population living there. The pogrom was conducted by the Polish soldiers, but it is absolutely inappropriate to build the semiotic system on presumption that all Poles hate Jews, actions of some should not be attached to the worldview of entire population. Regretfully, some political forces today on both sides strive to present events of those times in a distorted light. But, after all, similar manipulations only entice one`s own reflections where, and the author is fostering his hope, future researches will get rid of the custom to divide everything into monochromic colors.