Larry Bush, editor of Jewish Currents magazine, has been sending out a daily email, which he calls “Jewdayo,” with little-known or forgotten tidbits of Jewish history. A tip of my hat to him for today’s installment:
On this day in 1919, Simon Petlyura, Ukrainian writer, Cossack commander, and head of the break-away Ukrainian state during the civil war that followed the Bolshevik Revolution, began attacking Jews in a sustained wave of violence that took the lives of tens of thousands. Hundreds of cities and towns were attacked; thousands of Jewish women were raped; half a million Jews were left homeless.
In 1926, Petlyura was assassinated in Paris by Sholom Schwartzbard, a Jewish anarchist and Yiddish writer who had lost fifteen members of his family, including his parents, in pogroms in Odessa. Testimony at Schwartzbard’s trial revealed the depth of the anti-Jewish carnage in the Ukraine (committed both by Ukrainian nationalists and White Russian forces) and led to his acquittal.
In the Ukraine, Petlyura is a nationalist hero, with a street named for him in Kiev. In Israel, Schwartzbard is honored with a plaque on Hanoken (“The Avenger”) Street in Beersheba.
The peasant insurrectionary army under Nestor Makhno killed pogromchiks when they weren’t fighting Austrians, Reds, or Whites.
There were real heroes there, too.