The Hebrew Standard (April 19, 1907)

The Hilfsverein der deutschen Juden has received the following survey of the Rumanian situation from a prominent Jewish personage in Bucharest:

“The extent of the misfortune with which we have been afflicted cannot be appraised at the moment, as quiet has by a long way not yet been restored in Moldavia, and it is to be feared that the peasants in Wallachia will also rise. Already in the Buzen district excesses have occurred, though not against the Jews, as there are very few Jews in the Wallachian villages. Besides Podul Hoiei, the following places have suffered: Trigul Frmos (near Jassy), Botoschani, Sulita, Bucecea, Lespezi, Mosnow, and Buhusi. Dorohoi and Piatra, in the Neanz district, are seriously threatened. It is to be hoped that the last two towns, which contain Jewish communities of considerable size, may be spared from the attacks of the peasants. Provisionally it is impossible to say how great is the number of victims. In Botoschani alone, which has about 25,000 Jewish inhabitants, about 1,000 Jews must have lost everything they possessed. The newspaper reports do not give anything like an approximate total of victims. One point must be emphasised: There are hardly any killed. There are some wounded, by happily only a small number. To form a correct conception of what has taken place, one would have to visit the spots affected. This is being done, as you know, by three representatives of Jewish organizations, including the delegate of your Hilfsverein.

At the moment, all that can be done is to procure shelter and food for the really destitute. Only later, when order has been completely restored in Moldavia, the problem will have to be solved how to help the refugees and those who have been reduced to beggary to start afresh in a new home, if they are unable to return to their native places.

As to the causes of peasant rising I should like to say briefly that the Jews are not in any way responsible. The blame is to be ascribed to the authorities and their policy. It is generally recognized that the Government in general is of the worst description, and that the peasant is an especial sufferer, being inhumanly exploited by both the civil and religious authorities. The former Minister of Education, Spira Haret, instructed the teachers to gather the peasants of both sexes on winter evenings in the school-rooms and to deliver popular lectures.

These meetings were misused for the purpose of systematically propagating and spreading anti-semitism [sic] under official auspices. It has happened that persons having nothing whatever to do with the school, anti-Semites and irresponsible people from the cities, have smuggled themselves into the meetings in order to feed the hatred against the Jews, who, they alleged, were alone responsible for the terrible situation of the peasants.

As a proof that this is untrue I may mention the words used by the priest Parthenie at a public meeting of orthodox clergy and teachers: “The excesses against the Jews are very regrettable. The peasant is no anti-Semite. Our peasants have the saying, ‘Without Jews we can do nothing.’” It was to be forseen [sic], though no one could tell when, that the seed would bear its fruit, that the peasants would revolt against their exploiters and oppressors. But in Government circles it was believed that the Jews would be the sole victims. To-day an agrarian rising is raging which threatens the lives and fortunes of the Rumanians to a far greater extent than those of the Jews. Therefore the reserves are being hastily called up. The clergy and the teachers have been enjoined to calm the peasants. By force of arms and powers of persuasion it is sought to restore order.”

At a recent sitting of the Roumanian Chamber, the well-known statesman M. P. Carp, in the course of a speech on the agrarian rising, said that the blame for the outbreak could not be attributed solely to the land trusts nor to the Jewish middleman, which the Liberals advanced as the sole cause, for the Christian middleman sub-let the land to the peasants at equally high prices. He attributed the disturbances to the Government having made promises which it did not, and could not, fulfil [sic].

The Neue Freie Presse, whose weighty comments on the Roumanian situation no doubt influenced the prompt intervention of the Austrian Government, says that whoever is desirous of characterising the relations of many landowners to the Jews have only to turn up a novel of Charles Dickens. There a Jew is described who never took more than four per cent; – four per cent, per month. He never granted the request of a debtor for grace of prolongation of the time of payment.

He was one of the cruellest [sic] of men. But what transpired in the further course of this novel, which Dickens, as ever wrote out of the kindness and benevolence of his heart? Behind the Jew stood the non-Jewish usurer. The poor old man was hired at a low wage by the hypocrite, in order that he might set in motion the whole machinery of usury for him, suck out and plunder men, while the real usurer, who stood behind him and of whom none knew the horrible source of his wealth, went every Sunday to church where he had a seat of honor, and the preacher could hardly refrain from holding him up to his congregation as the model of an honest man. The most exploited was the old Jew, who had to play the role of the usurer at starvation wages. The high rents which the landowners charged compelled high rents to be charged again to the peasants, and so the Roumanian tragedy was merely a repetition of the fate of the Jew and the usurer of whom Dickens wrote.