Berlin (Aug. 5)
(By our Berlin correspondent)
Striking assertions which if true would throw a new and interesting light on the struggle of Russian Jewry for its emancipation at the close of the Czaristic period and particularly during the World War are contained in a book recently published here.
Rasputin, the ill-fated man of mystery of Czaristic Russia, is presented as the man holding the key to Russian Jewry’s emancipation and as one who made an effort in this direction after alleged conferences with Russian Jewish leaders. Rasputin’s advice to Russian Jewry was to purchase its rights by plainly bribing the Czar’s courtiers and ministers. Russian Jews, however, indignantly declined to pay for their emancipation.
“You are fools,” Rasputin is reported to have said to the Jewish leaders. “Although you are rich and clever you don’t know how to approach the high persons who could be useful to you. You ought to bribe all the people whom it may be necessary to bribe,” he stated.
The Jewish spokesmen infrmed Rasputin that Vinaver, Grusenberg, Kal-manovitch, Rabbi Eisenstadt and Deputy Friedman had declared themselves against such tactics. None the less, negotiations were carried on with Rasputin to exercise his influence on the Czarina and the Czar and an interview was granted by the Czar to Aron Simanovitch, the author of “Rasputin, the All-Powerful Peasant, published in German by Hensel & Company, Berlin. Little is known of Simanovitch’s identity except the information which he furnishes about himself in his book. A jeweller by trade he nived from Kiev to Petrograd in 1902 where, because of his having frequented cabarets and gambling houses, he became intimately acquainted with Rasputin, acting as his financial agent and, through him, came to know leading personages of the Czar’s court. According to the author, he was intrutsd with the mission to “solve” the Jewish question in Russia through Rasputin’s influence.
In the chapter entitled the “Jewish Question” the author describes his own role in he following way:
“I had built up a large organization for the systematic gathering of information regarding the Jewish situation in all parts of the country. During the years immediately before the Revolution, this organization had been fully developed. I had spared no expense. All the rabbis, all the Jewish politicians, all the businessmen, even students, were registered with me. Jews from all over the country used to visit me every day. Frequently people used to travel thousands of miles for the mere chance of consulting me. Rasputin would furnish me with letters of introduction to persons of influence. ladies at Court, famous university professors, high church dignitaries, and others. Petitions on behalf of Jewish students seeking admission to the universities or other institutions of learning where restrictions were in force against Jews, were often presented in the name of the empress to the emperor.
“The restrictions of the right of Jewish residence in the capital and certain other places likewise gave me a great deal of worry. To attend to petitions of this nature, I maintained a regular office and had a separate, large organization created for this kind of work.
“The source of my influence was known only to a few people. Fantastic tales were being told about me. Some people had an idea that I was something like a Minister for Jewish Affairs, whilst others thought me a representative of the American Jews. If a pogrom was feared at some piace a local correspondent at once apprised me of the fact. The text of the telegram by previous agreement, was ‘Anxious about your health, wire.’ Upon receipt of such news I promptly used my influence to induce the local authorities to adopt propaganda. In this way I was able to avert pogroms in Minsk, where Giers was Governor and in Vilna, where the post of Governor was held by Lubimov.
“The leading Jewish circles were beginning to have great confidence in me and in the power of my influence. They realized that, thanks to my connections and my opportunities for influencing leading Government circles, I could actually be in a position to steer the Jewish problem towards a final solution. I had a series of conferences with prominent Jewish representatives and was asked to work for the achievement of equal rights for the Jews. This signified at the same time their approval of the ways and means that I might choose in order to attain this object. I accepted this complimentary mission, but the outbreak of the Revolution prevented me from carrying it into effect.”
The author then goes on to say that Ginzburg had informed him of the decision of the Jewish community to use every possible connection, means and resources to attain the emancipation of the Jews in Russia. There would be no scarcity of money. Simanovitch was to be given a chance of becoming the richest man in Russia, if he should succeed in winning equal rights for the Jews, and his name would be inscribed in the “Pinkas,” to be handed down to posterity as a great Jewish name. Describing a conference alleged to have been held between Rasputin and leading representatives of the Jewish community, the author says:
“Those present gave Rasputin a flattering reception when he appeared at Ginzburg’s drawing room. Many of them were in tears. Rasputin was deeply touched by this manifestation of grief. He listened with close attention to our recital of the persecutions of the Jews and he promised to leave nothing undone to have the Jewish problem solved in his own lifetime. He added: ‘You must all help Simanovitch, to enable him to bribe those whom it may concern. Do as your fathers did, who used to have financial dealings with the Czars themselves, the Jewish problem must be solved either through bribery or cunning.’ “
Concerning another meeting of Jewish leaders with Rasputin alleged to have taken place at the house of Sliosberg, Simanovitch writes:
“I held constant conference with the Jewish spokesmen. We discussed the further steps we might take in the flight for Jewish emancipation. I sought an audience with the Czar for the Jewish representatives, so that they themselves might be in a position to tell him what the Jewish situation was. Here, again, Rasputin came to my assistance. He managed at last to persuade the emperor to grant an audience to the Jewish leaders. But the emperor objected to the members selected for this delegation, on the ground that they were ‘lawyers and revolutionists.’ Rasputin then had another talk with the Czar, after which he suggested to me that Baron Ginzburg, M. A. Ginzburg, and L. I. Brodsky, the Kiev sugar manufacturer, would be more welcome. These however, declined the invitation saying that they could not bear the responsibility for an audience with the Czar. In this way our plan came to naught.
“In the meantime the attitude of Grand Duke Nicholas, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, became more and more threatening against the Jews, causing great alarm. The Jewish leaders then again met Rasputin by appointment, at Sliosberg’s house, in the presence of Baron Ginzburg, Moses Ginzburg, Blankenstein, Model, Rabbi Maaze and others. When they had all assembled I was asked by telephone to bring Rasputin with me. We then drove to that house. When Rasputin entered the room he was received with every token of profound respect. The Jewish spokesmen, men with flowing beards, told Rasputin in the course of that evening all about the persecution of the Jewish population by the Grand Duke and other anti-Semites in power. Their reports made a profound impression upon Rasputin, and he felt greatly shocked.
The “climax” in the story told by Simanovitch comes when he relates his audience with the Czar, whom he was to beg to grant equal rights to the Jews. This is the way the story is told: “Rasputin arose and said to the Czar: ‘A son of the Jewish people stands before you.”
“Nicholas looked at him and then at me in surprise and said: “I don’t understand this.’
“The others who were there gazed at us curiously. Rasputin said: ‘I started, but he will tell you the rest.’
“I was trembling with agitation and began:
” ‘Your majesty, I have lived in St. Petersburg for years, but my brothers and sisters, our whole people, know nothing of your love for them.’
“The Metropolitan interrupted me: ‘You are speaking very vaguely. If you are speaking as a son of the Jewish people, you should express yourself more clearly.’
“Greatly excited, I continued:
” ‘Your Majesty- My brothers and the whole Jewish people are waiting to hear your voice. They are waiting to receive from you equal rights, the right to live everywhere, and the right to education. They are waiting for your gracious favor.’
“The Czar was listening. I was speaking without coherence, in broken sentences, but the emperor knew just the” same what I was pleading for. Everybody was silent and waiting for the Czar’s reply. I observed with gratification that those present appeared to favor me. But the Czar addressed me thus:
” ‘Tell your brothers that I shall grant them nothing.’
“I lost myself completely. With tears streaming, I implored him:
“For God’s sake, your Majesty, please relieve me of this mission. It is beyond my strength to communicate such a decision to my brothers.’
“The Czar looked at me kindly. In a calm and sympathetic voice he said:
“You do not understand me. Tell the Jews that to me they are just like all the other aliens in our State, equal to all the other subjects. But we have ninety million peasants and a hundred million aliens. My peasants are illiterate and still undeveloped. The Jews are fully developed. Tell the Jews that some day when my peasants shall have attained the same level as the Jews, I shall give the Jews all that my peasants will then have.’
“I answered: ‘I hear, Your Majesty, I shall see to it.’
“On the following day I requested Metropolitan Pitirim to receive the Jewish leaders and tell them that I had really begged the Czar to grant equal rights to the Jews. Baron Ginzburg, Poliakov and Warshavski arrived, and the Metropolitan confirmed what I told them.”
Such is the account given by Simanovtch, one time private secretary to Rasputin. It seems very strange, to say the least. Had it not been that he mentions by name well-known and still living leaders of Russian Jewry up to the Revolution, one might prefer to turn away from his story and pass to the next business. As it is, however, it will become necessary for the persons mentioned in the book, such as Messrs. Sliosberg, Eisenstadt and others, to issue some statement about the personality and the story of Simanovitch, to put both in their proper place, if necessary.
Funeral services for the late Samuel Oppenheim, who died on Saturday, were held yesterday at Riverside Memorial Chapel, New York City. Mr. Oppenheim was 69 years old.
He was a member of the American Jewish History Society The Judeans the New York State Historical Association, the Bar Association of the City of New York, the New York State Stenographers’ Association and the London Shorthand Society.
Mr. Oppenheim was the author of ‘An Early Jewish Colony in Western Guiana,” “The Early History of the Jews in New York” “The Jews and Masonry in the United States Before 1810,” “The Chapters of Isaac the Scribe,” and “More About Jacob Barsimson the First Jewish Settler in New York.