Vilna (Apr. 15)
The trial of the three young Jews, Leib Zalkind, Baruch Ogus and Samuel Wulfin, who are accused of being responsible for the death of the National Democratic student Stanislaw Waclewski, who was killed during the anti-Jewish riots at Vilna University last November, is opening here tomorrow. Zalkind and Ogus are facing a direct charge of murder, while Wulfin is accused only of having taken part in the street disturbances at the time of the murder.
The principal witnesses for the accusation are the Chief of the Police Investigation Department here, Commissary Wasilewski, who has drawn up the act of indictment, and has submitted several memorandums in which the Jews are accused of having been mainly responsible for the November disturbances by indulging in acts of provocation, and a girl student named Lepkowska, belonging to the National Lemocratic Student Organisation, who claims to have been an eye-witness of the murder of Waclawski.
The witness Lepowska has failed to appear, and the police have been ordered to find her and bring her into court.
The chief Jewish witnesses are ex-Deputy Dr. Wygodski, the President of the Vilna Jewish Community, and Town Councillor Engineer Spiro.
The defence will be conducted by a former Minister of Justice, M. Smiarowski, one of the most famous pleaders in Poland, the Dean of the Vilna Chamber of Advocates, M. Petrusiewicz, and two well-known Vilna Jewish lawyers, M. Margolis and M. Czernichow.
The trial is expected to last for two days, and seats have been reserved in the court room for representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and the Interior.
M. Smiarowska, the leading Counsel for the Defence, has put a motion that both trials, those of Zalkind and Ogus, and of Wulfin, should be taken together.
The act of indictment relates that on November 9th., 1931, at four o’clock in the afternoon, Professor Reicher ordered the dissection rooms of the Vilna University to be closed. The Polish students left by way of the Nowo-Grudska, and Zawalna Streets, towards the main building of the University.
A big crowd of Jewish students, it asserts, marched behind the Polish students, and the streets wore full of hostile cries from both sides. A police cordon separated the two student bodies.
The Poles entered the University courtyard, the act of indictment proceeds, and closed the gate behind them. The Jewish students collected outside the gate, and shouted various remarks, provoking the Polish students, and threatening public security, so that the police were compelled to use their rubber cudgels to disperse the Jewish students.
The same day rumours spread in Vilna that two Jewish students, Grodzenski and Wechsler, had been badly beaten, and the Jewish students armed themselves with sticks and thrashed the Polish students who passed in one by one.
Commissary Wasilewski has himself established, the indictment goes on, that on the morning of November 10th., a crowd of 150 students left the Jewish Students’ Home and proceeded to the main University building, and there provoked disturbances and fighting. The news of the fighting speedily spread among the Polish students. The Polish students left the main University building and went to the Physiological Institute, and they were followed by a mob of more than 300 Jewish students. At this time, the Polish student Stanislaw Waclawski, who had been mortally wounded, was carried past on a drosky.
A crowd of Jews let fly a volley of stones at the drosky, and evidence is given by Wisomirsky and Switko, that one of these stones hit the dying Waclawski on the head.
A JEWISH VERSION OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES
On Sunday, November 8th., a Vilna correspondent of one of the leading Warsaw Yiddish dailies wrote at the time of the disturbances, the National Democratic students at Vilna University held a meeting, but the Jewish students did not suspect that it was for any purpose out of the ordinary. The next morning (Monday) attempts were made to drive the Jewish students out of the dissecting rooms. The Jewish students refused to be driven out. The Polish students held a demonstration. The Jews also held a demonstration. On Monday evening several clashes took place and there was fighting on both sides. On Tuesday morning, the disturbances spread
from the Anatomical Institute to the Faculty of Humanities. Several Professors were beaten, and there was a regular hunt against the Jewish students. The Jewish students put up a fierce resistance. A good deal of hard fighting took place and there were many injuries on both sides. In one of these fights a Polish student, Stanislaw Waclawski, got a severe injury on the head with a stone. Passions flamed up and matters looked very serious.
Later on in the day the Jewish students held a meeting in their club to consider the situation and to organise a self-defence. While the meeting was in progress a big crowd of National Democratic students came up to the club and started throwing stones and tried to break into the building. The Jewish students managed to dodge the stones, but some of them received blows from rubber cudgels. The Polish students were dispersed by the police into the University courtyard, where they held a quiet demonstration, while the Jewish students were driven by the police into the arms of their assailants. At night the report went round that Waclawski, who had been seriously injured, had died in hospital. Immediately there was a demonstration of over 2,000 Polish students, who scattered through the Jewish district; windows were smashed in Jewish shops and house, and many Jewish shops were looted. A mob of hooligans and denizens of the underworld followed them taking advantage of the opportunity of plunder.
OCCURRENCES DESCRIBED BY PRESIDENT OF VILNA JEWISH COMMUNITY
Ex-Deputy Dr. Wygodski, the President of the Vilna Jewish Community, had an article in the Warsaw “Najer Hajnt” a few days after the Vilna disturbances complaining of the unresponsive attitude of the authorities and the police, who made no attempt, he claimed, to put down the anti-Jewish outbreaks.
It was clear at the very beginning, he said, that the Vilna police were not concerned to prevent the trouble. All the police did was to act as an escort for the National Democratic student mob, except when they came upon a group of Jewish students, no matter how small, when they immediately took a truculent attitude and dispersed them with blows. The police made no effort to prevent the anti-Jewish manifestations, and when thousands of National Democratic students went out to start the pogrom upon the Jewish population the police went with them as a kind of bodyguard to prevent interference.
A friend of mine, an engineer, Dr. Wygodski writes, asked a policeman who was looking on while some National Democratic students were beating Jewish students belonging to both sexes, why he did not drive off the assailants. What does it matter to me? the policeman replied.
But the clearest insight into the behaviour of the police was afforded to me when I happened to be in the Club of the Jewish Students’ Union on the Tuesday, when the National Democratic students tried to break their way inside, Dr. Wygodski went on. We had information that, notwithstanding the assurances given us by the District Commissioner, we could expect another attack on the Jewish Students’ Club, so I stopped there to discuss with the students how to act if the attack came. It was like a beehive. One could smell powder in the air. We shall not attack anyone, but if we are attacked we shall defend ourselves, the Jewish students were saying. We shall not permit ourselves to be driven out of the University. We shall not allow Jews to be beaten.
Engineer Spiro, who was with me, and I, told them that they must stand firm, but that they must act coolly and not lose their heads. Very soon we heard shouting outside. The hooligans had come. All the Jewish students went down to the entrance, through which the National Democratic students were trying to break into the building. There was a mob of over a thousand people, mostly National Democratic students, with an escort of police. Stones started flying through the windows which were shut. Less than a minute had passed when police armed with rifles and rubber cudgels came rushing into the Jewish Students’ Club and started pushing the Jewish students out into the street, right into the arms of the National Democrats. The Jewish students were between two fires, the National Democratic students in front, and the police behind. Naturally, they were panic-stricken, and something terrible might have happened, if some of the police had not broken into the room where Engineer Spiro and I were sitting at the telephone. As soon as they saw us, they seemed to realise that their plan had failed. They began to whisper among themselves, and they were soon gone. The National Democratic students, too, disappeared. No comments are necessary.