The entire Jewish press of America publishes editorials dealing with the anti-Jewish excesses in Vilna, and the other Polish University towns, complaining that for the first time in history Vilna has experienced a pogrom against the Jews. Even under the Czar, they write, Vilna was the one place where no pogroms occurred.
The New York Yiddish dailies, the “Forward”, the “Day” and the “Jewish Morning Journal”, all agree that the Pilsudski Government does not want the anti-Jewish riots, but they complain that it lacks the courage to conduct an effective fight against the anti-Jewish students. The police were too lenient to the students when they started their disturbances at Cracow and Warsaw Universities, they say, and the result is the pogrom now at Vilna.
The general American press, too, is closely watching the situation in Poland, and publand, and publishing long reports of the Vilna excesses.
There have been anti-Jewish attacks in Vilna before. The one which stands out most in recent times was the raid made on the Jewish quarter by the Polish legionaries when they recaptured Vilna from the Soviets in 1919, when the famous Yiddish and Hobrew poct, Izak Weiter, was shot by the Polish troops. Weiter, who had been exiled to Siberia by the Czarist Government for conducting Bundist activity, was released on the outbreak of the Revolution and he made his way to Vilna, where he was very active writing and publishing. He had always been an outspoken friend and champion of Polish independence. In Vilna he lived together in the same house with Mr. Samuel Niger, the famous Yiddish literary critic, who now lives in America (and has been spending this week in London), and with Mr. Leib Jaffe, now the Managing Director of the Keren Hayesod (who is also at present in England). On April 19th., the Polish army occupied Vilna, and two days later, after some street fighting, they occupied the quarter in which Weiter, Niger and Jeffe wero living. Several Legionaries broke into the house and placed all three before a firing party, and Weiter was shot dead. The other two, Niger and Jaffe, were taken to Lida, and they were reprieved by order of Narshal Pilsudski, the Commander of the Legionaries and then Chief of the Polish State.
In past centuries there has been a great deal of violent anti-Jewish rioting in Vilna. In 1635 the populace, in a mood of frenzy, destroyed the newly-erected Jewish prayer house at Vilna, tearing to pieces 18 Scrolls of the Law and not leaving a stone of the prayer-house unturned. When Vilna was conquered by the Russians in 1854 savage hordes of Cossacks led by their barbaric chieftain, Chmielnicki, destroyed everything in the city and killed every Jew they met. Those Jews who remained were banished from Vilna by order of the Russian King. This wholesale expulsion from Vilna is referred to by Rabbi Moses Ribkes in the preface to “Be’er Ha Golah”, where he writes: “And on the fourth day of the week on the 23rd. of Tamuz in 5415 (1655) the whole congregation fled for its life from the city of Vilna as one man. Those who had provided themselves with conveyances carried their wives, children and their small belongings in them, but those who had no conveyances travelled on foot and carried their children on their backs.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.