Re: What happened on 7 March 1612 in Poznan? Mass death of Jews #poland #general

Gerson Sher

Hi Krzysztof - 

Thanks for your comments. The records - the genealogical records of this particular family tree I have come across - say that many members of this family line perished exactly on 7 March 1612 in Posen/Poznan. Young people, old people. People closely related, people not closely related. The fact that the date is stated so precisely is very unusual in such records. So it was something significant. The only other time I have personally seen such a large number of deaths attributed to a specific day was in a well-documented family tree of Holocaust survivors in Lithuania - in that case, it was apparently a mass execution in October 1941.

We may well ask about the authenticity of these records. It is highly unusual to see a Jewish family tree so well documented, for literally over a thousand years. It's my understanding that some great rabbinical lineages are carefully documented. and what I have found does indeed appear to include and weave around such rabbinic dynasties, where records may well have been kept. All one can see in the trees are dates of birth and death. I'm inclined to assume that at least this much is correct, but it appears to be very hard to trace back to the source.

I agree that in thinking about history we must be based on fact, but facts do not usually jump out by themselves and announce themselves as indisputable fact. History is often about finding links, finding clues, finding patterns, and pursuing bits and pieces of minutiae that may or may not add up to something. And yes, absolutely - without stereotypes.

In this case, I acknowledge, what I have said about whatever happened on 7 March 1612 in Posen/Poznan is conjecture - but not wild conjecture. We know that there was anti-Semitism in Poland both before and after 1612, and much more after. (If we cannot agree on that, there is probably little point in this discussion.) As far as fires in the Jewish quarter of cities, look at the accounts of the Fittmilch rebellion and you'll see multiple pogroms between 1614 and 1616 - the most intense period of the rebellion - involving fires in Jewish quarters. That's what happened in those days. That's fact.  Unfortunately I do not read Polish so I cannot study the Wikipedia link you kindly provided, but does it say anything about what *caused* the fire in 1613? If Jewish quarters in German and Polish cities were going up in flames between 1612 and 1616 as part of a rebellion that victimized Jews, wouldn't it be reasonable to suppose that one such fire in 1613 had similar origins?

Your rhetorical questions about the relationship between Poland and Jews are helpful, but they do not answer themselves. For example, it is well known that certain Polish kings (e.g., Stefan Batory) gave Jews certain privileges and protections. It is known that Jews fleeing Germany in the 14th-15th century were welcomed in Poland by the monarchs. It is known that the Jewish community of Poland was extensive and vibrant. By the same token, it is also known that not everything went so well for the Jews in Poland. Perhaps one could argue that the Khmel'nitsky Uprising was not Polish at all, but Ukrainian, and there's some truth in that, but on my reading of the Khmel'nitsky Uprising, its social origins were in the complaints of the peasanty in present-day eastern Poland about the oppressive taxes of the Polish szlachta nobles, who in turn blamed the Jews who had been delegated by the King to collect taxes from the nobles in order to shelter himself from their wrath. It's all very complicated, indeed. But it's not a completely different story.

Clearly we have different views about these matters. I understand that these issues are very poignant in Poland today. 

Gerson Sher
Washington, DC

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