THE Passover season, when we celebrated our deliverance from the land of Egypt, and felt so glad and thankful as if it had only just happened, was the time our Gentile neighbours chose to remind us that Russia was another Egypt. It was not so bad within the Pale; but in Russian cities, and even more in the country districts, where Jewish families lived scattered by special permission of the police, who were always changing their minds about letting them stay, the Gentiles made the Passover a time of horror for the Jews. Somebody would start up that lie about murdering Christian children, and the stupid peasants would get mad about it, and fill themselves with vodka, and set out to kill the Jews.
They attacked them with knives and clubs, and scythes and axes, killed them or tortured them, and burned their houses. This was called a ‘pogrom’. Jews who escaped the pogroms came with wounds on them, and horrible, horrible stories of little babies torn limb from limb before their mother’s eyes.
Only to hear these things made one sob and sob and choke with pain. People who saw such things never smiled any more, no matter how long they lived; and sometimes their hair turned white in a day, and some people became insane on the spot.
MARY ANTIN, 1911.