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May 2, 2003

May 2, 2003

100 YEARS AGO

• Only after three days of atrocities did the Russian government finally declare martial law. A week after one of the worst pogroms in history, the Forward has received a telegram detailing the damage: Jewish shops and homes destroyed; streets full of feathers and smashed furniture; more than 100 Jews murdered, 400 permanently crippled, 1,000 wounded. Jews were thrown from rooftops and windows, women raped, breasts, arms and legs chopped off. Russian murderers in red shirts were armed with knives, machetes, revolvers and razors. Policemen and soldiers helped rob and kill the Jews pitilessly. Jews who organized defense measures were run off. The governor took no action against the murderers. Thousands of Jews are now homeless.

75 YEARS AGO

• Recently, the Spanish police arrested a number of foreigners who, they say, are communist agitators. One of them was found in possession of a letter written in a strange script that no one could figure out. The police were sure it was some kind of underground correspondence. Since its postmark was from Poland, the police brought the mysterious letter to the Polish consulate, where they were informed that the letter was written in Yiddish. The consulate gave the police the address of one of the Forward’s European correspondents, who translated the letter for them: “Dear Yosl, Yankl the Nut told me that business has gone cold in that region; Crooked Sheyndl has already left and I’m going to send you and Leah the Rebbetzin back there… If you don’t supply me with some new merchandise, I won’t have to bother. Isaac the Cossack can go to hell; he’s been driving me crazy lately.” The rest of the letter contained a number of unprintable expletives. It turns out that the police stumbled not upon a group of Bolshevik agitators, as they had thought, but a gang of Polish-Jewish pimps and madams involved in the international prostitution trade.

50 YEARS AGO

• In his memoirs of the Yiddish stage, Joseph Rumshinsky recounts that Sarah Adler was the first actress who acted naturally on the Yiddish stage. She made the audience forget they were watching an actress and made them believe they were seeing a real person. This fact is fascinating, particularly since her husband, famed actor Jacob Adler, spoke onstage in a wholly unnatural manner: In those days all actors spoke like as if were playing Hamlet. But a natural talent like Sarah Adler always finds her own path.

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May 2, 2003

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