Jewish_Quarters_The_Economics_of_Segrega

Jewish_Quarters_The_Economics_of_Segrega - JEWISH CULTURE...

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Unformatted text preview: JEWISH CULTURE AND CONTEXTS Published in association with the Herbert D. Katz center for Advanced Judaic Studies of the University of Pennsylvania David B. Ruderman and Steven Weitzman, Series Editors Purchasing Power The Economics of Modern Jewish History Edited by ‘ - Rebecca Kobrin and Adam Teller PENN UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA PRESS PHILADELPHIA 90 Cornelia Ahst One of the most important differences likely evolved from the difierent and often inferior legal status of Jews. This would have been the case especially in German states, where commercial failure and poverty—not just crimi- nal bankruptcy—could lead to expulsion. in court, however, as far as can be ascertained from the example of Abraham Hirschel and Isaac Symons and their adversaries, Jewish merchants were not treated differently. This reminds us not to regard the Jewish economic past, and especially Jewish commercial undertakings, simply as successfully operative networks based mostly on trust created through kinship connections and shared religion or ethnicity. Moreover, it underscores that state regulations or interventions were not the sole factors that could cause economic difficulties, and that, at least partly, the economic behavior of individual merchants was of crucial importance. ' t.““a.rm._...._,_v.,.n.i.,.....-..,_,.a—Wwwa.._.w¢w Haw...“ "simuww “mm-” uuMp—me-Iwmrwwnw' Chapter 4 Jewish Quarters: The Economics of Segregation in the Kingdom of Poland _ Glenn Dynner Contrary to popular belief, Polish Jewry was not confined to ghettos, at least not before the Nazi occupation. Nevertheless, after the partitions of Poland, when an autonomous “Poland” was allowed to tentatively reeinerge as the Duchy of Warsaw (18074814) under Napoleonic auspices and then as the Con- gress Kingdom of Poland (1815—1918) under tsarist rule, Jews were officially barred from living and working on choice streets in many towns and cities, beginning with the capital, Warsaw. If these residential restrictions did not warrant the description of "ghettoes,” nor compare in scale to the Pale of Settlement in the tsarist empire proper, their timing was certainly inaus- picious, for they were imposed at a time when formal ghettoes were finally being dismantled across western and central Europe.1 Why, we must wonder, was the Jews’ presence on select Polish streets and thoroughfares now deemed so threatening, and how were residential restric- tions justified at such a late date? Officials of the Duchy of Warsaw and its successor state, the Kingdom of Poland, may have been beholden to absolut- ist monarchs, but they also saw themselves as enlightened and opposed to medieval corporatism. This chapter argues that Jewish residential restrictions derived chiefly from the misplaced conviction that Polish Jewry’s economic might, reinforced by its sheer numbers, had to be contained in the interest of 92 Glenn Dynner “fairness” to urban Christians. The latter were considered helpless when pit- ted against the multitudes of allegedly clannish, collusive Jews who congreu gated in towus and cities as central as Warsawmwhere Jews had only recently been readmitted. If areas where Jews could live and work were restricted, oflicials reasoned, then decent Christian inhabitants would at least have a fighting chance.2 Nor did officials consider the current situation good for Jews, who by crowding into urban centers, isolating themselves by means of language and dress, and engaging in trade and lease-holding were, it was felt, denying themselves the moral benefits of pursuing agriculture and crafts. The architects of the new residential policies apparently hoped that by offering exemptions from these residential restrictions to Jews they considered desirable—that is, Jews who were acculturated, productive, and wealthy—the rest would be moved to cast off their own antisocial tendencies and strive to join their more civilized coreligionists. In practice, residential restrictions did little to alleviate fears about Jew- ish economic might and separatism. On the one hand, some wealthier ur- ban Jews indeed obtained special permission to live, work, and compete with Christians on choice streets, yet their aCCulturation hardly made them less competitive. On the other hand, officials miscalculated the values and pri- orities of the great majority of urban Jews, who proved willing to shun the lucrative opportunity to live and work on choice streets in order to main- tain their traditional way of life. As a result, the new residential policies merely succeeded in sifting wealthy and acculturated Jews out of Jewish neighborhoods while leaving behind a more proudly tradition—oriented and traditionalist-led Jewish populace. Polish Jewish Residential Restrictions Polish Jewish settlement had always been formally controlled in certain lo- cales. Medieval privileges for Christian townspeople, known as de mm tole- randis Judaeis, theoretically precluded Jewish residence in at least ninety towns, including Warsaw (from 1527).3 In addition, distinctly Jewish areas of settlement existed in a handful of other towns, some of which were con~ ceived during the towns’ initial planning phases (e.g., Zamosc and Przysucha). Some Jewish quarters were walled in (Kalisz and Sandomierz); others (Piotrkéw Trybunalski and Poznan) had originated as separate Jewish towns or, in the case of royal towns (Radom, Rawa Mazowiecka, and Lublin), as Jewish settlements on royal administrators’ (starosta) lands.4 Yet Jews and Jewish Quarters 93 Christians usually lived relatively interspersed in most towns and cities in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, particularly those who could afford to live in houses surrounding the market square (rynek).5 Moreover, most restrictions and formal distinctions had effectively lapsed by the end of the eighteenth century, the period of the partitions. The partitioning powers, Prussia, Russia, and Austria, initially upheld the status quo.6 This attitude of benign neglect would begin to change in 1809, after the creation of the autonomous Napoleonic Polish entity known as the Duchy of Warsaw. Jewish residence in the capital city, Warsaw, which had just been le- galized during the brief period of Prussian dominion, in 1802, was now to be strictly controlled. An 1809 decree had labeled a handful of Warsaw streets, portions of streets, and areas like the Old City “restricted” (exymowany), meaning off limits to Jewish residences and businesses, citing the “indecent state of affairs” resulting from so many Jews living on principal or narrow streets; accompanying dangers like conflagrations, epidemics, lack of clean- liness, lawlessness, and disorder; and, finally, the allegedly sordid nature of the economic activities in which Jews typically engaged, such as trade and tavernwlceeping.7 The 1809 restrictions were apparently not well enforced. In 1812, Ignacy Sobolewski (1770—1846), the minister of police, complained that despite the 1809 decree, Jews had continued to pour unrestricted into the capital, clog- ging up and defacing the most beautiful streets and depriving Christian resi~ dents of their share of profits. As a solution, he proposed moving all but the most acculturated members of the Warsaw Jewish community to the rela» tively deserted northwestern~most section of the city and surrounding it with sturdy walls.8 Sobolweski’s plan, which adv0cated outright ghettoization, was not put into effect. However, the next year, in 1813, Frederick August, the Duke of Warsaw, issued a decree that, while claiming to be merely a fulfillment of the 1809 decree, resembled Sobolewski’s plan in important ways. The 1809 ' decree had ruled out only a few neighborhoods; now, the majority of Jews were indeed to be confined to the northwestern section of the city, which Frederick August euphemistically designated a "Jewish City.” Although no walls were to be constructed, the rest of Warsaw was to be eilectively off lim- its. Those Jews with the means to do so could purchase empty lots or knock down wooden structures and build stone ones, but only within the Jewish City (the 1809 decree had allowed such practices even on restricted streets).9 As one historian has noted, this clever, if draconian, policy effectively enlisted Jewish wealth and initiative to build up a desolate section of the city while at 94 Glenn Dynner the same time thwarting unwanted Jewish expansion in more economically developed sectoral” Frederick August’s 1809 and (even more so) 1813 decrees might seem to warrant the description of ghettoization. But both contained something novel: Jewish families who possessed at least 60,000 zlotys, eliminated their " beards and other distinguishing Jewish markers, enrolled their children in Pol- ish schools, and fit a desired professional profile (factory owners, large»scale merchants, doctors, artists) were eligible for exemption from residential re- strictions. The policy thus rewarded acculturated Jews by allowing them to reside on restricted streets while penalizing the rest for fidelity to traditional Jewish sartorial and educational norms. At the same time, the wealth require- ment signaled a strong fiscal concern that, true to the dictates of cameralism, often trumped other considerations. Twenty-two Jewish families had ob~ tained exemptions in Warsaw by the time the Duchy was dissolved in 1815.31 Jewish residential restrictions reflected a more general change of heart by 'Napoleon, who, through his subsidiary, Frederick August, had already sus— pended citizenship, political rights, and hereditary rights to real estate for Jews for a period often years, after which it was hoped that Jewish acculturation in the Duchy of Warsaw would have caught up with the rest of Europe. Soon, inhabitants of additional towns, beginning with Wschowa, Plock, Makow, and Przasysz, came forward with requests to set up' their own Jewish quar- ters consisting of a few designated streets, which they justified by pointing to the 1809 Warsaw decree.12 Their repeated invocations of the 1809 decree have created much confusion among Scholars, since what they were really request— ing was the creation of additional “Jewish Cities” along the lines of Fredrick’s 1813 decree, not the zones of restricted streets decreed in 1809. At the same time, they, too, proposed exemptions for acculturated and wealthy Jews.13 When much of the Duchy of Warsaw came under tsarist control in 1815 (the tsar was technically “king” of the new Kingdom of Poland), its residen» tial policy was adopted and expanded, proving to be one ofNapoleon’s most enduring legacies in the region. The interethnic jostling began almost irri- mediately. Christian residents approached the tsar’s Polish viceroy, Jozef Zajaczek, with a demand to re-implement the segregation policy in Warsaw, while Jewish mercantile elites approached the tsar’s chief Russian represen— tative in Poland, Imperial Commissioner Nicholas Novosiltsov.14 The latter brushed aside Zajaczek’s fears about arousing “Christian ill will” and man- aged to suspend the residential decree for the next six years.15 Jewish Quarters 95 In 1821, however, the Christian townspeople, helped by recommenda- tions made by the Committee on Towns (1815—1816) and Interior Minister Mostowski (1816—1818), prevailed.16 Tsar Alexander, as king of Poland, an— nounced that there would be a reversion back to the 1809 "restricted streets" policy, which, it is important to remember, had never actually been enforced.17 Apparently unaware of the 1813 "Jewish City” decree, Alexander prohibited Jews from living or working on the streets and areas mentioned in 1809 and added several new restricted streets to the list. The result was an enlarged ver- sion of the inverse ghetto that had been intended back in 1809: a horseshoe shaped zone of streets open to Jewish settlement and businesses in the re- mainder of the city, referred to as a Jewish quarter (1114117)}8 In addition, the tsar required nonresident Jews who wished to do business in Warsaw to pay a sojourner’s tax (billet) and an escort fee (geleitzoli), both in force during the prior Duchy of Warsaw period.‘ Unlike his predecessors, Tsar Alexander rigorously enforced the residen— tial decree. Expulsions from homes and businesses on Warsaw’s restricted streets proceeded apace in 1824, causing a ripple of panic throughout Jewish Warsaw. Although Jews could in theory move to any street in the city not deemed excluded, many were indeed impelled to move to the northwestern section, Frederick’s “Jewish City,” which contained more available space. Without any formalized Jewish city, however, portions could he usurped by the government at any time. For example, the construction of the notorious Alexander Citadel in the wake of the Poles' 1830—1831 uprising against the tsar entailed the destruction of 136 Jewish— owned houses, although the War- saw municipal government eventually permitted expelled Jews to rent unused wooden barracks. The Warsaw municipality continually encroached upon eastern portions of the Jewish quarter, causing it to migrate westward and southward. Warsaw’s Jewish quarter shrank and shifted.” _ At the same time, exemptions for acculturated and wealthy Jews on the basis of the 1809 decree continued to be extended: by 1836, 124 Warsaw Jewish families had obtained exemptions; and an additional seven families did so by 1842.20 Those families were to enjoy the benefits of living and working on streets that were more desirable from an economic perspective. But this aspect did not tend to inspire their coreligionists. As mentioned earlier, en- ticing wealthy and acculturated Jews out of heavily Jewish neighborhoods inadvertently reduced their influence over the Jewish masses, who remained in increasingly traditionv accented and traditionalistnled enclaves. 96 Glenn Dynner After the reintroduction of residential restrictions in Warsaw in 1821, Jew—- ish quarters were established or reinstated in thirty additional towns and cities in the Kingdom of Poland at a rate of about three per year.21 in addition, Jewish quarters identified by the term “compass” (abrng were established or reinstated in twenty—four towns possessing de non tolernndis Judaeis priv- ileges.22 Other Jewish quarters were planned but never enforced.23 These fig- ures yield a grand total of fifty-five operative Jewish quarters among the kingdom’s 456 towns?"1 The towns with restrictions tended to be larger and more economically vital, which may explain why roughly half of the king- dom’s Jewish population resided in Jewish quarters by 1833, the year in which the creation of further Jewish quarters was formally halted.25 As in Warsaw, expulsions of even wealthy Jews who refused to bow to the regime’s acculturation imperatives continued apace. According to Privy Councilor Turkul’, Jews who owned the finest houses around the market squares of certain towns yet refused to visibly acculturate were expelled to Jewish quarters before local Officials could find Christian buyers for their homes, sometimes causing their ruin (many had their wealth tied up in their homes)?!6 Yet expulsions probably occurred less frequently in smaller towns, where the economic effects would have been more drastic.27 A year after the suspension of further Jewish quarters in 1833, existing Jew» ish quarters received an additional Jewish influx when, in an effort to curtail smuggling (most smugglers were believed to be Jews), Jewish settlement was banned in 111 towns along the Prussian and Austrian borders. Jews were also expelled from state mining towns in an attempt to undercut the black market in base and precious metals. Most refugees had little choice but to gravitate to- wards one of the kingdom’s fifty-five Jewish quarters, which, despite their over“ crowded conditions, seemed to promise the most economic opportunity.28 Jewish Responses Raphael Mahler paints an exceedingly bleak picture of conditions in Jewish quarters, based on the portrayals of three sympathetic Polish nobles from the 13303 and 1840s. According to the first observer, ,Jakub Klimontowicz, three— fourths of the Jewish population in cities were "without a means of [steady] livelihood and sustain themselves by questionable kinds of small trade and by acting as middlemen.” According to the second observer, Antoni Osn trowski, a visitor to a Jewish quarter beheld “a picture of human deteriora- tion, shoeking poverty, all black, sad, gloomy. Lacking everything, dirty, Figure 4.1 Map of the Jewish quarter (rewir) in Czyiew. AGAD, Kartografika z innych Oddzialow, nr 82 (formerly KRSW, nr 4125, k. 206). 98 Glenn Dynner Figure 4.2 Map of the JeWish quarter (rewir) in Ciecbanow. AGAD. Zbior Karto- graficzny, nr 349—15. naked in part or altogether, the children cry.” A third, anonymous author, who has been identified as Jozef Goluchowski, proclaimed that “there is no wretched race under the sun such as the poor Jewish people who dwell in our towns. . . . With the minor exception of a few with greater means, there dwell in one small room which is stricken with a plague—ridden Iniasma, over a dozen Jews, begrimed, half-naked, who lie down at night in actual layers one over the other in hammocks, engaged in an almost incessant struggle with hunger, illness, and all too often even with death."29 Yet those portrayals seem to represent worst-case scenarios. There was no out-migration approaching anything like that which would occur in the Jewish Quarters 99 Figure 4.3 Map of the Jewish quarter (rewir) in Makéw Mazowiecki. AGAD, KRSW, nr 4394,1c114.See eastern portion of map. 18805, a period of truly widespread economic crisis.30 Instead, a large impro- vised economy composed of petty side—pursuits, however precarious, seems to have enabled most Jews to get by. In fact, a government survey of Jewish occupations in the Kingdom of Poland in 1843, based on about one-quarter of the Jewish population (106,514), found only 1 percent completely unem- ployed but labeled another 25 percent “day laborers,” a probable euphemism for the improvised occupations mentioned by Klimontowicz. Among the other large categories, a full 28 percent were involved in crafts, 11.3 percent in trade, and 9.7 percent in legal, registered tavern—l(eeping.31 100 Glenn Dynner At the other end of the interpretive spectrum, Bina Garncarska-Kadary argues that residential restrictions proved advantageous, at least in the case of Warsaw Jews. The now heavily Jewish northwestern part of Warsaw may have been unattractive from the perspective of residential real estate, but it proved very attractive to factory builders, who began flocking there to pur- chase the cheap, Jewish-owned land and to hire workers from among the Jewish poor. This process was accelerated when Leopold Kronenberg, the railroad baron of Jewish descent, unified railroad lines on both banks of the Vistula River in such a way that (intentionally or not) caused the major line to traverse northwestern Warsaw and the heavily Jewish Praga suburb. Thanks to residential restrictions, apparently, the Jews of Warsaw wound up with front row seats to the East European industrial revolution.32 This latter view seems equally selective.33 Archival sources actually point to a widespread desire among Jews to escape Jewish quarters, albeit without having to shed their visible cultural distinctions. Of course, some peti- tioners really had begun to dress like Polish townspeople, attain literacy in Polish, and enroll their children in public schools—in other words, becoming the type of Jew that the government was trying to engineer through its ex- emption policy.34 Among them were Jewish army veterans who pointed out that they could not very well go back to living among Jews after so many years of military service among civilized fellow Poles.35 But since eviction and re- settlement could in’principle be evaded, almost eyery Jew with a story seemed to try his or her luck. . - ...
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