To mark Human Rights Week, we take a look at the MS 128 Papers of Carl Stettauer, who visited Russia in 1905 to organise relief work after the pogroms against the Jewish population.Born in 1859 in Furth, Bavaria, Carl Stettauer was the son of Orthodox Jewish parents. His education took place in Nuremburg and he later became a leather salesman. The job led to him travelling to Italy, the United States, and Great Britain, the latter where he chose to reside long-term. Here he created the Stettaure & Wold firm, who were leather merchants of Bermondsey, London.
Stettauer became a member of the Hampstead Synagogue, and an auditor of the Board of Deputies, as well as joining the Anglo-Jewish Association and the Jewish Board of Guardians as a member. He also went on to marry and to have a son named Boris.In the 1880s and early 1900s, pogroms (“to wreak havoc” in Russian) occurred against the Jewish community in Russia. This was due to the Russian Empire acquiring territories with large Jewish populations from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The territories were labelled “the Pale of Settlement” by the Imperial Russian government, where Jews were permitted to live, and where the pogroms mainly took place. The majority of Jews were forbidden to move to the other parts of the Empire, unless they converted to the Russian Orthodox state religion.
The first wave of pogroms occurred in southern Russia after the assassination of Czar Alexander II in 1881, for which some blamed the Jews, due to one of the conspirators being of Jewish origin. Local economic conditions and competing with the business of local Jews is also believed to have caused rioting, as well as Russians spreading their anti-Semitic ideas when moving in and out of major cities following Russia’s industrialisation.
In response, a public meeting was called at the requisition of 83 people to be held at the Guildhall in London on 10 December 1890. At the meeting the following resolution was proposed by the Earl of Meath:
“That a suitable memorial be addressed to Imperial Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias, respectfully praying his Majesty to repeal all the exceptional and restrictive laws and disabilities which afflict his Jewish subjects; and begging his Majesty to confer upon them equal rights with those enjoyed by the rest of his Majesty’s subjects; and that the said memorial be signed by the right Hon. The Lord Mayor, in the name of the citizens of London, and be transmitted by his lordship to his Majesty.” [Treatment of the Jews in Russia Full Report of the Public Meeting Held at the Guildhall London on Wednesday, December 10th, 1890 p.47, MS128 AJ22/A/3]The second wave of pogroms was caused by the revolutionary tension in Russia and the first Russian revolution of 1905. In its struggle against this pressure, the Russian government permitted the reactionary press to engage in anti-Semitism in an attempt to divert the rage of the majority against it toward the Jews. The Black Hundreds, which was the general name given to Monarchist societies such as the Double-Headed Eagle Society and the Union of Russian People, were instrumental in the organisation of the pogroms. Pogroms broke out from 1903 to 1906, leaving around 2,000 Jews dead and many more wounded, as the Jews attempted to defend their families and property from attackers. The most serious pogrom against Jews took place in Odessa in 1905, where up to 2,500 Jews were killed.
In 1905, Stettauer travelled to Russia as one of three Commissioners of the Russo-Jewish Committee with Dr Paul Nathan of Berlin and Mr David Feinberg of St Petersburg. The Russo-Jewish Committee was established in 1882 to manage matters relating to Jewish immigrants. The tasks of these gentlemen was to organise relief to the needs of the sufferers of the pogroms, which involved speaking to philanthropist, Baron Horace de Gunzburg in St Petersburg, gaining approval from the Czar’s ministers, and travelling to the places that had suffered the most from the pogroms: Kiev and Odessa. Below is a quote from Dr Paul Nathan’s report on the state of Russia.
“We regret to say that nearly every Committee is of the opinion that we are not yet at the end of the pogroms. You will see by the list of places under the Odessa Central Committee which numbers over 70 & to which additions will still have to be made that when Mr Stettauer left England we had no idea how widespread in the small places the disorders were. The no. of places affected known to us is already over 200.” [Dr Paul Nathan’s report on the state of Russia, p.2, MS128 AJ22/A/4]The Kiev pogrom occurred as a result of the collapse of a city hall meeting of 18 October 1905 in the Russian Empire. Consequently, a gang was drawn into the streets, which included reactionaries, monarchists, anti-Semites, and common criminals. The pogrom led to the genocide of around 100 Jews and nearly 300 seriously injured, as well as the destruction of wreckages of property. Looting, raping and murder took place, primarily against factories, shops, and homes, and persons of the Jews. A useful resource for gaining an insight into the pogroms in Russia is the volume of newspaper cuttings relating to Stettauer’s visit to Russia. Featured is an interview with Stettauer. When asked what he witnessed in Kiev, Stettauer said the following:
“I could not describe. It is sufficient if I say that no harrowing or heart-breaking story of fiendish cruelty or of wicked destruction of property which your paper has published in the last few weeks is exaggerated. If I must fall back on a hackneyed phrase I would say it all ‘beggars description”. Without being looked upon it seems incredible – so much bloodshed, so much ruin, so much misery and pain, physical and mental, of the survivors.” [Volume of newspaper cuttings relating to Stettauer’s visit to Russia, MS128 AJ22/A/1]Another public meeting of protest in response to the treatment of Jews in Russia took place on 8 January 1906 at the Queen’s Hall in London. It was organised by a sub-committee appointed by the Conjoint Committee of the Board of Deputies and the Anglo-Jewish Association. Resolutions proposed and seconded included expressing sympathy to the pogrom survivors and the families of victims, and that Russian Jews be granted equal rights to “their Christian fellow citizens”. It was further hoped that the resolutions be forwarded to the Right Honourable Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Prime Minister, and the Right Honourable Sir Edward Grey, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs “in the hope that His Majesty’s Government may be able, when an opportunity arises, to exercise a friendly influence upon the Russian Government in accordance with the spirit of the preceding Resolutions.” [Outrages on Jews in Russia Queen’s Hall Meeting, January 8th 1906 Resolutions, MS128 AJ22/A/4]
At the meeting, Stettauer, as English Commissioner of the Russo-Jewish Committee, made a statement on what he had seen during his recent visit to Russia:
“You all know of the many Jews, men, women, and children who were killed in Odessa, but you may not be aware of that fact that nearly 1000 children have been deprived of one or both parents, and 26 children are now blind or deaf in consequence of blows on the head.” [Massacre of Jews in Russia Report of the Protest Meeting at Queen’s Hall, January 8th, 1906, p.24 [MS128 AJ 22/A/4]As well as printed papers relating to the Queen’s Hall meeting being included in the MS128 Papers of Carl Stettauer, there are also letters offering money for the Poor Orphans in Russia, accounts of the Russo-Jewish Committee, and reports of the Jewish central committee for the relief of suffers in the pogroms. These provide valuable primary sources for those studying the Russian pogroms against Jewish people and Britain’s response. We have recently completed a transcript available in PDF of typescript copies of a journey to Russia of Jack M. Myers, secretary to the commission administering the fund raised to relieve the families massacred and outraged Jews there Nov-Dec 1905 (MS 128/AJ22/F/1), which will be available on our website.
Join us for next week’s blog post, where we will reveal the stories of a group of Jewish children who arrived in the UK from Russia during the 1905 anti-Jewish pogroms.