Ever since the Jews were driven from their homeland (now known as
Israel) they have faced discrimination and prejudice, mainly due to
their beliefs and culture. They spread throughout the world and in
some countries they were welcomed and enjoyed periods of peace with
their neighbors, however in Europe the population was mainly Christian
and the Jews found themselves being branded as outsiders. The reason
Jewish and Christian populations couldn’t get along was due to
different religious beliefs and for many years the Church taught of
how it believed the Jews had killed Jesus, however in modern times
this view has been discredited by many historians.
In Russia there was a long history of anti-semitism in Eastern Europe
which where highlighted by the Chmielnicki massacres throughout an
eight year period, 1648-1656. More than 100,000 Jews were murdered
during the massacres and many more were tortured and wounded.
By the late Nineteenth century around four million Jews were living in
Russia. Many of them were in ‘The Pale of Settlement’, a specially
designated area to which the Jews had been restricted.
In the Jewish communities the Jews suffered from persecution and
violence, such as looting of belongings and smashing the windows of
Jewish owned shops. These ‘pogroms’, from a Russian word meaning a
violent mass attack on a section of the community, were often condoned
and encouraged by the Russian government who were more than happy to
see someone else get the blame for their economic failures. Waves of
pogroms broke out in 1881 and 1882, and once again between 1902 and
1905. This period in history was a testing time for the Jews within
Russia. At first self-defense groups were formed and sometimes managed
to drive the local hooligans and peasants away but they were always
outnumbered and found it increasingly impossible to defend themselves,
several hundred Jews were beaten to death in cities like Mnsk, Odessa
In 1905 the Tzar’s secret police published perhaps the most notorious
example of pre-Nazi anti-semitic propaganda. The ‘Protocols of the
Learned Elders of Zion’ put forward the notion that an organiation of
elite Jews were planning to take over the world. It was a hoax but
this did not stop it from being circulated throughout Europe and
America and it helped fuel Nazism in the 1930’s.
Meanwhile during this period Frances Jewish population was far less
than Easten Europe. French Jews had been the first in Europe to be
given equal rights as citizens and enjoyed freedom throughout France.
However in 1894, French Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a French Jew, was
tried for high treason and sentenced to life imprisonment in total