Long before the Holocaust, Jews were subjected to a variety of persecutions and physical assaults. These coordinated attacks against Jews, called "pogroms," were generally initiated by official agents of the state, often with the support of local vigilantes. They were most commonly seen in Russia but occurred in other parts of Europe as well. Shown in figure 48 is a depiction of one such pogrom that took place in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1819, shortly after the emancipation of the Jews by Napoleon, an event that many Germans resented. The engraving shows two peasant women assaulting a Jew with pitchfork and broom. A well-dressed man, wearing tails and a six button waistcoat, is holding another Jew by the throat and is about to hit him with a stick. Seen also, supporting the attack, are soldiers on horseback, giving the violence official sanction.

  Riot against Jews (Pogrom) in Frankfurt, Germany
Figure 48. Riot against Jews (Pogrom) in Frankfurt, Germany

Etching by Johann Michael Voltz, 1819. (Image from Amos Elon in Wikipedia).

Some medals have been made to memorialize the plight of the Jews during pogroms. One such is shown below (figure 49). Depicted on the obverse is an old Jewish man on his knees, with his hands outstretched to the sky in prayer. Next to him are the corpses of his wife and child who were murdered; in the background is seen the murderous crowd running away from the slaughter. The Hebrew inscription reads the familiar prayer of Jews, Shema Israel (Hear O Israel). Inscribed on the reverse is a legend translated as, “For the Victims of the Pogrom” and with a reference to Psalm 44:27. The Hebrew inscription reads "Arise to Assist us," which are the first words of this psalm, the full verse, taken from the Tanakh, being “Arise to Assist Us and Redeem Us for the Sake of Your Kindness.” [The Tanakh or Hebrew Scriptures is the common textual source of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament; it is an acronym of the first Hebrew letter of each of the three traditional subdivisions: Torah ("Teaching", also known as the Five Books of Moses), Nevi'im ("Prophets") and Ketuvim ("Writings")].

   Medal for Victims of the Jewish Pogroms in Eastern Europe
   Medal for Victims of the Jewish Pogroms
Figure 49. Medal for Victims of the Jewish Pogroms in Eastern Europe

Rachel Margaretha van Dantzig, The Netherlands, 1919. Silver Plaquette, 24 mm x 21 mm. Reference: Polak 64. (Image courtesy of Tradart)

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