Scope and Contents
Correspondence and one news clipping document a small part of the lives of the Kristal family, their relatives, and friends from 1921 to 1925. The majority of the correspondence is in Yiddish and needs to be translated to get the full context of the correspondence.
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Biographical / Historical
Through correspondence from their family and friends, it appears that the Kristal family immigrated to the United States from, what is believed to be, Poland or Ukraine in the early twentieth century. One of the letters references the political climate in that area in the early 1920's.
The early twentieth century was a tumultuous time for eastern Europe, including Poland and Ukraine. During the military conflicts that engulfed Eastern Europe at the time — the Russian Civil War, Polish-Ukrainian War, and Polish-Soviet War — many pogroms were launched against the Jews by all sides. A substantial number of Jews were perceived to have supported the Bolsheviks in Russia. They came under frequent attack by all those opposed to the Bolshevik regime. Just after the end of World War I, the West became alarmed by reports about alleged massive pogroms in Poland against Jews. American pressure for government action reached the point where president Woodrow Wilson sent an official commission to investigate the issue. The commission announced that the reports of pogroms were exaggerated, and in some cases may have even been fabricated. It identified eighty-nine major incidents in years 1918–1919, and estimated the number of victims at 200–300 Jews. Four of these were attributed to the actions of deserters and undisciplined individual soldiers; none were blamed on official government policy. Among the incidents, in Pinsk a Polish officer accused a group of Jewish communists of plotting against the Poles, shooting 35 of them. In Lviv (then Lemberg) in 1918, as the Polish army captured the city, hundreds of people were killed in the chaos, among them about 72 Jews. In Warsaw soldiers of Blue Army assaulted Jews on the streets, but they were punished by military authorities. When the Polish troops entered Vilnius in 1919, the first Lithuanian pogrom in modern city on Lithuanian Jews took place. Many other events in Poland were later found to have been exaggerated, especially by contemporary newspapers like New York Times, although serious abuses against the Jews, including pogroms, continued elsewhere, especially in the Ukraine. The result of the concern over the fate of the Jews of western Poland was a series of explicit clauses in the Paris Peace Conference protecting the rights of Jews in Poland.
In Ukraine during the 1821 anti-Jewish riots in Odessa after the death of the Greek Orthodox patriarch in Constantinople, 14 Jews were killed. Some sources claim this episode as the first pogrom. At the start of 20th century, anti-Jewish pogroms continued to occur. When part of the Russian Empire in 1911 to 1913, the antisemitic attitudes can be seen in the number of blood libel cases. In 1915, the government expelled thousands of Jews from the Empire's border areas.
During the 1917 Russian Revolution and the ensuing Russian Civil War, an estimated 31,071 Jews were killed during 1918–1920. During the establishment of the Ukrainian People's Republic (1917–21), pogroms continued to be perpetrated on Ukrainian territory. In Ukraine, the number of civilian Jews killed during the period was between 35 and 50 thousand. Pogroms erupted in January 1919 in the northwest province of Volhynia and spread to many other regions of Ukraine. Massive pogroms continued until 1921. The actions of the Soviet government by 1927 led to a growing antisemitism in the area.
excerpted from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_20th-century_Poland