Anarchy in Yiddish : Famous Jewish Anarchists from Emma Goldman to Noam Chomsky
Presentation given at Temple Israel, Sat., March 2nd, 2002
It’s a bright May day in Paris in 1926, a quarter after two in the afternoon. A middle-aged watchmaker named Samuel Schwartzbard, a veteran of the French Foreign Legion and, as it happens, of the Red Army, is waiting outside the Chartier restaurant in the Rue Racine. A man with a cane, a former foreign dignitary now living in exile, steps out of the restaurant. Schwartzbard approaches him, and calls out in Ukrainian : “Are you Mr. Petliura ?” The man turns. “Defend yourself, you bandit,” shouts the watchmaker, drawing his pistol, and as Petliura raises the cane in his right hand, Schwartzbard shoots him three times, shouting, “This for the pogroms ; this for the massacres ; this for the victims.” And thus Samuel Schwartzbard – Shalom, as he was also called – assassinated General Simon Petliura, the former leader of the independent nation of Ukraine, who between 1919 and 1921 had ordered a wave of pogroms that had consumed the lives of sixty thousand Jews. Schwartzbard, who was also a Ukrainian, had survived a pogrom at the age of nineteen, fleeing to Romania ; much of his family did not escape or survive.
Since then, Schwartzbard had traveled, fought, written poetry, studied. He had made friends with several other expatriates in Paris, notably Alexander Berkman, Mollie Steimer, Senya Fleshin, and Nestor Makhno. Berkman, Steimer, and Fleshin were Jews from America, all of immigrant parentage, all now living in exile, having been deported. Makhno was a Ukrainian, the exiled leader of a failed peasant insurrection that, for a while, had battled both Trotsky’s Red Army and the White armies of Petliura and Denikin. All of them were anarchists.