|(1) The Gladstone article posits mental illness as the cause of the Khmelnytsky rebellion. Gladstone posits that the cause of the Khmelnytsky rebellion is anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is a variety of mental illness. Therefore, according to Gladstone, the Khmelnytsky rebellion was caused by mental illness suffered by the Ukrainian Cossacks.|
However, this makes as much sense as saying that the Spartacus rebellion of gladiators against the Romans was caused by a mental illness suffered by the gladiators. Or it makes as much sense as saying that the Nat Turner rebellion of black slaves against their white masters was caused by a mental illness suffered by the black slaves. When sufficient causes of a rebellion are observed, and when no objective indication of mental illness is observed, it does not make sense to ignore the observed causes and restrict attention to imaginary causes.
(2) The Gladstone article ignores Polish-Jewish oppression as the cause of the Khmelnytsky rebellion. The degree of oppression that was the fundamental cause of the uprising is captured in the statement — well worth memorizing and reciting to others — "utter serfdom, hardly distinguishable from outright slavery and certainly the worst in Europe":|
Within this system, Jews were the immediate instruments of oppression, holding life-and-death powers over Ukrainians:
Gladstone, however, makes no mention of "oppression" as such, but rather makes mention once only of "perceived oppression," thus dismissing oppression as a cause; thus conveying that the oppression existed not in reality, but only in the minds of the Cossacks, which paints quite a different picture from Israel Shahak's contrasting statement that the oppression was "utter serfdom, hardly distinguishable from outright slavery and certainly the worst in Europe".
(3) The Gladstone article misrepresents Hanover. If Gladstone had been writing a faithful summary of Hanover and not hate literature, he would have recounted that even Hanover — biased against Ukrainians though he was — acknowledged that the Khmelnytsky rebellion was motivated by Polish-Jewish oppression:|
(4) The Gladstone article suggests that the Khmelnytsky rebellion was genocidal in intent, and was thus an early Holocaust. However, the Khmelnytsky rebellion was motivated by a desire to overthrow Polish oppression which was being implemented locally by Jews. Thus, Jews were targeted incidentally as the instruments of Polish oppression. In addition, Jews traded with the Khmelnytsky rebels, worked for them, and even enrolled as Cossacks, as has been documented by historian Bernard Weinryb — all of which is incompatible with the notion that the Khmelnytsky rebellion was a genocidal attack upon Jews. The Khmelnytsky rebellion was no more a genocidal attack upon Jews than the Spartacus rebellion was a genocidal attack upon Romans, or than the Nat Turner rebellion was a genocidal attack upon whites. In the words of Israeli writer Israel Shahak, Bill Gladstone appears to belong to those Jewish circles who view an "enslaved peasant" is a "racist monster", so long as "Jews profited from his state of slavery and exploitation":|
|(5) The Gladstone article portrays Khmelnytsky as the first Hitler. Although economic and political and religious oppression was the underlying cause of the Khmelnytsky rebellion, among the immediate causes were injustices inflicted upon Khmelnytsky himself — his estate had been raided, plundered, and confiscated by a Polish nobleman, who managed in the process to also kill Khmelnytsky's son and abduct his betrothed. Khmelnytsky patiently tried to win redress through legal channels, and meeting with no success, only then turned to rebellion. This does not appear to parallel Hitler's story at all, and Gladstone fails to specify what similarities he sees between Khmelnytsky's biography and Hitler's. More appropriate would have been to dub Khmelnytsky the Second Spartacus, or the First Nat Turner. To imply that Khmelnytsky was the First Hitler does not serve truth; it serves only to spread hatred.|
Indeed, this is the most offensive, and most unjustified aspect of the Gladstone hate piece — the identification of the Khmelnytsky rebellion as resembling the Jewish Holocaust, an identification which starts with Gladstone's title, The Holocaust of 1648, continues through vague comparisons to the Nazis, and is underscored in the final words of the article:
|(6) The Gladstone article exaggerates the number of Jewish fatalities at least tenfold. Gladstone states that "By conservative estimates, at least 100,000 Jews were slaughtered; according to Hanover, Jewish losses were much higher." This, however, is a tenfold exaggeration, if not more. Had Gladstone been writing a truthful article and not a piece of hate literature, he would have mentioned that:|
Weinryb gives several examples supporting the conclusion that Hanover's figures are not to be trusted, and gives the following illustration of Hanover's ignorance of arithmetic:
Historian Yaroslaw Pelenski proposes that the number of Jewish fatalities is in the vicinity of one-tenth that offered by Gladstone: "an approximate minimum/maximum figure of 7,000 to 13,000 and a median figure of 10,000 Jews killed in the Khmelnytsky revolution."
In whose interests is Bill Gladstone working when he multiplies the number of Jewish fatalities by ten? In his own, and only his own, in that hyperbolizing Jewish casualties increases the sales of his magazine. And what about the interests of the Jews? By writing his article, Gladstone invites the conclusion that Jews are a people with so little regard for truth that they multiply their casualties tenfold. The gain to Gladstone is that he sells a few more copies of The Wanderer, and so makes a few dollars. The loss to Jews is that they suffer a decline in credibility. Putting the two together, we might say that for the pay of a few dollars, Gladstone is willing to lower Jewish credibility.
|(7) Nathan Hanover was an early Stephen King. Nathan Hanover was not a dispassionate historian writing for a peer-review journal. He was an impecunious refugee desperate to make a buck.|
Nathan Hanover realized then what Stephen King realizes today — that the more sensational and lurid his writing, the more it sells. Hanover's writing should be re-categorized from history to historical fiction. Gladstone misrepresents Hanover as a methodical historian instead of the hysterical polemicist that he truly was.
|(8) Gladstone identifies the Cossacks as a collection of Dr. Mengeles. Of course no inculcation of hatred toward Ukrainians is complete without some graphic reference to sadistic tortures, and Gladstone's magazine does make reference to|
In the above we see that Bill Gladstone does more than allude to tortures, he accuses the Khmelnytsky Cossacks of "medical experiments" which resembled those of Dr. Joseph Mengele during the Holocaust. Here indeed is a comparison which is as invidious as it is gratuitous. This is the first that I have heard that the Cossacks had any counterpart of Dr. Joseph Mengele, or that any of them had medical training, or that any of them were desirous of conducting medical research upon Jews or upon anyone else, or that they found time in the midst of their rebellion to pause to conduct medical experiments.
|(9) The warfare was two-way.
Conveniently, Gladstone does not mention that the warfare was two-way, and that the atrocities committed against the Ukrainians were — and here we come to three words by Israel Shahak that should also be committed to memory — "even more horrible":|
It follows, therefore, that if Gladstone were depicting Cossack atrocities fairly, then he should have placed them side by side with the "even more horrible" atrocities committed by the Polish-Jewish side. Gladstone promotes the image of Ukrainians attacking unarmed civilians unable to fight back. The reality is that a state of war existed between two parties, and the Polish-Jewish ruling class was supported by the awesome military might of the Polish kingdom.
|(10) The bulletproof maiden.
Gladstone repeats Hanover's story of the beautiful Jewish maiden from a wealthy family who is forced to marry a Cossack, but prior to consummation commits suicide by telling him that she possesses a magic such that no weapon can harm her, and adding, "If you do not believe me, just test me." The Cossack, "in his simplicity," and apparently wanting to put her claim to an empirical test, shoots her, one supposes in the chest, and she dies. Thus, tell us both Hanover and Gladstone, the Ukrainian Cossack was violent beyond reason and stupid to the point of retardation, and the Jewish maiden was virtuous and true to her people to the point of self-sacrifice. We're good, they're bad. We're smart, they're stupid. We're peace-loving, they're violent. We're ravaged, they ravage. End of story.|
Hatred creates gullibility spanning three centuries. For Nathan Hanover to have made up this silly story and published it testifies to the gullibility of his readership in the 1600s, and for Bill Gladstone to have repeated it testifies to the gullibility of his readership in the 1900s. The readership, in both cases, appears so committed to hatred that they accept any story which rationalizes their existing hatred, and which intensifies it, no matter how fantastic that story is. They never pause to consider the many incongruities which demonstrate that the story is myth.
Ukrainian Cossacks in 1648 were not unlike us. A less Peter-Panish view is to assume that, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, people are remarkably similar the world over, and over the course of time as well, such that even Ukrainians, and even three centuries ago, do not differ appreciably from the people around us that we are familiar with today. And so today, if a US Marine were to be told by any maiden that she was magic and that no weapon could harm her — he would disbelieve the maiden, and would not test her claim by firing at her chest. In the same way, neither would a Ukrainian Cossack in 1648. The Cossack would have been a cavalryman who knew his weapons, who was familiar with the damage they inflicted, who had seen no miracles in his time, and so did not readily believe that the laws of physics were casually suspended. During the course of his life having seen no other magic people who were impervious to being wounded, he would tend to doubt the claim that he was seeing one now. In the unlikely eventuality that he did want to put the maiden's claim to a test, he would have preferred a test that protected the value of his asset — the asset being the beautiful maiden herself — and so would have chosen a test that caused less damage, as for example pricking her shoulder with a dagger instead of sending a bullet into her chest.
The Cossack believing the maiden's claim would necessitate his ignoring countless incongruities. Upon first hearing the maiden's claim, the Cossack would have instantly sensed that if such a magic maiden existed, then she would have been of such immense fame that the whole world would have heard of her. He would have instantly sensed that if such a magic maiden existed, then she would have been of such immense value that the Jews would never have exposed her to the possibility of capture. He would have instantly sensed that if such a magic maiden existed, then he would have seen evidence of this earlier, particularly during the violence surrounding her capture. He would have instantly sensed that if such a magic maiden existed, then there was some chance that she had more than that one magic power, and so should have been able to use these several powers to extricate herself from her captivity. He would have instantly sensed that even if this maiden did have any magic power, she nevertheless had no apparent motive to disclose this to him as she was doing, and no apparent motive to goad him into firing at her as she was doing. He would have instantly sensed that if the Jews had learned how to produce one individual magically impervious to injury, they would have learned to produce a whole army magically impervious to injury, and therefore should have been invincible in battle.
Who witnessed this event? Hanover's recounting of the event depicts a Cossack alone with the Jewish maiden. But if the maiden is killed during the incident, then the Cossack would have been the only witness to the event, and his description of it would not have been the description that we hear from Hanover, which was highly sympathetic toward the Jewish maiden and highly unsympathetic toward the Cossack. And if witnesses had been present, then they would have urged the Cossack to not go ahead with his empirical test of the maiden's claim.
Why did the Jewish maiden marry the loathsome Cossack in the first place? If I am not mistaken, a Christian wedding requires some expression of assent from both bride and groom. If this was true in Ukraine around 1648, then the Jewish maiden had the opportunity to refuse to marry the Cossack — and yet she did marry him, from which I infer that she must have publicly voiced her assent. But why would she have done so? If she prefers death to dishonor, then why not refuse cooperation with dishonor at the outset? In undergoing a Christian marriage, she was already betraying her faith. The worst that her refusal to marry would have achieved might have been to get her killed on the spot (this — for the sake of argument — going along with the picture of Ukrainian Cossacks as bestial sub-humans), but getting herself killed seemed to be what the maiden preferred anyway. Or maybe instead of being killed for her refusal to marry, she might have been held captive, which would not have been much different from marrying the Cossack. In fact, being held captive was better than being dead because as a captive, there is always some chance of escape or rescue or redemption.
Why didn't the clever Jewish maiden use the Cossack's stupidity to save her life? We are painted a picture of a clever Jewish maiden who finds herself recently married to a Cossack whose evident simple-mindedness borders on severe mental retardation. She comes up with a scheme of avoiding violation by getting herself killed. But if the Cossack was as credulous as she could see that he was, then the Jewish maiden could have told him some other story which would have allowed her to escape, or would have at least delayed the feared consummation. For example, she could have told the Cossack that she was magic in such a way that unless he delayed consummation for one week, his penis would wither up and fall off. If he was capable of believing the first story, he would have been capable of believing this one. If the Jewish maiden elaborated her story convincingly, and the Cossack was as stupid as we are told that he was, she might have won for herself not just a week's respite, but a month's, during which time she would have further opportunity to practice on the Cossack's credulity to her further advantage.
And in order to save herself, the Jewish maiden need not have invented any fantastic story, and need not have depended upon marrying a Cossack simple-minded enough to believe her story — it might have been enough for her to have pointed out to the Cossacks her high value if held for ransom, according to the Tatar tradition, and to have convinced them further that her value would collapse if she were deprived of her virginity.
Recounting the bulletproof maiden story today is administering a test of intelligence. The story of the Cossack killing the Jewish maiden could well be an item from an intelligence test, with those unable to see its incongruities scoring low. For children, the Stanford-Binet IQ test shows a picture of a man whose shadow stretches toward the setting sun. What's wrong with this picture? The test shows another picture of a settler about to be brained by an Indian with a raised tomahawk, but who is aiming his rifle right past this Indian at a distant Indian. What's wrong with this picture? The children with the higher intelligence are able to identify the incongruities. The children with the lower intelligence can't see anything wrong. In the same way, readers with higher intelligence are able to identify the incongruities of the bulletproof maiden story. Those who accept the story either can't think, or upon being presented with another justification for their treasured hatred, prefer not to think.
Gladstone is a con artist fleecing the simple-minded. The conclusion that the bulletproof maiden story draws us to, then, is that the story is directed at less intelligent Jews in an effort to increase their fear and hatred of Ukrainians, and in this way to induce those Jews to part with some of their money. Hanover told the story three centuries ago to simple-minded Jews to increase sales of his Abyss of Despair. Gladstone tells the story today to simple-minded Jews to increase sales of his The Wanderer. Two hucksters make a buck, and the people they find it easiest to make their buck from are the simple-minded of their own ethnic group. Gladstone, then, is revealed as a con artist preying on the weakest of his own people. Gladstone attempts to line his own pockets at the expense of the well-being of his fellow Jews. That's the only way that I can account for Gladstone dragging this laughable story of the bulletproof maiden onto the pages of his heritage and travel magazine.
|(11) The savior of the Jews was a Ukrainian. Gladstone encourages the simple-minded view that participants on the two sides divided cleanly along ethnic lines — Ukrainians together with Tatars attacked Jews together with Poles. The reality, however, is that people of all nationalities participated on all sides, the most noteworthy example being that of Polonized Ukrainian Count Jeremi Wisniowiecki, of the Ukrainian family, Vyshnevetsky:|
The recognition that historical events were marked by mixed loyalties and mixed participation weakens the justification for hatred, and so is expunged from hate literature such as Gladstone's.
|(12) Gladstone fails to convey the characteristics of the culture of the Jews who oppressed Ukrainians. What was the nature of the Jewish culture in Poland at the time of Khmelnytsky? The question is relevant because it bears on the question of the provocation which ignited the Khmelnytsky rebellion, and thus of the legitimacy of the rebellion. The statement below indicates that Jewish culture at the time of Khmelnytsky is best described by such words as superstitious, fanatical, stifling, exploitative, and oppressive:|
For partial substantiation as to why such a harsh description appears warranted, please consult my more detailed citing of Israel Shahak available in my letter of 27Sep1997 to Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, "Khmelnytsky Reconsidered"; and for a more complete substantiation, please consult the Israel Shahak book itself which can be ordered through the UKAR Amazon book store.
|(13) Gladstone represents Hanover as a historian, when in fact he was a writer of fairy tales. From Hanover's description of the Khmelnytsky siege of Zamosc, judge for yourself into which category Hanover deserves to be placed:|
|So popular did Yeven Metzulah become, according to historian William Helmreich, that in some communities of Eastern Europe it was customary to read it annually during the traditional "three weeks" in summer. New editions would appear after each new wave of persecution including the Ukrainian pogroms that occurred during and following WWI.|
MAGAZINE OF JEWISH HERITAGE & TRAVEL WINTER 1998/99
From Darkness into Light
Rabbi Nathan Hanover, this issue's famous Jewish traveller, was not a traveller in the usual sense. A refugee fleeing antisemitic horrors, he moved from place to place with a self-imposed mission: to document the tragedy based on eyewitness accounts from survivors. His book Yeven Metzulah, conveys more horrible images than we wanted to bring to our readers, so anyone wanting more knowledge of these matters is referred to the original text.
— Barbara Kingstone
|Roadside Carnage: Many scenes like this one are described in Yeven Metzulah ("The Abyss of Despair"). More than 100,000 Jews perished.|
|Fervent Nationalist: The armies of Bogdan Chmielnicki (top) laid siege to peaceful villages.|
|Messianic Yearnings: Ostrog boasted a famous community of rabbis that included R. Samuel Edels (right). Edels, known as the Maharsha, was Hanover's teacher; he allegedly died in the massacres. Many religious Jews saw 1648 as the dawn of a messianic age that culminated in 1666 with the appearance of Shabbetai Tsvi (left), whom they heralded as the Messiah.|
FAMOUS JEWISH TRAVELLERS|
of 1648 A TRAGEDY REVISITED
Rabbi Nathan Hanover of Ostrog left behind a thorough, gripping account of the catastrophe of 1648, as seen through Jewish eyes
Born about 1620 in Ostrog, Volynia, Rabbi Nathan Hanover and his family were among the countless Jews in Ukraine and eastern Poland whose lives were disrupted by the Chmielnicki massacres of 1648, and the intermittent attacks that continued for several years afterwards.
Hanover travelled extensively over the region of devastation, speaking with many affected people and recording their stories with the sensitive ear of a historian. Author of several books, his most famous work by far is Yeven Metzulah ("The Abyss of Despair"), a chronicle of the atrocities which collectively stand as a 17th-century precursor to the Shoah.
One of the classic texts of Jewish martyrology, Yeven Metzulah presents a graphic and gripping account of the horrors that occurred in Ukraine and eastern Poland when Bogdan Chmielnicki led the Cossacks into attack. Tatars from the Caucaucus region joined the Ukrainians in their nationalistic rebellion against the Polish nobility and their largely Jewish landlords. By conservative estimates, at least 100,000 Jews were slaughtered; according to Hanover, Jewish losses were much higher. Many Poles were also slaughtered.
A graduate of the Ostrog yeshiva, Hanover took a wife from the nearby town of Zaslaw and moved there to continue his religious studies. Zaslaw was one of the first towns to be attacked; Hanover and his family fled but most of the town's Jews, including his father-in-law, were killed. While on the run, Hanover learned that his own father had been killed in a Cossack raid on Ostrog.
A gifted orator, Hanover supported his family as an itinerant preacher. Wandering through the countryside, he spoke with refugees from many ravished communities, recording descriptions of individual atrocities that were on a par with almost anything the Nazis would later devise. The Cossacks indulged in the most bestial forms of sadism and, as if taking a page from Mengele, performed crude and tortuous "medical experiments" on pregnant women and others. "There was no cruel device of murder in the whole world that was not perpetrated by the enemies," Hanover writes.
With a vindictiveness arising from generations of perceived oppression, the Cossacks and Tatars lead military siege to fortified towns, sometimes battling for days. In some instances the Polish peasantry befriended the invaders and invited them inside the walls to vanquish the Jews; usually, however, the Poles, especially the priests and bishops, were attacked along with the Jews. Like the Nazis, the angry hordes torched synagogues and trashed the holy Torah and other manifestations of Judaism. "Scrolls of the law were torn to pieces, and turned into boots and shoes for their feet; the straps of the phylacteries served as laces around their feet. The leather boxes of the phylacteries were cast into the streets. Other sacred books served to pave the streets. Some were used for kindling purposes, and others to stuff the barrels of their guns."
In Ostropol, Rabbi Samson exhorted the community to repent of their sins so the town would be spared from attack; the community followed his advice but "the evil decree had already been sealed." In Polannoe, thousands perished like lambs without fighting back: "A single Ukrainian invading a dwelling which housed several hundred Jewish persons would kill all of them and would meet no resistance." Hanover relates many instances of Jewish heroism and high ideals in the face of unspeakable physical and psychological torture. In Tulczyn, the Ukrainians assembled the Jews in an enclosed garden, where several rabbis exhorted the community not to abandon their faith despite the threat of death. Three times the Cossacks told the Jews, "Whoever wishes to change his faith and remain alive, let him sit under this banner." Not one Jew moved. Eventually, the Cossacks attacked and "approximately 1,500 souls perished by all sorts of terrible deaths."
In some towns, women escaped certain rape by jumping into moats surrounding the fortress-walls; many drowned or were shot or stabbed in the water. Hanover tells of a beautiful maiden from a wealthy family whom a Cossack forced to become his wife. "But before they lived together she told him with cunning that she possessed a certain magic and that no weapon could harm her. 'If you do not believe me, just test me,' she said. 'Shoot at me with a gun, and you will see that I will not be harmed.' The Cossack, her husband, in his simplicity, thought she was telling the truth. He shot at her with his gun and she fell and died for the sanctification of the Name, to avoid being defiled by him, may God avenge her blood."
As the invaders besieged one village after another (more than 700 in total), the villagers fled. "Whoever had a horse and cart travelled in it. Those who did not possess a horse and cart, even though they had sufficient money to buy them, would not wait, but took wife and children by the hand and fled on foot, casting away all belongings."
Hanover describes roads clogged for many miles with horses and carts and refugees on foot, the air charged with wild rumors and panic. "Everyone threw from his cart silver and gold, vessels, books, pillows and bed covers in order to be able to escape more quickly, to save the lives of his family. The field was cluttered with gold, silver and clothes, and no Jew paused to take them."
For centuries before 1648, Jews had been moving eastward into Poland and Turkey from Spain, Alsace and the Rhineland. After 1648, the eastward trend was reversed. Many historians have suggested that the abyss of despair into which the Jews fell set the stage for the emergence of the false messiah Shabbetai Tsvi about 1666, and for the revolutionary Hassidic movement of the next century. Seeking meaning in the tragedy, many learned Jews saw the name Chmiel (as Chmielnicki was known in Russian) as a Hebrew acronym for Chevle Mashiach Yavi L'Olam, "He will usher in the pangs of the Messiah."
In the early 1650s, Hanover went to Berlin and Amsterdam and arranged to publish his collected sermons and perhaps Yeven Metzulah as well; the date of its first publication is uncertain. Eager to forget the horrors of the past, he turned to mysticism. He joined an important kabbalisitic circle in Italy and in 1653 became the rabbi of Leghorn. He later moved to Wallachia to become rabbi in Iasi, then Focsani. In the 1670s he went to Ungarish-Brod, in Moravia, where he continued writing and publishing, and where his daughters were married.
Although Hanover emerged unscathed from the Cossack pogroms, he did not escape a violent death. In the 1680s, after the Turks marched into war against the Austrian Empire, a Hungarian army allied with the Turks attacked the Brod synagogue during morning prayers; Hanover was killed. A tombstone raised in his memory was said to be still standing in Brod earlier in this century, and a stone memorial was apparently raised to him in Focsani as well.
By far the most enduring memorial to both Hanover and the many communities whose destruction he chronicled is the literary landmark he left behind. So popular did Yeven Metzulah become, according to historian William Helmreich, that in some communities of Eastern Europe it was customary to read it annually during the traditional "three weeks" in summer. New editions would appear after each new wave of persecution including the Ukrainian pogroms that occurred during and following WWI. And some historians assert that Yeven Metzulah has acquired a new relevance as a result of the Shoah. "The brutality of Chmielnicki made the work of the Nazis that much easier," Helmreich writes. "As we read Hanover's description of the atrocities committed by Chmielnicki and his hordes, it becomes clear that Hitler's torture chambers were only technological refinement — the precedent had already been set."