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Lucien Wolf

Sir Moses Montefiore: a centennial biogr., with extr. from letters and journals.
"The Jews of Romania"



Internet Modern Jewish History Sourcebook for Central and Eastern Europe

SOURCE OF MATERIAL: Wolf, Lucien. “Jews of Roumania” in Sir Moses Montefiore: a centennial biogr., with extr. from letters and journals. London: 1884 , pp. 239-243

NOTES: Lucien Wolf (1857-1930) was the British born son of Bohemian Jewish refugees. He had a career as journalist and diplomat for the Jewish cause. He wrote for a number of publications in the Jewish and national press. He was an early exponent of Anglo-Jewish history. Between 1912-1914 he was the editor of "Darkest Russia: a weekly record of the struggle for freedom". This was a propaganda paper directed against the Russian Government and concerned particularly with Jewish rights. As well as reporting on international affairs, Wolf had an advisory role as he had many diplomatic contacts. He was a leading member of the Conjoint Foreign Committee of British Jews. He was an exponent of the Balfour declaration of 1917 and a co-architect of the Minorities Treaties after the First World War which set the framework for the rights of European Jewry.
Ref: Levene, M, "War, Jews, and the new Europe: the diplomacy of Lucien Wolf 1914-1919" (Oxford, 1992) (SEES Library)

Lucien Wolf was born on 20 January 1857 in London. He was educated at private schools, the Athenee Royale in Brussels, and in Paris. He worked as a sub-editor and leader-writer for Jewish World, 1874-1893, and was later Editor there, 1906-1908. He also worked as an assistant editor for Public Leader, 1877-1878; foreign editor for the Daily Graphic, 1890-1909; and was London correspondent for Le Journal, Paris, 1894-1898. He was President of the Jewish History Society of England eight times. In 1919 he represented the Anglo-Jewish community at the Paris Peace Conference. He was Secretary of the Jewish Joint Foreign Committee from 1917. He was founder of and delegate to the Advisory Committee of the High Commissioner for Refugees of the League of Nations. Wolf's many publications are mainly concerned with Jews and Judaism. Wolf died on 23 August 1930. (UCL - Wolf Collection)

Lucien Wolf was also the author of The Myth of the Jewish menace in world affairs (The Truth About 'The Protocols': A Literary Forgery). The Times of August 16, 17, and 18, (London: Printing House Square, 1921); and The Jewish Bogey and the Forged Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. (London: Press Committee of the Jewish Board of Deputies, 1920); ; "The First English Jew", "Crypo-Jews under the Commonweath", "The Jewery of the Restoration", "Maria Fernandez de Carvajal," "Jews of the Canary Islands", The Jews and the Coral Trade (1900), Jewish Ideals and the War. An Address Delivered by Lucien Wolf, Vice-President of the Jewish Historical Society of England, on December 7th, 1914. (London: Central Committee for National Patriotic Organizations, 1915); The Legal Sufferings of the Jews in Russia. A Survey of Their Present Situation, and a Summary of Laws, (London: T. F. Unwin, 1912); Sir Moses Montefiore. A Centennial Biography. With Extracts from Letters and Journals. (London: J. Murray, 1884); with C. G. Montefiore, What is Judaism? (New York: Living Books, 1964).

CONTENT: Chapter "Jews of Romania"

Jews of Romania

The next journey was to Romania, and was undertaken in the following year. The persecution and oppression of the Jews in the Principality arise very curiously from an abuse of the constitutional form of government which the Western Powers conferred on Moldo-Wallachia in 1856. Although to-day the Romanian Jews are held by law to be aliens, they were, as a matter of fact, established in the country long before the present composite people, or even the race which gave its name to the land. From the soil of ancient Dacia prayers were offered up to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, at a time when altars dedicated to Mars and Venus were jet unknown. But what in after years particularly attracted the Jews to the country was the absence there of any great trading class. Agriculturists were many, and landed proprietors were also numerous;  but a mercantile and industrial class, capable of turning the resources of the land to commercial account, did not exist. For a long period the Jews were the only mechanics, manufacturers, and merchants in Romania. When, in course of time, the Romanians themselves engaged in these occupations, the rivalry between them and the Hebrew became intense, and bitter jealousies arose. The Romanians, assuming a history and an ethnography that did not exist, murmured that the “stranger” was stealing the national birthright. It was not, however, until 1856 that this rivalry assumed a dangerous form. Then, when the people, under a constitutional government, superseded the powers of the Hospodars and Boyars, who had formerly protected the Jews, they set themselves to oppress their too active competitors. They commenced by ignoring them in their franchise scheme, and afterwards, one by one, closed against them various branches of trade. Constitutional government, in fact, enabled an ignorant and selfish people to give expression to their selfishness and intolerance, where a wise autocracy had formerly kept such passions in check. It is truly a curious page in the history of politics.

Popular feeling once unmuzzled, the anti-Jewish movement took a wide scope. From legal oppression in the Council Chamber to violent persecution in the streets is but a step; and from 1864 to the end of 1866 not a month passed but some dreadful outrage upon the Jews was chronicled. M. Crémieux paid a visit to Bucharest in 1866, and secured a large number of promises from members of the Chamber of Deputies to support a measure emancipating the Jews; but no sooner had he left, than the people rose, threatened parliament, maltreated a number of Jews, and destroyed their Synagogue, which was the finest building in the capital.

In 1867 the persecutions became more cruel. No sooner had Sir Moses Montefiore returned from Jerusalem, than he found himself compelled to open a correspondence with the British Government on the subject. At his request Lord Stanley telegraphed a vigorous remonstrance to the Romanian Government, but still the persecutions continued. In June serious anti-Jewish riots took place at Jassy and other places; and about the middle of July public opinion in Europe was chocked by an exceptionally terrible outrage at Galatz, called in the consular despatches the “Noyades of Galatz.” Ten Jews, who were alleged by the Roumanian Government to be vagabonds from Turkey, but who were in reality natives of Romania, were ordered to be expelled the country. A file of soldiers escorted them from Galatz, half-way across the Danube, and landed them, with food or fuel, on a marshy island. During the night one of them perished in the mud. The survivors were rescued by the Turks, and taken back to Galatz: but on attempting to reland, a scuffle took place, and the Romanians soldiers drove the poor Hebrews, at the point of the bayonet, into the river, where they were drowned.

The incident caused great indignation in Western Europe, and Sir Moses Montefiore, as President of the Board of Deputies, set out immediately for Bucharest, to make personal representations to Prince (now King) Charles on the whole question of the treatment of the Roumanian Jews. At Paris he was received by the Emperor Napoleon III, who assured him of his best wishes and support, and attached a French officer to his suite as a mark of his sympathy. Notwithstanding his great age, Sir Moses Montefiore travelled very rapidly, engaging special trains when the ordinary service did not ensure sufficient despatch, and at Donauwerth hiring a special steamer to take him down the Danube via Vienna into Romania. Immediately on arriving at Bucharest, he was cordially welcomed by the Corps Diplomatique, who assured him that, under the instructions of their respective Governments, he might rely on their best services being placed at his disposal for the accomplishment of the object of his Mission.

Sir Moses had several interviews with the Prince, and succeeded in obtaining from his Highness the most gratifying assurances. Before his departure he received the following note from the prince: —

« Monsieur le Baronnet,

« J’ai reçu votre lettre du 27 Août dernier, et j’en ai pris connaissance avec un vit intérêt. Comme j’ai en l’occasion de vous de dire de vive voix, les vœux que vous formez pur vos co-religionnaires sont déjà accomplis. Les Israélites sont l’objet de toute ma sollicitude et de toute celle de mon Gouvernement, et je suis bien aise que vous soyez venu en Roumanie pour vous convaincre que la persécution religieuse, dont la malveillance a fait tant de bruit, n’existe point. S’il est arrivé que des Israélites fussent inquiétés, ce sont là des faits isolés dont mon Gouvernement ne peut pas assumer la responsabilité. Je tiendra toujours à honneur de faire respecter la liberté religieuse, et je veillerai sans cesse à l’exécution des lois qui protégeant des Israélites, comme tous les autres Roumains dans leur personne, et dans leurs biens.

« Veuillez recevoir, Monsieur le Baronnet, l’assurance de ma considération très distinguée


Cotroceni, le 18/30 Août. 1867. »


To what extent Prince Charles was hoodwinked by his own Ministers it is impossible to say; but not withstanding the professions contained in this letter — the sincerity of which there is no reason to doubt — he has been powerless to stop the persecutions. The vicious national sentiment has been too strong for him, and the Jews of Romania are still unemancipated , and are periodically persecuted by both the Government and the people.