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For those that are too young to comprehend the full terror of the Holocaust and, the annihilation of the Jews, to rid the world of ‘dirty rotten Jews’, to demolish everything that is dirty.

The Germans destroyed our towns, attempting to erase everything in site.  They bombed our cities, they put Jews into concentration campsites; they starved them of food for a period of 6 years.

But then in 1954 things were a lot different to 1942.  In 1942, there was still a war going on, the largest disaster, the genocide of roughly six million Jews throughout World War II, a programme of structured killings by Nazi Germany, led by Adolf Hitler and, the Nazi Party.

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However, prior to starting our journey we have to go back a bit further.  In 1835 after the breakdown of Poland and, part involvement by Russia, Pale of Settlements were established where Jews were confined.

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It appears that whatever Jews go, there are always boundaries to control what they can and cannot do.  Jews were blocked from professions, trades etc and, living conditions became extremely difficult.

In 1881, Tsar Alexander II was killed.  This was shadowed by savage massacres against the Jewish people and, thousands were killed and, in the space separating 1881-1882 solely 225,000 Jewish families escaped Russia.

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Immigration to America became a way of escaping these truthfully disgusting constraints and provided something better for their families.  Nevertheless, the Russian government did not want the Jews leaving and refused their requests to leave and, this caused the Jews to depart the country by sneaking across the borders.

Some Jews went on foot, others by train, taking with them any belongings they could.  A lot of Jews smuggled themselves into Germany, Austria-Hungary and, Poland and, from there, they would make their way toward the coastal regions and seaports.

No wonder, they call us the ‘Wandering Jews’.

We are all immigrants, ourselves or our parents or grandparents or even great-grandparents but life was not that magnificent living in Whitechapel in 1888 because Whitechapel was known to be of poor quality and trashy.

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The streets of Whitechapel were menacing and dangerous, with murders, abuse, drinking, robbery and, brawling that went on between gangs, which was extremely typical and, nothing out of the ordinary.

Nevertheless, life was better there than where the Jews came from because at least they had avoided Military Conscription and, some Jews, in order to evade mandatory enlistment into the Russian Army would cause themselves self mutilation and, there it were even accounts that there was intentional mutilation of children by their parents.

Jews even altered their family name to dodge conscription into the Russian Army, where in 1827, personal military duty for Jews was first found in Russia, with conscription being from 12 to 25 years of age.

The fact that ten Jewish males were chosen each year for every 1,000 Jews in the community, whilst only 7 non Jewish males were nominated every two years for each 1,000 non Jews in the community exhibits that compulsory enlistment had a significant prejudicial intention.

Jews were explicitly selected for specific and disparaging treatment and, a family of a Jew who avoided military service was evaluated and given a fine of 300 rubles, catching a Jew who dodged military service had to relinquish a cash bounty of 50 rubles.

The whole theme of the conscription of Jews into the Russian Army cannot be separated from the seemingly overwhelming eagerness of the Russian institution to transform all Jews to Christianity and, many actions were initiated to fulfil that aim.

Any male between the ages of 12 and 25 could be conscripted for a standard period of 25 years, with particular and harsh constraints that were conceived for the Jews, so as to increase the number of Jewish soldiers, including the induction of a much greater percentage of the Jewish inhabitants than the non Jewish inhabitants.

Additionally, Jews were required to supply drafts for each conscription term whilst non Jews were not liable at differing and unforeseeable intervals.  Jews were called up for money owing in the remittance of taxes and, in the end, conscripts were considered as a fine for being in arrears in the settlement of taxes but without the indebtedness being dismissed.

Since many able bodied men fled from Russia, they were powerless to provide the number of conscripts needed and, it became obligatory to enlist the disabled, sick persons, old men and others who had formerly been held excluded.

This included only sons, oldest sons, sole supporters of families, children as young as 8 years of age and, others who were believed to be excused by virtue of their family or personal circumstances.

Yet in spite of these harsh actions, the conscription arrears grew bigger and each community had  special officers, who seized the children, incarcerated them in the communal buildings and, eventually, handed them over to the military authorities.

These children were very often then taken away to unreachable places like Kazan, Orenburg, Perm and Siberia from where they could not run away and go back home and, where they where held until attaining the age of 12 at which time they were then formally introduced into the army.

So, when families came from Russia to Whitechapel, life was much more advantageous than what they had to tolerate in Russia, even if Whitechapel was recognised as worthless and cheap, it was far superior to what they had been familiar with.

Countless Jews alighting in England had really planned on going to America, but around 120,000 remained in this country because they were drawn by the area’s reputation as a location for economical living and, by the fact that it had been the residence to Jewish inhabitants in preceding centuries and, great numbers made one’s home in Spitalfields, frequently locating work in the clothing trade and, where they would haggle on the markets to earn a living.

As the Jews permeated Whitechapel, the greater their hearts fell, for this was where epidemic destitution drove a great deal of women to prostitution, along with poverty, homelessness and, exploitive work constraints and, child mortality.

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Death was part of this institution and, the Jews were accustomed to impoverishment, it had continually been part of their lives and, as well, victimisation against them was always there, but when Hitler decided to invade, so that he could remove the Jews from civil society, that was when in 1935 there was the eruption of World War II.

Concentration camps were set up, in which prisoners were subjected to slave labour until they died of exhaustion or illness.  The occupiers ordered Jews and Romani to be restricted in overflowing segregated areas before being conveyed by freight train to death camps where, if they sustained the trip, almost all were systematically killed in gas chambers.

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Anyone with three or four Jewish grandparents was to be killed without exception.  In other mass murders, people were able to escape death by changing to another religion, or in some other way assimilating.  This was not accessible to the Jews of inhabited Europe.

A typical characteristic of Nazi genocide was the comprehensive use of human studies in medical testing.  Investigations included placing subjects into pressure chambers, testing drugs on them, freezing them, trying to alter eye colour by injecting chemicals into children’s eyes and, differing amputations and other surgeries.  A great deal of subjects that survived tests were almost always killed and anatomised soon afterwards.

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A large number of things altered after the war, primarily in Whitechapel and, almost all children that walk it now, have no memory of the Holocaust.  Some may have been told about it by their parents, but if you were to ask the greater part of young children if they knew what the ‘Holocaust’ was, they will have no actual concept.

I have asked children if they are instructed about the Holocaust in school and, a great deal of children just make light of it, shrug their shoulders and smile at me with awkwardness because they have no idea what I’m prattling on about.

The sheer number of Jews coming to the Eastend from other countries, eventually lead to the first Aliens Act 1905, which limited immigration into the country.  Jews were blamed for taking jobs from the locals and, of driving up rents by welcoming overcrowded conditions and, of aggravating the shocking working conditions in a great deal of the nearby trades.

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The Jewish immigrants had a clear aura in Spitalfields and, at first they manifested tight knit communities, preserving their own culture in this unfamiliar habitat.  Yiddish was dominant and, was used in signs, newspapers and, in theatres.

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Many small synagogues were constructed, supplying assistance as well as worship.  On Friday nights, the eve of the Sabbath, candles burnt in sitting room windows and, food was also significant, where neighbourhood shops sold bagels, salted herrings and pickled cucumbers and, by 1901 there were 15 kosher butchers in Wentworth Street.

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With time, nonetheless, the Jews became more unified and, it was said that children that left the Jews’ Free School in Bell Lane were nearly identical to English children.  Religious ceremonies as well slowly became less distinguishing and, not many people conversed in Yiddish.

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As the Jews increased in wealth, they relocated out to the more residential areas of Golders Green and Hendon.  There was little perceivable legacy left and, almost all of the synagogues were adapted for other uses and, shops and restaurants have closed, but there is still some attraction in the Jewish East End, with guided walks and excursions and, a synagogue has been found in an old Huguenot house in Princelet Street, which is now fittingly occupied as a museum of immigration.

A large number of synagogues have been renovated to make way for Mosques and, instead of it being the East End as the Jews knew it, it’s now Banglatown and, serves the expanding Bangladeshi community and, the Jews have withdrawn to other districts of less Jewish impact.

Brick Lane was formerly lined with Jewish bakeries and, places that you could go and get hearty Jewish food, it is still a hive of activity, but instead of a line of Jewish bakeries, there are countless Balti and curry houses on the road, which even hosts an international curry festival and, Bengali foods are on sale in the local shops and markets and, there is even a weekly paper, the ‘Sylheter Dak’.

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Jewish culture is now being placed on the back burner, to make way for and, for the promotion of other cultures, in the space where the Jews once were and, now they have all gone to pastures new.  Once more, the Jews of the East End have wandered and, have become more and more distracted from their culture and, if they’re not cautious, their culture will become a far off recollection, with their possibilities unpromising.

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4 thoughts on “The Wandering Jew

  1. Interesting article. It seems the Jewish community has often been stigmatised and blamed for various events, even before the 19th and 20th century. For example, when the Black Death ravaged Europe, many believed it was caused by the Jews and other groups considered heretical. I’ve just posted an article on the Holocaust and the damage of fake testimony at http://publishistory.wordpress.com/ , and would love to hear your feedback on it 🙂 All the best!

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    1. Thank you for reading my article. Of course I’m not a Holocaust survivor and, I thank god that I never had to go through such infliction of pain. I have commenced reading your article and, I will get back to you as soon as possible with my response. All the best. Angie

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    2. Hello,
      I did peruse your article and, sorry it took me a little time to get back to you. I’m now going to answer to what you asked me to read on here:

      We all experience unexpected and upsetting recollections from our early years that are so graphic, usually as a consequence of some emotional trauma, some are true to life and, some are not so true to life and, so far fetched we ponder on where they ever came from.

      But our subconscious, like our dreams have an eerie tendency of repositioning events; that when we are in the here and now, look so real.

      Memories for a child that has been involved in such abominations from World War II are then subsequently presented later on in a fractured fashion because the brain becomes so swamped with everything that has happened.

      Something that happened in a child’s life, will then, later on, be understood in their minds much differently. As a child I would encounter people that I visualised as being extremely tall, but as I got older and, met them years later, they did not look as tall as I had thought they were from when I was younger, they just appeared tall because I was smaller.

      A location that I may have been to stay in when I was younger may have appeared very large, but when I visited as I got older, it did not look so because I had got bigger.

      It’s what happens to your brain to allow you to remember your favourite film, your summer break or your first kiss and, then what happens to them as a collective because our powers of recall supply each of us with a huge but flawed warehouse of enlightenment and, a foundation for our own life story.

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