In Kishinev pogrom high Jewish population houses surrounded and pelted with rocks

Buildings with a high Jewish population in year 1903, which made up majority of Kishinev’s housing, were surrounded and pelted with rocks. On average, these structures were attacked for only 10 or fifteen minutes before the masses moved on to new targets. On rare cases, the mob stayed for hours, smashing the outer doors and overrunning the building. Could be heard: Cries of “Death to Jews!” rang out around 4:00 or 5:00 p.m., when the afternoon gave way to nightfall and “Strike the Jews!”

In Kishinev pogrom high Jewish population houses surrounded and pelted with rocks

Jewish medics who wanted to save wounded Jews discovered that they could only do so if they wore crosses. Christians wrote crosses on their windows to shield themselves from attack; when Jews tried to do the same, it rarely worked, adding to the commonly held belief that rioters were aware of where Jews lived ahead of time. Jews posing as gentiles were told that permission had been granted to attack Jews for the next few days because “they drink our blood.”

A Jewish saloon owner who witnessed his inventory being subsumed by rioters or poured onto the street overheard the mob toasting Krushevan’s health. A slab of flesh discovered frying in a shop owner’s home next to his shattered business was waved over the heads of rioters, revealing that it was the remains of a Christian child. The wife of Yudel Fishman, a Jewish shopkeeper whose building was broken into, was able to flee with her kid in her arms, but she dropped the newborn as she hurried to the train station, crushing it to death in the process.

David Doiben lived on Gostinaia thoroughfare, a lively thoroughfare lined with three- and four-story buildings, many of which were hotels, including the luxurious Swiss Hotel; it ran directly into the New Market and was the most severely damaged on the first day of the riot. Doiben told how he had followed the advise to stay indoors until midafternoon, when he went with his wife and children to his brother’s house a few blocks away. They saw nothing at the moment.

When they returned an hour and a half later, they were met by two non-Jewish acquaintances who advised them to leave right away. Suddenly, a swarm of rioters rushed by them without pausing. Doiben and his family observed a Jew, his clothes ripped, shouting, “They’re beating us and tearing us apart!” As Doiben turned the corner to their apartment building, he found it encircled by a throng of fifty lads and a few females throwing rocks and crashing into the door.

He was able to enter into the building and hide his family inside. After breaching the courtyard door, the rioters entered the premises and demanded money, assaulting any who refused and taking whatever they could carry.

Reports from the first day were frequently inconsistent. If the riot ran from Chuflinskii Square, where it began, to just beyond the New Market, it would have covered about two kilometers. Nonetheless, the British consul general in Odessa described it as “a small sized crowd confined to three or four streets.”

While technically correct, it should be noted that these streets were within striking distance of the city center. Some might argue that the first killings took place that day, although this was probably certainly inaccurate.

Under any circumstances, transportation across town was difficult; trams were scarce, and few streets beyond the city center were lit at night, thus rioters primarily pillaged on foot. Much of Lower Kishinev, at its farthest edge, less than a mile from the epicenter of the first day’s violence, was unaware of the chaos until the next morning.

Except for the occasional window shattering in Lower Kishinev, which began around nine p.m. that night, little spilled over into that largely Jewish district until the next day. Attacks on women persisted throughout the night, ending finally around 11:00 p.m.

It is thought that only two hundred rioters took part in the attacks that day. They rarely lingered like the mob did at Doiben’s building. They typically gathered in groups of twenty, sometimes fifty, and stayed no more than ten minutes at each address; young people arrived first, followed by older and stronger rioters.

Children rarely did more than toss pebbles; adults were more interested in plundering. Already on the first day, those counted as the toughest were Moldavians identifiable by the language they spoke or their accents, many of whom appeared to be from the city’s rural fringe or nearby villages. By the next day, many more would arrive, frequently with wagons loaded with Jewish home contents.