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happy? - Sept 17 (Jewish boys drafted)

Abby Sale 17 Sep 05 - 10:16 AM
Le Scaramouche 17 Sep 05 - 10:39 AM
Abby Sale 17 Sep 05 - 03:49 PM
Le Scaramouche 17 Sep 05 - 05:49 PM
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Subject: happy? - Sept 17 (Jewish boys drafted)
From: Abby Sale
Date: 17 Sep 05 - 10:16 AM

Elul 15, 5587: (Sept 17, 1827) The Russian government decreed the drafting of Jewish boys at age 12 to be sent to military school until 18. They were then to serve in the Czar's army 25 years. Some 100,000 Jewish boys became cantonists, most never seeing their families again. The official purpose, of course, was to exterminate Judaism.

        Zayt gezunterheyt, mayne libe eltern,
        Ich for fun aych avek, in a vaytn veg.
        Vu kayn vint veyet nit
        Un vu kayn foygl flit nit
        Un vu kayn hon kreyet nit.

            Goodbye, my dear parents, goodbye,
            I leave you now to journey far away,
            Where no wind blows
            And no bird flies
            And no cock crows.

                "Zayt Gezunterheyt," Anon.; a Jewish soldier song of the Pale from the
                 conscription period. From Ruth Rubin, A Treasury of Jewish Folksong; 1950

Copyright © 2005, Abby Sale - all rights reserved
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Subject: RE: happy? - Sept 17 (Jewish boys drafted)
From: Le Scaramouche
Date: 17 Sep 05 - 10:39 AM

Lots of horror tales about the Cantonists. Many died en route, marched through snow, beaten, abused.


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Subject: RE: happy? - Sept 17 (Jewish boys drafted)
From: Abby Sale
Date: 17 Sep 05 - 03:49 PM

I know little of them beyond bare facts. I guess it went on about 30 years but I seem to recall the idea turns up in "Fiddler on the Roof."

Do you know of any important books on them or any stories of any that retained/returned to Judaism? Seems fairly unlikely that any significant number could have.


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Subject: RE: happy? - Sept 17 (Jewish boys drafted)
From: Le Scaramouche
Date: 17 Sep 05 - 05:49 PM

I'll have a look round, see whats available in English. Here's a little more from the top of my head. Most Cantonists, amazingly, held on to their Judaism until free to practice it again.
The Tzar decreed that the Jews would be conscripted too, 18 year-olds straight to the army, those aged 12, to far-off cantons to be educated and Christianised. Each community (like the serfs) had a certain quota to fill. Many contrived to either send their children abroad or hide them in the forests. When a quota couldn't be made, the army could complete it by kidnapping. They'd grab whoever they could, even children as young as 8. Their non-Jewish neighbours were usually more than pleased to help, especially as it meant they could keep some of their own sons from serving, which, you see, practically amounted to a death-sentence. Sadly, some of the more prosperous Jews did the same to the poorer ones.
The children were starved, beaten, abused, the minds boggles at what must have been done.
One of the few benefits to come from this monstrous episode was that those who completed their service were free to live where ever they wished.


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