Ephraim Jacobowitz, who loves his boss’s daughter, Miriam, has a small role in Blue Thread. We get a hint of his life before 1912, when he tries to persuade Miriam that he wants to help her print her postcards.
“I think you are printing cards for the suffrage campaign—and, yes, women should vote. I do not discuss this with your father; I need my job because of my sister.” He stood taller. “This does not matter to you, I know, but Bella is one of her three children. Their father was killed in the 1906 pogrom in Bialystok. So many Jews die for no reason. You know of this?”
I lied with a nod of my head.
Miriam had never heard of Bialystok (a city then in the Russian Empire and now a part of Poland) or of the attacks against the Jewish community living there in 1906. Here’s a bit of background she could have known in 1912:
The majority of the population of Bialystok in 1906 was Jewish. This prosperous city, famous for its cloth and tobacco, was a center of pro-socialist unrest during the Russian Revolution against the czar in 1905. Anarchists (those opposed to government in general) also lived in Bialystok. In 1905 the police chief and several officers were killed, and the czar’s army imposed martial law on the city until March 1906. In early June, someone killed the new police chief. Three days later, someone threw a bomb at a Catholic procession and fired shots at an Eastern Orthodox procession.
The violence was blamed on the Jews. In the ensuing pogrom (an organized massacre of a particular ethnic or religious group), a mob looted Jewish stores and homes, and killed dozens of people. In three days of violence, the Russian army turned on the Jews as well. Jewish self-defense units saved several sections of the city. On the third day, the Minister of Internal Affairs ordered troops to leave, and the violence ended.
The Polish Socialist Party denounced the pogrom, and documents later revealed that Russian officials had transported non-native Russian railroad workers to Bialystok to take part in the pre-planned pogrom.
The Bialystoker Memorial Book lists these names and ages of people who were known to have died in the pogrom. They were buried in a mass grave. Among them is Awrom Szymon Epsztejn, who is the basis for the fictional brother-in-law of Ephraim Jacobowitz.
Arje Lejb Zakhajm, 10; Mojsze Liberman, 3; Awrom Machaj, 24; Szlojme Furman, 22; Zalman Mojsze Lamcewicki, 20; Ruwen Szuszan, 18; Mojsze Owec, 18; Izchok Gebel, 56; Chaim Gebel, 30; Jona Kon, 26; Fajwel Rybalowski, 23; Nosen Note Bachrach, 21; Menachem Manes Hurwic, 19; Izchok Safir, 18; Boruch Elije Frejdkin, 62; Szmuel Calewicz, 59; Awrom Kac, 49; Mendel Makel, 43; Mordechaj Lewin, 38; Izchok Gewircman, 35; Falk Chmelnik, 28; Mordechaj Lapidus, 21; Aron Mojsze Lapidus, 21; Blume Lapidus, 19; Awrom Arje Segal, 20; Chaje Pesze Segal, 58; Zalman Grinberg, 50; Pesze Atlas, 43; Cwi Arje Wajncimer, 48; Awrom Szymon Epsztejn, 35; Izchok Szwarc, 24; Mojsze Kustin, 22; Zorach Fande, 18; Cwi Hirsz Taszman, 63; Jehuda Tajcman, 51; Awrom Izchok Kerszensztejn, 47; Awrom Grynhojz, 26; Pinches Asz, 20; Lejb Chaim Szmid, 28; Isroel Kustin, 3; Josef Burle, 3; Mordecbaj Kruglianski, 60; Chaim Szapiro, 43; Lejzer Ajnsztejn, 40; Szejne Ajnsztejn, 40; Rachmiel Ajnsztejn, 21; Sonja Ajnsztejn, 20; Szmuel Ajnsztejn, 19; Jakow Surawicz, 35; Szlojme Isroel Suszycki, 36; Joel Twarkowski, 29; Nochum Jakow Grabowski, 27; Awrom Hersz Najfeld, 71; Jakow Lewi, 50; Szlojme Pruzanski, 43; Szoul Wolf Nowjazki, 41; Szolem Aron Nowik, 28; Ajzik Bachrach, 24; Zumel Cukerman, 22; Mordechaj Szmukler, 18; Izchok Lejb Rawicki, 16; Cwi Hirsz Hefner, 63; Josef Mendi Gilewic, 48; Mojsze Simche Branski, 45; Dowid Izchok Cemnik, 32; Simche Walersztejn, 25; Mordechaj Basin, 19; Awrom Izchok Lewartowski, 18; Mojsze Berl Pat, 16; Arje Lejb Mazur, 14; Chane Rubinowski, 19; Ziate Fejgel Szlachter, 50; Chaim Welwel Szlachter, 16; Dowid Chwartowski, 15; Tojbe Kac, 71; Rochel Klajnbard, 48; Sore Yewrirowski, 20; Chane Blume Ginzburg, 20; Cywja Gutkin, 10
What Miriam could not have known in 1912 was that the Jewish survivors who remained in Bialystok were virtually wiped out during World War II.