Jews As Tax-Farmers for the Royals and Anti-Jewish Pogroms in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

From my comments on the Chmielnicki Rebellion:

RL: These impoverished Jews: Were they working as tax farmers and moneylenders for the Lords, or were only the rich Jews doing that? If they were not working as tax farmers and moneylenders, how were these poor Jews supporting themselves?

If they ended up targeting only poor Jews in the Chmielnicki rebellion (which I’m not sure was the case, as half the Jews in Poland were killed), weren’t these poor Jews a bit at fault for not joining the peasant rebellion?

Remember that Chmielnicki the horrible evil Nazi antisemite from Hell had actually called upon the Jews of Poland to come join him in his battle against the nobles. And all the Jews, rich and poor, blew him off. So basically they sided with the nobles, both rich and poor Jews did. Doesn’t seem very smart of them.

I think the problem with Jewish moneylenders was that it was pretty common for serfs to get totally underwater with their debts for obvious reasons, and the Jews were quite vicious about trying to get their money back. And when you can’t pay back your loans, you might get pretty angry at the guy who loaned the money who won’t get off your case now.

In response, Mithridates, one of my favorite commenters, responds:

Mithridates: I need to brush up more on my history of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which at its greatest extent was quite massive in size and included much of Eastern Europe west of the steppes.

Re: the tax-farming bit, I imagine it was hierarchical, as in the rich Jews being the ones arranging the sweet deals in the noble’s castles, the less rich Jews serving as middle managers for the operation, and then the poor Jews being the ground-level lackeys who interfaced directly with (i.e. harassed and scammed) the lowly Slav peasant schleps, i.e. sold the them vodka and all sorts of misc. schlock and did whatever else they could to wring some extra kopeks out of them.

Oy vey, what a miserable situation indeed.

In the case of peasant revolts, I think the boss Jews knew where their bread was buttered. And toward the waning days of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, things got real fun and dicey with the various Cossack revolts (which the rapidly-expanding Russian Empire probably lent a lot of covert support to).

Them Cossacks sure hated Jews and enjoyed killing them in batches, though funnily enough a few of the Cossack leaders might have been half-Jewish. Those were some wild times out on the fringes of civilization.

Dammit, Jews! Why do you always have to keep acting bad! Here I am, trying to be nice and condemn these horrible pogroms and be a good Judeophile, and then I learn that the Jews back then acted so terrible that a lot of them out and out deserved their fate. Damn! Here I am, trying not to be an antisemite, and you darn Jews keep trying to stop me and force me back to the dark side. What am I ever going to do about you folks?

Sigh.

So all the Jews in the peasant rebellions pretty much asked for it, as they were all tax-farming for the nobles. Well in case any were not, they should have been spared. And the Jewish women, kids, and old men should have been spared. And they should have killed the tax-farmer Jews cleanly. Line em up and shoot em. They had muskets then, right? I’m quite sure instead that they chopped them to pieces and all sorts of other horrible stuff.

On the other hand, it’s pretty hard to morally police a peasant rebellion.

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