In the spring of 1898, thousands of peasants and townspeople in western Galicia rioted against their Jewish neighbors. Attacks took place in more than 400 communities in this northeastern province of the Habsburg Monarchy, in present-day Poland and Ukraine. Jewish-owned homes and businesses were ransacked and looted, and Jews were assaulted, threatened, and humiliated, though not killed. Emperor Franz Joseph signed off on a state of emergency in thirty-three counties and declared martial law in two. Over five thousand individuals—peasants, day-laborers, city council members, teachers, shopkeepers—were charged with myriad offenses.
Seeking to make sense of this violence and its aftermath, The Plunder examines the circulation of antisemitic ideas within Galicia against the political backdrop of the Habsburg state. Daniel Unowsky sees the 1898 anti-Jewish riots as evidence not of Galician backwardness and barbarity, but of a late nineteenth-century Europe reeling from economic, cultural, and political transformations wrought by mass politics, literacy, industrialization, capitalist agriculture, and government expansion. Through its nuanced analysis of the riots as a form of "exclusionary violence," this book offers new insights into the upsurge of the antisemitism that accompanied the emergence of mass politics in Europe at the turn of the twentieth century.
About the author
Daniel Unowsky is Professor of Central European History at the University of Memphis. He is the author of The Pomp and Politics of Patriotism: Imperial Celebrations in Habsburg Austria, 1848–1916 (2005).
"A monumental study of the normalization of low-level violence against Jews at the turn of the twentieth century, The Plunder unmasks how longstanding, quiet prejudice can erupt into violence, and shows that such tension, far from being a relic of a bygone era, is an integral part of modern European history. This is a timely, troubling, and compelling account of how the rule of law can be undermined by bigotry."
—Alison Frank Johnson, Harvard University
"The Plunder meticulously traces the causes, consequences, and significance of the 1898 attacks on Jewish communities across western Galicia, situating the riots within the broader context of ethnic exclusion across Europe and the Habsburg Monarchy's struggle to uphold the rule of law. By looking at how modern mass media and political organizations leveraged ethnic differences to encourage violent attacks, Daniel Unowsky provides crucial insights into later genocidal events in the Polish lands."
—Keely Stauter-Halsted, University of Illinois, Chicago