Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 3, 1889
Mr. Grant to Mr. Blaine.
Vienna , November 27, 1889. (Received December 14.)
Sir: I have the honor to transmit for your perusal an article which appeared in the Fremden Blatt of the 14th instant, with the translation of the same, which I have caused to be made, the article being upon the subject of the swindles which have been practiced during the present year or two upon the peasantry of Galicia and Hungary. I also take occasion to inclose two other articles upon the same subject, which I have taken from the Vienna Weekly News of the 19th and 26th instant; the latter paper being an English print of this city.
My object in forwarding these articles, Mr. Secretary, thinking that you may be interested in reading them, is to keep the Department informed, as far as I am myself, in a matter which appears to be a great fraud and swindle upon a people who were seeking homes in our country.
I am, etc.,
trade of emigrants to america.
At Wadomice, a town of Galicia but little known, a trial is now taking place the interest of which extends far over the limits of this monarchy. The crime imputed to the accused, “trade of emigrants to America,” was committed by the same persons at the same time in Austria-Hungary and Germany. The prosecuting attorney, Tarnowsky, referring to this “trade,” says in one part of his accusation that there “existed within the limits of Austria a territory which actually was beyond the reach of the law, where, in defiance of order and personal liberty, all kinds of tricks were played upon unfortunate emigrants.” Nor did the prosecuting attorney omit to name the high officials who not only suffered this state of things to go on, but who, in some instances, even prompted the perpetration of these crimes.
As far as the police is concerned, it must be owned with shame that it lent a willing hand for a monthly remuneration or a certain percentage, and that, instead of preventing crimes, they committed them. In mitigation, however, it must be said that they were subject to the orders of the district authorities, whose instructions, as they allege, they simply carried out.
This trial also proves again the well-known fact that criminals are a fraternity, which is international and interconfessional. Polish, German, and Hungarian criminals here go hand in hand to cheat and rob Polish, German, and Hungarian emigrants. Christians and Jews for years carried on a nefarious traffic in human beings, selected alike from the ranks of Christians and Jews. Criminals flock together everywhere; they understand each other without regard to nationality and religion.
All the accused (sixty-five in number) were divided into twenty-eight sections, and arraigned on the following charges: Violence and privation of personal liberty (paragaph 93), extortion (paragraph 98), abuse of official power (paragraphs 101; and 102), accepting bribes (paragraph 104), bribing others (seduction) to abuse official power (paragraph 105), robbery (paragraph 109), fraud (paragraph 197), false assumption of an official title (paragraph 199), concealment of deserters (paragraph 290), and inducing soldiers to desert (paragraph 222). The names of the principal offenders are: Julius Neumann, keeper of railway refreshment room at Ausschwitz, Jacob Klausner, merchant, Simon Herz, cattle dealer, Julius Löwenberg, merchant, Marcell Iwanicki, imperial royal revenue officer and chief of police, Adam Kostocki, custom-house official, Arthur Landau, merchant, Isaac Landerer, merchant, Josef Eintracht, manufacturer of varnish, Herman Zeitinger, railway door-keeper, Ernst Edward Zopoth, cashier at the railway station at Ausschwitz, and Vincenz Zwilling, farmer.
Inquiries made by the courts of justice show that emigration to America from some of the districts of Galicia has assumes gigantic dimensions. In proportion to emigration is the sale of farms and the spread of pauperism, and if the books of the agent of the Hamburg steamship line, seized at Ausschwitz, show that from May, 1887, to July, 1888, the sum of 595,041 florins was received for passage tickets after deduction of agent’s provision, and that the agent of the North German Lloyd took, in the course of two months, 27,313 florins, the sums are by no means all enumerated which annually find their way abroad. The reason why Ausschwitz was selected by the steam-ship lines as the main point where to establish their agencies in Galicia was because it is the only town which is in direct railway communication with the German sea-ports.
The most notorious of the agents appointed by the Hamburg line was the leaseholder of the railway refreshment rooms at Ausschwitz, Julius Neumann. His outrageous conduct at last attracted the attention of the railway company; who gave him the choice to either give up the agency or the lease of the restaurant. As the former could flourish only as long as he was at the same time lease-holder of the restaurant he made over the latter pro forma, in 1882, to Herz and Löwenberg, but remained as silent partner. In this way the first emigration company was started at Ausschwitz. Their immense gains soon created competition, which reached its climax when the controller of the custom-house and the commissary of police formed a partnership with the railway cashier and the door-keeper and established an agency for emigrants on the premises of the rail way depot. No emigrant could escape them, because every passenger had to come in contact with one or the other of these officials. The last established agency authorized by the provincial government was that of Klausner, at Brody, who was the agent of the Cunard Steam-ship Company.
For some time the competing companies, by reducing the fares and increasing the commission of their agents, tried to monopolize the trade each for itself until, in 188 they formed a ring, regulated the prices, and consolidated the different companies under one firm, authorized by Government and styled the “Hamburg Agency at Ausschwitz.” Competition having now come to an end they could henceforth more effectually fleece the emigrants by charging arbitrary prices.[Page 38]
After consolidation bad taken place a system was organized to hire subagents, runners, and a force of men armed and provided with clubs, who had to escort the emigrants from the railway station to the hotel owned by one of the gang, where exorbitant prices were charged them for the poorest kind of accommodation until the time had come for their departure.
We now come to the worst feature of the case. Railway officials, as well as police and revenue officers, were induced by the agents to give them aid for a monthly pay, and they not only suffered this state of things to go on, but even took an active part in it. One Bezirkshauptmann (chief officer of the county) named Födrich, received an annual salary of 1,000 florins. Not only the Austrian officials allowed themselves to be bribed, but also the Prussian frontier guards accepted money from the agents. Nothing, in fact, was left undone to turn the stream of emigration to Ausschwitz. Whenever emigrants refused to buy their tickets there, or had already a ticket which had been sent to them from America, then the commissary of police appeared on the scene. This unscrupulous and avaricious official came to the railway station on the arrival of every train, arrayed in full uniform, and had those emigrants pointed out to him by his agents who accompanied the train, who had bought their tickets already or were going by other lines. They were then ordered to enter the office of the police commissary to show their documents and their money; and the tickets which they had already were confiscated, the commissary ordering them in his character as imperial royal police officer to purchase tickets at the “imperial royal agency,” otherwise he would be compelled to arrest them and send them home again. Those who had no money to buy a second ticket were handed over to the police constables to be sent home.
After the opening of the Bremen agency, in May, 1888, the situation of the company became more difficult. A new philanthropist made his appearance on the stage, the owner of real estate and member of numerous corporations, Vincenz Zwilling. He was intrusted with the management of this agency in the fall of 1887 by the agent of the North German Lloyd at Krakau. At first he did not seem to be in a hurry to establish himself; he was probably negotiating with the rival company to come to terms with him. When he found that his efforts in that direction were fruitless he mounted the high horse of patriotism and philanthropy and petitioned the provincial government, claiming to have been solicited by the gentry to take charge of the Bremen agency, because he could no longer stand quietly and see the wicked doings of the Hamburg agency. To prevent the public, however, from mistaking the Bremen agency for the Hamburg agency he demanded the closing of the latter. This request the authorities did not grant; but he was allowed to open his agency in May, 1888. The commission which the company allowed him was 3£ florins for each passenger guarantying him, aside from this, an annual income of 6,000 florins, with no other duty to perform except to sign his name to the passage tickets. Zwilling thereupon commenced to organize his clerical staff. He engaged none but persons who had gained their experience at the Hamburg agency, and who knew all their secrets. The energy displayed is proven by the fact that from May 10 to July 24 Zwilling received for commission 1,781 florins, and Zeitinger, his chief clerk, 400 florins. The struggle between the two competing agencies was a most desperate one, and fights were of frequent occurrence at remote villages, at railway stations, and in the cars between the representatives of the two rival agencies. The scenes at the railway depot at Ausschwitz, where the armed runners of both agencies posted themselves to receive the emigrants, defy description. Blood flowed freely, each party trying to get possession of the emigrants, who thereby suffered as much as the runners themselves by being knocked about. After the fight was over each party drove its victims to its own agency, Landerer and Landau heading the “Hamburger,” and Zeitlinger the “Bremer.”
The office of the Hamburg agency was divided off in the center by a railing, in front of which stood crowded together the emigrants, while behind it strutted Löwenberg, attired in a fancy uniform, trying to make believe that he was an imperial official, while his clerks addressed him as “Herr Bezirkshauptmann.” A picture of the Emperor, in life size, adorned the wall, for the purpose of giving the room the air of an Imperial office. Outside the door were posted several runners with orders to let nobody in or out during proceedings. The emigrants were then told to hand over their documents and their cash, which they usually did without any remonstrance. Arbitrary prices were demanded for tickets; in case of refusal, the commissary of police was sent for, who appeared in full uniform and threatened arrest and transportation home. If threats had no effect, he would slap their faces and threaten to hand them over to the military authorities for evading military duty. This would invariably have the desired result. If an emigrant was short of money, the agent would telegraph, in the emigrant’s name, to the relatives to send some. Nor did the robbery end here; one of the clerks, Halatek, conceived the idea of bringing an alarm clock to the office, when emigrants were told that a telegram had to be sent to Hamburg to find out whether there was still a vacant [Page 39] berth. The alarm clock was set in motion, and after a while an answer came back for which the emigrant, as a matter of course, had to pay. Telegrams were also sent to the American “Emperor,” to find out whether he would permit the landing of a certain emigrant. All these telegrams had to be paid for by the emigrant. Another trick to extort money was, for one of the clerks to put on a fancy uniform and pretend to be a surgeon to examine the emigrants and find out whether they were fit to go to America. This examination also had to be paid for. Sometimes an emigrant was pronounced to be unfit, and he was given to understand that by offering ten florins to the surgeon he would be passed, which was frequently done. Passports for America were also issued and charged for with ten to twenty florins.
At the Hotel de Zator, kept by one of the gang, the emigrants had to pay exorbitant prices for the poorest kind of accommodation. What was left to them in Austria was finally taken away from them when they reached Hamburg.
From May, 1887, to July, 1888, 5,799 persons, aged from twenty to thirty-two years, and liable therefore to military duty, were taken from the population.
Finally, however, the catastrophe came. A week before the closing of both agencies the agents threatened each other with criminal proceedings and the publication of each other’s doings. At the beginning of July, 1888, the governor of the province of Galicia and the president of the police at Krakau instructed a police officer to proceed to Ausschwitz and make a full report. On his arrival there a last attempt was made to avert the impending ruin by Landerer, who tried to bribe the officer by offering him fifty florins and a valuable ring. The officer accepted both, and after depositing them reported everything to his superiors, who, after investigation, arrested the whole gang. Three hundred and seventy-seven witnesses will give testimony at the main trial, during which no less than four hundred and thirty-nine letters and other communications will be read, among the latter two communications from the ministry of public defense; depositions of the Austro-Hungarian consulates in Bremen, Hamburg, and New York; statements made by the minister of war, and a letter of the ministry of the interior of the German Empire.
emigration swindle in galicia.
Of an unusally sensational and revolting nature are the revelations which have come to light in Galicia relative to the wholesale impositions which have of late years been practiced on emigrants by the agents of an emigration company known as the “Hamburger Agentie, in Oswiecin.” The agents in question seem not only to have had it all their own way and to have been the undisputed masters of the situation, but also inveigled by means of bribery some of the municipal and police officials. Their power, in fact, was little short of autocratic, and in innumerable instances they seem to have ruled the peasantry of the country with an iron hand. The trial before the law court at Wadowice, which commenced on the 14th instant, of no fewer than sixty-five prisoners, the majority of whom are Polish Jews, is of no ordinary interest, a careful perusal of the facts of the case supplying a graphic portrait of the social state of the country in the more remote districts, and of the universal corruption in vogue among the more intelligent portions of the community. It is scarcely to be credited that a state of affairs so shocking as that revealed before the law court at Wadowice could have been endured for so long a time in a so-called civilized country under a civilized administration. The sensational facts of the case are too voluminous to allow of illustration in detail, but a passing glimpse will suffice to give our readers a correct idea of the state of social life in Galicia.
The object of the company was the transfer of emigrants from Galicia and Hungary to America, and, in order to make hay while the sun shone, the emigrants on falling into the clutches of the agents were cheated and robbed without mercy, and on offering remonstrance were subject to corporal punishment. So gross, indeed, is the ignorance of the Galician rustic that it was generally believed among the peasantry that the Austrian Government not only countenanced but aided the emigration agents.
That the company prospered may be judged from the following figures: From May 1, 1887, to July 24, 1888, 12,406 emigrants were dispatched by the agents to America, and the passage money paid by them, exclusive of exorbitant sundries, from Hamburg to America was 595,641 florins.
The company’s offices were so arranged as to give the idea of their being Government offices, and the presiding deities, two jews named Herz and Löwenberg, with the assistance of the police commissioner, Iwanicki, received in this sanctum the emigrants and sold to them the tickets for their passage out. The emigrants mostly came in shoals from the distant villages, where they had fallen a prey to the hirelings, [Page 40] who were paid a high commission of the heads 01 the enterprise, and who, on entrapping the unfortunate wretches, treated them like herds of cattle and drove them to headquarters, often lashing the refractory with their whips. The emigrants who attempted to escape were recaptured by the gendarmes and threatened with imprisonment. On reaching Oswiecin they were as a rule housed at Hotel de Zator, where they were under lock and key to prevent their escape, and where they were charged high prices for food and accommodation.
At the office of the company the proceedings were on a level with the deceptions in force on all sides. Such of the emigrants who were leaving the country to escape military service, and who had more money than would pay for their passage out, were examined by the medical adviser of the company, no other than one of the partners in disguise, and were informed that they were physically unfit for emigration. They were then given to understand by a third party that by offering the pseudo physician a bribe of ten florins the latter would throw no impediment in their way and that they might then go to America. Another no less artful means of extracting money was by means of an alarm-clock. This clock answered the purpose of a telegraphic machine. The emigrant was told that the company would have to telegraph to Hamburg to inquire whether there was room for him on the ship that was about to sail. The alarm was set going and after a while it was put again into motion to signify that the reply had arrived. For all of this the emigrant had to pay dearly. Another deception was that of informing the emigrant that the “Emperor of America” must be petitioned for permission to enter his dominions, and a telegram was dispatched by the alarm-clock, which was duly answered by his transatlantic majesty.
emigration swindle in galicia.
Concerning the emigration swindle in Galicia, the discovery of which is causing so much sensational excitement in all parts of the Austrian Empire, there is much more to tell than what was contained in our comparatively brief account last week. The cupidity of the Galician peasantry has naturally provided the newspaper-reading public with material of a stirring kind and the sternest of cynics and most charitable of philanthropists combined can not fail to discover many a phase of an essentially facetious nature in the disclosures the law court of Wadowice has brought to light. At the same time it goes against the grain in this enlightened age of neighborly good-will to hold in derision what is at bottom fraught with so much corruption and has been productive of an almost unlimited amount of misery. Restricting ourselves to that portion of legal proceedings relating to the social position of the prisoners we are at once confronted by phases of life and society, the existence of which were to most of us entirely unknown and the narration of which reads like the well remembered fables of our childhood.
The Galician peasant, owning in the majority of cases “three acres and one cow,” was systematically done out of the three acres and the cow by the wolf in the clothing of the sheep. The emigration agents are in the pay of the companies running steamers between Europe and the United States of America, and are entitled by the companies to so much a head on every emigrant they contrived by fair means or by foul to secure. To talk the credulous rustic over by representing to him the countless advantages emigration has to offer was a comparatively easy task, always provided the agent was sufficiently qualified in the matter of lying and in the practice of duplicity in every conceivable shape to win the confidence of his victim. In a word the agent was a consummate scoundrel and a heartless villian. The agents of the various companies wore badges and colors to distinguish them from one another. It very often happened that an emigrant won over by the agent of one color or company fell subsequently into the hands of a rival agent and was fleeced a second time and subject to additional insults and impositions. When rival agents met, quarrels, which terminated in fights, not unfrequently ensued. The trade tariffs in human merchandise fluctuated according to the prosperity of the business. In some cases the agents were entitled to eight florins a head on every emigrant, in others a higher or lower sum was offered. The object of the agent was not to lose sight of his victims. The emigrants had strict orders on starting on their long journey on no account to enter into conversation with any person they might meet on the way but on reaching a junction station, such as Vienna, to be on the look out for the agent who had orders to meet them there, and whom they would recognize by the color of the badge on his hat or coat, which color corresponded with the one worn by them. By this means the sub-agent at the junction station had no difficulty in singling out his prey and in keeping strict watch over him until he continued his journey. The agent lying in wait at the railway station provided the emigrant with food and then kept him under lock and key to prevent all chance of his escape.[Page 41]
The excitement of the populace in the district of Wadowice during the trial, which is now going on, is so great that the authorities feared the breaking out of a riot and the military had to be summoned to maintain order. Twelve of the accused, who are railway conductors and who have been discharged for having aided the agents in the transfer of their human freight, have petitioned the magistrates to be imprisoned during the trial, as they are destitute and unable to provide for themselves. The law court decided to allow them the sum of forty kreutzers a day for their support, and! a similar arrangement was made in the case of seven others of the accused. Another distressing instance demanding special notice is that of a juror named Miedzibrodzki. The man, the father of seven children, is so destitute that he was obliged to sleep with some of the accused on straw in a shed. The scandal was so great that the; Minister of Justice gave the telegraphic order to pay each juror three florins per day during the trial.