April 16 1918, Cracow [Kraków]–The Allied blockade of Europe and several years of back-and-forth fighting on the Eastern Front had led to severe food shortages in Austria, even in its breadbasket of Galicia. The Jewish population of the area was over-represented in milling, baking, and other food-related trades, and the combination of hunger and anti-Semitism led to suspicions that the Jewish population was hoarding food. These feelings were so pronounced by May 1917 that the Jewish population began seriously considering setting up its own defense forces in case violence broke out against them. Late in 1917, an attempt by bread protesters to march south to the Jewish district of Kazimierz was halted by police.
In 1918, tensions rose further with bread strikes in January, followed by riots against the peace treaty with Ukraine, which had given major concessions to the Ukrainians at the expense of the Poles, in a misguided attempt to secure food supplies. By the spring of 1918, the local Polish population no longer had any trust in the government; for example, two women on a tram were overheard saying that if the bread shortage continued, “we won’t go to the town council or governor, we’ll just demolish the shops where they sell cakes and rolls.”
On April 16, at a food market in the north of the city, Christians, enraged at the high prices and blaming Jewish traders for them, began attacking the latter. A mob marched twenty-five minutes south to Kazimierz, looting Jewish shops; the police did nothing to stop them. Violence continued through the 20th. On the 19th, Jewish youths retaliated, driving out Christian traders from a market with sticks and iron rods. The military attempted to intervene on the 18th, and did temporarily calm the situation, but neither side trusted the emperor’s soldiers; both Christians and Jews attacked or tried to drive the soldiers off.
Although the city was calm once again by April 21, it was not to be a one-time affair. Pogroms would continue across Galicia throughout the remainder of 1918, and the ugly anti-Semitic attitudes would long outlast the war.
Today in 1917: The Nivelle Offensive
Sources include: Alexander Watson, Ring of Steel.