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Blood libel

Blood libels are allegations that a particular group kills people as a form of human sacrifice, and use their blood in various rituals, the alleged victims often being children. Many groups have been the target of these kinds of accusations, including Jews, Christians, Cathars, Knights Templar, Witches, Christian heretics, Roman Catholics, Gypsies, Wiccans, Druids, neopagans, Satanic cultists, and evangelical Protestant missionaries. One famous example of blood libel is the accusation that Jews kill Christian and Muslim children and use their blood to make Passover matzohs. The "story" had been circulating since at least the 1st century.

Some people, particularly those seeking to oppose anti-Semitism, use blood libel as a propaganda term to mean any kind of anti-Semitic lie[?]. This article will not focus on this meaning.

The ancient Phoenician practice of sacrificing infants to Molech appears well documented enough that we can say it is most likely a fact, and not a blood libel. It is possible that blood libels against Jews originate from this, as it was the Phoenicians who were largely involved with building the infrastructure of the early Hebrew cities.

During the first and second centuries, some Roman commentators misunderstood the ritual of the Eucharist and related teachings. In this ritual, Christians drink red wine in response to the words "This is the blood of Christ". Propaganda was written which argued that the Christians literally drank blood, and used this to persecute Christians. They were also highly suspicious of Christian adoptions of abandoned Roman babies and this was suggested as a possible source of the blood.

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Blood Libel against the Jews

In many cases, anti-Semitic blood libels served as the basis for a blood libel cult, in which the alleged victim of human sacrifice was worshipped as a Christian martyr. The first recorded instance was that of Saint William of Norwich[?], which originated in 1144.

An early blood libel against Jews appears in Bonum Universale de Apibus ii. 29, § 23, by Thomas of Cantimpré (a monastery near Cambray). Thomas writes "It is quite certain that the Jews of every province annually decide by lot which congregation or city is to send Christian blood to the other congregations."

Thomas also believes that since the time when the Jews called out to Pilate, "His blood be on us, and on our children" (Matt. 27:25), they have been afflicted with hemorrhages: "A very learned Jew, who in our day has been converted to the (Christian) faith, informs us that one enjoying the reputation of a prophet among them, toward the close of his life, made the following prediction: 'Be assured that relief from this secret ailment, to which you are exposed, can only be obtained through Christian blood ("solo sanguine Christiano").' This suggestion was followed by the ever-blind and impious Jews, who instituted the custom of annually shedding Christian blood in every province, in order that they might recover from their malady."

Thomas adds that the Jews had misunderstood the words of their prophet, who by his expression "solo sanguine Christiano" had meant not the blood of any Christian, but that of Jesus—the only true remedy for all physical and spiritual suffering. Thomas does not mention the name of the "very learned" proselyte, but it may have been Nicholas Donin of La Rochelle, who in 1240 had a disputation on the Talmud with Jehiel of Paris, and who in 1242 caused the burning of numerous Talmudic manuscripts in Paris. It is known that Thomas was personally acquainted with this Nicholas.

Of the large number of ritual trials only a few cases are here noted: The case of Little St. Hugh of Lincoln is mentioned by Chaucer, and thus become well known. A child of eight years, named Hugh, son of a woman named Beatrice, disappeared at Lincoln on the 31st of July, 1255. His body was discovered on the 29th of August, covered with filth, in a pit or well belonging to a Jewish man named Jopin. On being promised by John of Lexington, a judge, who happened to be present, that his life should be spared, Jopin is said to have confessed that the boy had been crucified by the Jews, who had assembled at Lincoln for that purpose. King Henry III., on reaching Lincoln some five weeks afterward, at the beginning of October, refused to carry out the promise of John of Lexington, and had Jopin executed and ninety-one of the Jews of Lincoln seized and sent up to London, where eighteen of them were executed. The rest were pardoned at the intercession of the Franciscans (Jacobs, "Jewish Ideals," pp. 192-224).

In 1267, at Pforzheim, Baden, the corpse of a seven-year-old girl was found in the river by fishermen. The Jews were suspected, and when they were led to the corpse, blood began to flow from the wounds; led to it a second time, the face of the child became flushed, and both arms were raised. In addition to these miracles, there was the testimony of the daughter of the wicked woman who had sold the child to the Jews. A regular judicial examination did not take place; and it is probable that the above-mentioned "wicked woman" was the murderess. That a judicial murder was then and there committed against the Jews in consequence of the accusation is evident from the manner in which the Nuremberg "Memorbuch" and the synagogal poems refer to the incident (Salfeld, "Martyrologium," pp. 15, 128-130).

At Weissenburg, Alsace, in 1270, a miracle alone decided the charge against the Jews. Although, according to the accusation, the Jews had suspended a child (whose body was found in the Lauter river) by the feet, and had opened every artery in its body in order to obtain all the blood, its wounds were said to have bled for five days afterward!

In 1286, at Oberwesel, "miracles" again constituted the only evidence against the Jews. The corpse of the eleven-year-old Werner is said to have floated up the Rhine (against the current) as far as Bacharach, emitting a radiance, and being invested with healing powers! In consequence, the Jews of Oberwesel and many other adjacent localities were severely persecuted during the years 1286-89. Emperor Rudolph I., to whom the Jews had appealed for protection, issued a public proclamation to the effect that great wrong had been done to the Jews, and that the corpse of Werner was to be burned and the ashes scattered to the winds.

The statement was made, in the "Chronicle" of Conrad Justinger (d. 1426), that at Bern in 1294 the Jews had shockingly tortured and murdered the boy Rudolph. The historical impossibility of this widely credited story was demonstrated by Stammler, the pastor of Bern (see "Katholische Schweizer-Blätter," Lucerne, 1888).

In 1462, at Rinn, near Innsbruck, a boy named Andreas Oxner was said to have been bought by Jewish merchants and cruelly murdered by them in a forest near the city, his blood being carefully collected in vessels. The accusation of drawing off the blood (without murder) was not made until the beginning of the seventeenth century. The older inscription in the church of Rinn, dating from 1575, is distorted by fabulous embellishments; as, for example, that the money which had been paid for the boy to his godfather was found to have turned into leaves, and that a lily blossomed upon his grave.

Another example of was the cult of Anderl von Rinn[?], who was allegedly murdered by Jews in the year 1462, in the town of Rinn, Tyrol[?]. Stories of his death, however, do not emerge until the 17th century, when the cult of Anderl was founded. The cult continued until it was officially prohibited in 1994 by the Bishop of Innsbruck. (source [1] (http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/rinn)).

The attitude of the Catholic church towards these cults varied. The church sometimes opposed them, but it generally did little to stop them, and in some cases gave its clear approval. Pope Benedict XIV permitted the continuation of the cult of Anderl von Rinn as a local cult, but refused to canonize him as a saint. On the other hand, Pope Gregory X issued a letter rejecting the blood libel accusations (source [2] (http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/g10-jews)).

In 1475, Simon of Trent, aged two, dissapeared, and his father alleged that he had been kidnapped and murdered by the local Jewish community. Fifteen local Jews were sentenced to death and burned. Simon was regarded as a saint, and was beatified by Pope Sixtus V in 1588. He was de-sainted in 1965 by Pope Paul VI, though his murder is still promoted as a fact by a handful of extremists.

In a case at Tyrnau, Hungary, in 1494, the absurdity, even the impossibility, of the statements forced by torture from women and children shows that the accused preferred death as a means of escape from the torture, and admitted everything that was asked of them. They even said that Jewish men menstruated, and that the latter therefore practised the drinking of Christian blood as a remedy.

At Bazin (= Bösing), Hungary, in 1529, it was charged that a nine-year-old boy had been bled to death, suffering cruel torture; and thirty Jews confessed to the crime and were publicly burned. The true facts of the case were disclosed later, when the child was found alive in Vienna. He had been stolen by the accuser, Count Wolf of Bazin, as an easy but fiendish means of ridding himself of his Jewish creditors at Bazin.

In Feb., 1840, at Damascus, Syria, Father Thomas, a Capuchin, and his servant were murdered. Inthis instance, also, confessions were obtained only after the infliction of barbarous tortures.

Blood libels in the anti-Israeli media

Blood libel stories sometimes appear in the anti-Israeli media, particularly in Arab states. These stories should be seen in the continuing context of the Arab-Israeli conflict: it is common practice in a war scenario to use black propaganda to demonise the enemy. The Anti-Defamation League says that it is "deeply troubled by the repeated instances of such harmful rhetoric in the Egyptian media".

An example is the book The Matzah Of Zion by the Syrian Defense Minister, Mustafa Tlass[?], written in 1983. The book concentrates on two issues: the alleged murder of Father Toma in Damascus, Syria in 1840, and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. On October 21, 2002, the London based Arabic paper Al-Hayat[?] reported that the book was undergoing its eigth reprint and was being translated into English, French, and Italian. In 2001 there were reports that a film called Horseman Without a Horse would be made in Egypt, partly based on Tlass's book. The book was cited at a United Nations conferences in 1991 by a Syrian delegate.

Some Arab writers have condemned these blood libels. The Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram published a series of articles by Osam Al-Baz, a senior advisor to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Amongst other things, Osam Al-Baz explained the origins of the anti-Jewish blood libel. He said that Arabs and Muslims have never been anti-Semitic, as a group, but accepted that a few Arab writers and media figures attack Jews "on the basis of the racist fallacies and myths that originated in Europe". He urged people not to succumb to "myths" such as the blood libel. (Source: Al-Ahram Weekly Online, January 2-8, 2003 (Issue No. 619), [3] (http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2003/619/focus.htm)

List of blood libels against Jews

The following list of cases, where the blood accusation has been raised, with short indications of the results and of the authorities for the statements, may be found useful for reference. Some of the more frequently quoted authorities are referred to by abbreviations as follows:

A. R. = Amador de los Rios, "Historia de los Judios en España"; A. J. Y. B. = "American Jewish Year Book," 1901-2; Csl. = Cassel, article "Juden," in Ersch and Gruber, "Encyc." ser. 2, part xxvii.; Sch. = Scherer, "Rechtsverhältnisse der Juden in Oesterreich," 1901; St. = Stobbe, "Die Juden in Deutschland"; Str. = Strack, "Das Blut"; Jb. = Jahresberichte der Geschichtswissenschaft"; Zz. = Zunz, "Synagogale Poesie des Mittelalters."

1144 Norwich (St. William): James and Jessopp, "St. William of Norwich"; Jacobs, "Jews of Angevin England," pp. 19-256.

1168 Gloucester (Harold): "Gloucester Chronicle," ed. Hart, i. 20; Jacobs, l.c., p. 45.

1171 Blois (31 burned; 17 Jewesses, singing 'Alenu): Zz. p. 24.

1181 Bury St. Edmunds (St. Robert): Jacobs, l.c., p. 75.

1192 Winchester (boy): Richard of Devizes, ed. Howlett, p. 435; Jacobs, l.c., pp. 146-148.

1199 (?) Erfurt (3 Jews hanged, 3 burned [2 women]): Zz. p. 26.

1235 Wolfsheim (18 Jews killed): "Monumenta Germaniæ," xvi. 31; St. p. 281.

1247 (Mar. 26) Valréas: "Rev. Etudes Juives," vii. 304.

1255 Lincoln (Little St. Hugh): Matthew Paris, "Historia Major," ed. Luard, v. 516-518, 522, 543; Jacobs, "Jewish Ideals," pp. 192 et seq.

1267 Pforzheim: Alonzo á Spina, "Fortalitum Fidei," 5th cruelty; I. Loeb, "Josef Haccohen," p. 40.

1270 (June 29) Weissenburg, Alsace: "Mon. Germ." xvii. 191; St. p. 282.

1283 Mayence (10 Jews killed): "Mon. Germ." xvii. 210; St. p. 282.

1285 Munich (90 Jews killed): Zz. p. 33; "Mon. Germ." xi. 210, 872; xvii. 415; St. p. 282.

1286 Friesland: Csl. p. 79a; Zz. p. 33.

1286 (June 28) Oberwesel and Boppard (St. Werner, 40 Jews killed): Grätz, "Gesch. der Juden," vii. 201, 478; "Mon. Germ." xvii. 77; St. p. 282.

1287 (May 2) Salzburg: Csl. p. 79a.

1288 (April 24) Troyes: Auto da fé (13 burnt), "Rev. Et. Juives," ii., 199 et seq.

1290 Laibach: Sch. p. 525.

1292 Colmar: Böhmer, "Fontes Rerum Germanicarum," ii. 30; St. p. 283.

1292 Krems (2 Jews broken on wheel): "Mon. Germ." xi. 658; St. p. 283; Sch. p. 348 (who gives the date as 1293).

1294 Bern (Rudolf): Böhmer, l.c., ii. 32; "Arch. Oester. Geschichtsquellen," iii. 143; St. p. 283.

1302 Remken: Böhmer, l.c., ii. 39; St. p. 283.

1303 Weissensee (boy found hanged): Zz. p. 36; St. p. 283; Csl. p. 79b.

1305 Prague and Vienna: Zz. p. 36; Csl. p. 79b.

1308 Thuringia: Csl. p. 79b.

1317 Chinon: Str. p. 144.

1329 Savoy, Geneva, Romilly, Annecy, etc.: Str. ib.

1331 Ueberlingen: Csl. p. 79b; Zz. p. 38.

1387 Strasburg: "Urkundenbuch der Stadt Strassburg," vi. 207; Jewish Encyclopedia, i. 457b.

1345 Munich (Heinrich): Str. p. 145.

XIV. cent. (end of) Vialana: "Rev. Etudes Juives," x. 232-236; Jb. viii.

1401 Diessenhofen: Zz. p. 47; Ulrich, "Sammlung Jüd. Gesch. in der Schweiz," p. 248; St. p. 288; Löwenstein, "Bodensee," p. 82.

1407 (Oct. 26, 3d day of Easter) Cracow: Zz. p. 47; Csl. p. 133b; Dlugoss, "Historia Poloniæ," i. 186; Jost, "Gesch. der Israeliten," vii. 279.

1428 Regensburg (Ratisbon): Zz. p. 48; Csl. p. 79b.

1430 Ravensburg, Ueberlingen, Lindau: Zz. p. 48.1435 Palma: A. R. ii. 85-87; Mut, "Mallorca," vii. xv.

1442 Lienz, Tyrol: Borrelli, "Dissertazione," p. 243b; Sch. pp. 589-591.

1453 Arles: Zz. p. 50.

1462 Rinn (Andreas): Str. p. 145; Sch. pp. 592-596 (denies).

1468 (Dec. 25) Sepulveda: A. R. iii. 166.

1470 Endingen: Sch. p. 430; Schreiber, "Urkundenbuch," ii. 520; St. p. 291.

1473 Regensburg: Zz. p. 51; Csl. p. 79b.

1475 Trent (Simon): Sch. pp. 596-614, 643-647, and the note to pp. 598-599 giving bibliography.

1476 Regensburg (through the apostate Wolfram): Zz. p. 51; St. pp. 77, 292; Sch. p. 615.

1480 (July 4) Venice (Sebastian of Porto Buffole; 3 Jews burned): "Jüdische Merkwürdigkeiten," ii. 256; Sch. p. 615.

1490 La Guardia: Isidore Loeb, in "Rev. Etudes Juives," xv.

1494 Tyrnau (12 Jews and 2 Jewesses burned; the remainder expelled): Zz. p. 52; Schudt, l.c., i. 115; Bergl, "Gesch. der Juden in Ungarn," p. 51.

1504 Frankfort-on-the-Main: Jb. xv. 21.

1505 Budweis (child murder accusation; 13 Jews drowned themselves): Oefele, "Scriptores," i. 135; St. p. 292.

1518 Geisingen: Löwenstein, in "Zeitschrift f. d. Gesch. der Juden in Deutschland," iii. 383; Jewish Encyclopedia, i. 1.

1529 Poesing (30 Jews burned): Zz. p. 55; Némethy, in "Neuzeit," xxviii.; Jb. xi.; D. Kaufmann, in "Monatsschrift," xxxviii.

1540 Neuburg: Zz. p. 57; Csl. p. 79b.

1545 Amasia, Asia Minor (many hanged; Dr. Joseph Abiob burned): "Shebet Yehudah," iii.; Zz. p. 58; I. Loeb, "Joseph Haccohen," p. 432 (who gives the date as 1542).

1553 Asti (Jews imprisoned on murder charge): Zz. p. 336.

1554 Rome (accusation threatens through Hananel Foligno, averted by Alexander Farnese): Vogelstein and Rieger, "Gesch. der Juden in Rom," ii. 151.

1564 Byelsk: "Regesti," sub anno.

1570 Brandenburg (case of Lippold): Zz. p. 338, Jost, l.c., viii. 213-214; Csl. p. 93a, b (gives the date as 1573).

1571 Hellerspring: Csl. p. 79b.

1593 (Dec.) Frankfort-on-the-Main (blood accusation suggested in a trial of a Jew): "Rev. Etudes Juives," xiv. 282-289.

1598 Luck (3 Jews executed): Zz. p. 340.

1623 Ragusa (Isaac Jeshurun martyred): Zz. p. 342.

1650 Razinai: Jb. xvi.

1654 Gt. Poland: D. Kaufmann, in "Monatsschrift," xxxviii. 89-96; Vogelstein and Rieger, l.c., ii. 211.

1668 Vienna: Zz. p. 346.

1670 (Jan. 17) Metz (Raphael Levi burned): Zz. p. 346; Csl. p.79 b.

1691 Wilna (4 Jews executed for child-murder): Steinschneider, "Cat. Bodl." Nos. 3691, 4028, 4030; Zz. p. 348.

1696 (June 8-July 4) Posen (false murder charge): Zz. pp. 348-349.

1698 Kaidan and Zausmer: Wolf, "Bibl. Hebr." iii. 380; Zz. p. 349.

1705 Viterbo: Vogelstein and Rieger, l.c., ii. 233; Roest, "Cat. Rosenthal. Bibl." i. 55.

1710 (April 5) Neamtz, Moldavia: "Rev. Etudes Juives," xiii. 137; A. J. Y. B. p. 37.

1710 Orlinghausen: Csl. p. 79b.

1712 Frankfort-on-the-Main: Csl. p. 79b.

1714 Roman, Rumania: A. J. Y. B. p. 37.

1721 Danzig and Sinigaglia (child murder): Zz. p. 352.

1736 Posen (lasted four years): Zz. p. 353.

1743 Jaslau (Jew quartered): Zz. p. 354.

1745 Fürth (synagogue closed through false charge by apostate): Zz. p. 354.

1756 (Passover) Jampol, Poland: Vogelstein and Rieger, l.c., ii. 246.

1764 Orcuta, Hungary: Str. p. 148.

1783 Botoshani, Rumania: A. J. Y. B. p. 43.

1788 Totiz: Jb. x. 45.

1791 Tasnád, Transylvania (Hungary): Str. p. 148.

1797 Galatz, Rumania (4 killed; synagogue burned): A. J. Y. B. p. 45.

1801 (April 8) Bucharest (128 Jews killed by soldiers and populace): Ib. p. 48.

1803 Neamtz, Moldavia (4 Jews imprisoned): Ib. p. 48.

1811 Talowitza: Ib. p. 49.

1816 Piatra, Moldavia: Ib. p. 50.

1823 Velizh, Vitebsk (lasted twelve years): St. p. 186; Jost, l.c., xi. 341.

1824 Bakau: Psantir, "Korot," 1873, ii. 142; Loeb, "La Situation des Israélites en Turquie, en Serbie, et en Roumanie," p. 143.

1829 Boleslaw-on-the-Weichsel: Str. p. 149.

1829 Babowno: Jb. xviii. 65.

1834 (July 13) Neuenhoven, near Düsseldorf: Str. 149.

1838 Ferrara: Jost, l.c., xi. 285, note.

1839 Niezdow: Str. p. 150.

1840 Near Aix-la-Chapelle: Jost, l.c., xi. 345, note.

1840 (Feb. 5) Damascus (disappearance of Father Thomas; 13 Jews arrested and tortured; 4 died): Jost, l.c., xi. 346.

1840 Trianda, Rhodes: Jost, l.c., xi. 351-353.

1843 (Oct.) Marmora: Jost, l.c., xi. 379.

1844 Stobikowka: Str. p. 150.

1837 to 1847 Fiorenzola, Buffeto, Monticelli, Cortemaggiore: Jost, l.c., xi. 265, note.

1857 Saratov: Chwolson.

1859 (Apr. 14) Galatz, Rumania: Loeb, l.c., p. 145.

1861 Chavlian: id. 261, 262.

1863 (March) Smyrna: Ellenberger, "Die Leidender Juden."

1867 (Oct. 3) Galatz (90 Jews injured; 4 synagogues destroyed): Loeb, l.c., p. 171.

1867 (Dec. 22) Calarash, Rumania: Loeb, l.c., p. 166.

1877 Kutais, Transcaucasia: Chwolson, xii.

1882 (Apr. 1) Tisza-Eszlár (disappearance of Esther Solymosi).

1891 Corfu: Str. p. 151.

1891 (June 29) Xanten: Jewish Encyclopedia, i. 645b.

1891 (June) Nagy-Szokol: Str. p. 153.

1892 Eisleben: Str. p. 156.

1892 Ingrandes, France: Str. p. 157.

1892 Bakau, Rumania: Str. p. 158.

1893 (March) Kolin, Bohemia: Str. p. 158.

1893 (June 9) Holleschau: Str. p. 159.

1893 Prague: Str. p. 160.

1894 Berent, Prussia: Str. p. 162.

1898 Skaisgirren: Str. p. 163.

1899 (Mar. 29) Polna, Bohemia.

1900 (Jan. 7) Nachod, Bohemia.

1900 (Mar. 28) Konitz, W. Prussia.G. J.

References on blood libels in the Arab world appear here.

See also: vampirism, Inquisition, witch hunt

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