Blood Libel is the 800 year-old, anti-Semitic myth that falsely accuses Jews of killing Christians, especially their children for blood to be used during religious rituals, e.g. matzoh at Passover.
The first blood ritual charge was leveled in England in 1144 after the mutilated body of a young boy, William of Norwich was found in the woods the day before Easter. It was rumored that the young boy was crucified by Jews during a Passover service, and that orders for a ritual murder were decreed by Jews during an annual meeting in Narbonne, France. The event led to widespread persecution of Jews in England.
The blood charge migrated to the European continent where scores of recorded accusations of Blood Libel occurred during the Middle Ages.
In 1235, five boys in Fulda, Germany were killed in their home, while their parents were attending Christmas services prompting the first recorded case of Blood Libel. Thirty-two Jews were killed by Crusaders, and a fine was levied against the Jews for the pogrom. Emperor Frederick II convened a tribunal which found that the charges were false and Jews were not capable of such an act since Jewish Law prohibited the consumption of blood.
The Jewish community was exonerated, the Emperor’s verdict failed to defeat the myth.
In 1244, Jews in London were accused of ritual murder and fined heavily. In 1255, the body of a boy named Hugh was found in a cesspool near the house of a Jew in Lincoln, England. He was tortured, drug through the streets, and hanged. From 1283 to 1285, 10 Jews were murdered by a mob in Mainz, 26 were executed in Bacharach, 40 in Oberwellil, and 180 in Munich after a series of ritual murder charges. In 1431, several Jewish communities were destroyed in southern Germany after being accused of ritual murder.
The Blood Libel Myth survived the Middle Ages. A Papal Bull canonized Austrian girl allegedly killed by Jews for her blood in 1755.
The Myth also gained traction beyond the boundaries of Europe. A. In 1840 monk named Padre Tommaso disappeared in Damascus, Syria after visiting the Jewish quarter. Twelve Jewish leaders were arrested and tortured, four of which died from mistreatment.
The myth of Blood Libel continued into the 21st century.
The first public appearance of a forgery entitled The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was reported in Russia in 1905. The Protocols alleged that the Jews were part of an international conspiracy to take over the world.
Six years later the mutilated body of a 12 year old boy was found outside of Kiev Menahem Beilis was accused of a ritual murder and imprisoned for two years before being acquitted in 1913. While the allegation aroused international protest, it was ignored by the regime and exposed the depths of anti-Semitism in the Soviet Un ion.
The Protocol and Blood Libel were used to incite widespread slaughter of Jews in Russia. Although The Protocols was exposed as a forgery in a series of articles published in London in 1920, it is still used in some circles today to prove that Blood Libel is not a myth and is still being practiced by Jews.
Hitler and Nazi propagandists seized upon the myth. Julius Streicher, the publisher of the rabidly anti-Semitic, “Der Strumer” (“The Attack”) enjoyed a wide readership (500,000) in Nazi Germany, Streicher proudly broadcast, “The Jews Are Our Disaster,” on the front page of every issue, called for the extermination of Jews in 1939, and printed accusations of Jewish ritual murder.
After the Holocaust, the myth persisted.
In Kielce, a southeastern Polish city with a prewar Jewish population of 20,000 to 25,000, approximately 150 to 250 Holocaust survivors returned after the war. A pogrom was set off on July 4, 1946 by the accusation Jews used Christian blood to make unleavened bread. Forty two Jews, including children, were murdered.
Throughout the Arab world, media outlets and school books continue to publish stories of the Blood Libel Myth and feature crude and stereotypical caricatures. Modern day accusations by the Nation of Islam and Arab extremists created a new myth where they allege Jews devised AIDs and intentionally infected African-Americans and Palestinians.
(Bernard Epstein & Colleen Stern contributed to this story on Rock The Capital and to read about how this became an issue click here.)
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