Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Heritage Civilization and the Jews
About the Series Historical Timeline Resources Lesson Plans Episodes
sidecurve1 The Crucible of Europe
sidecurve2
sidecurve3
Interactive Presentation
Interactive Atlas
Historical Documents
Video Resources
 
Jews Accused of Ritual Murder

Ritual-murder accusations against Jews were common in the Middle Ages and persisted into modern times.

In 1171, the Jews of Blois, in central France, were falsely accused of having crucified a Christian child during the Passover holidays and having thrown his body into the Loire River. This accusation was one of the first in Medieval Europe, but by no means the last. Over the following centuries such accusations led to the deaths of many innocent Jews.

 

 

 

In the year 4931 evil appeared in France, too, and great destruction in the city of Blois, in which at that time there lived about forty Jews. It happened on that evil day, Thursday, toward evening, that the terror came upon us. A Jew rode up to water his horse; a common soldier -- may his name be blotted out of the book of life -- was also there watering the horse of his master. The Jew bore on his chest an untanned hide, but one of the corners had become loose and was sticking out of his coat. When, in the gloom, the soldier's horse saw the white side of the hide, it was frightened and sprang back, and it could not be brought to water.

The Christian servant hastened back to his master and said: "Hear, my lord, what a certain Jew did. As I rode behind him toward the river in order to give your horses a drink, I saw him throw a little Christian child, whom the Jews have killed, into the water. When I saw this, I was horrified and hastened back quickly for fear he might kill me too. Even the horse under me was so frightened by the splash of the water when he threw the child in that it would not drink." The soldier knew that his master would rejoice at the fall of the Jews, because he hated a certain Jewess, influential in the city.
The master told the story to the ruler of the city, who had all the Jews of Blois thrown into jail. The soldier was given a trial by ordeal -- he was thrown into water, for if he floated it meant he had to be telling the truth. He floated. The Jews of Blois were moved from jail to a wooden house.
As they were led forth they were told: "Save your lives. Leave your religion and turn to us." They mistreated them, beat them, and tortured them, hoping that they would exchange their glorious religion for something worthless, but they refused. Rather did they encourage each other and say to one another: "Persist in the religion of the Almighty!"
When the Jews refused to convert, the house was burned with all of them inside, but the chronicler says that the bodies of the victims were not harmed and remained intact even after death.
There were about thirty-two holy souls who offered themselves as a sacrifice to their Creator; and God smelled the sweet savor, him whom He has chosen does He cause to come nigh unto Him.

DOCUMENT SOURCE

FURTHER READING