Martyrdom in Mainz
In May of
1096 Crusader armies attacked the Jews of Mainz and threatened
to kill them if they did not of convert to Christianity. The Jews
took refuge in the bishop's palace. When he could no longer protect
them they decided to kill themselves rather than submit to baptism.
More than one thousand Jews died, many by their own hand.
Hebrew as Kiddush ha-Shem -- "Sanctification of the Name
(of God)" -- martyrdom to avoid conversion became common in this
period. This account is from the Chronicle of Samuel ben Simson.
The women girded themselves with strength and slaughtered
their sons and daughters, along with themselves. Many men
likewise gathered strength and slaughtered their wives and
their children and their little ones. . . . They offered
up their children
as did Abraham with his son Isaac. . . . The saintly
and pious women stretched forth their necks for the
unity of the [Divine] Name. Likewise men to their children
and brothers, brothers to sisters, women to their sons and
daughters, and neighbor to neighbor and friend, bridegroom
to bride, and betrothed to his betrothed. They sacrificed
each other until the blood flowed together. The blood of
husbands mingled with that of their wives, the blood of
parents with that of their children, the blood of brothers
with that of their sisters, the blood of teachers with that
of their students, the blood of bridegrooms with that of
their brides, the blood of cantors with that of their scribes,
the blood of infants and sucklings with that of their mothers.