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The JC Archive Blog No.15 – The Case of the Bloody Matzos

More from the ongoing series in which genealogist Rivka Goldblatt delves into the more interesting corners of the JC Archive

    Blood libels have plagued the Jewish people for centuries. All over the world, wherever there were Christians and Jews, there were blood accusations. The Jewish Chronicle is full of the details of the stories.

    In 1859, After yet another libel, this time in Rome, the writer had this to say:

    ROME.—BLOOD ACCUSATIONS. (1859-05-06)

    I am told that Sixtus IV. and a late pope also issued Bulls in which the Jews were charged with killing a Christian, or a youth, at Passover, and draining his blood in order to use it in their religious rites.

    There have been ages so dark that no amount of ignorance or prejudice astonishes us, but that the same ignorance should be found centuries later in the heart of civilisation is very melancholy and discouraging, and is a sad reflection on the Government to whose training the destinies of the people have been confided.

    What happened in May, 1859?

     

    It was on Friday, the 15th inst., that three Christian children were missing from the neighbourhood of the Ghetto.

    It was natural that the mother should be distracted and so, as she was advised, she consulted a magnetiser or rather a "medium."

    The information which she received was as follows :—One child had been murdered, the other two were concealed in the Ghetto.

    The report gained ground, and a very threatening demonstration was made in the precincts of the Jews' quarter.…The Count, without taking any information or adopting any precautionary measures, sent a company of gendarme immediately to the spot to search out traces of the crime.

    I believe that an effort was made to enter the synagogue, and that it would have been done but for the strong remonstrance’s of the Jews; their schools however, were searched and some private houses, and I am credibly informed that the persons [bodies] of some children were examined, in order to verify whether they were Christians or not.

    The indignation of the Jews was as great as was the agitation of the Christians, and great apprehensions were entertained that some dreadful excesses might have been committed.

    And yet, after the whole story was finished (with no-one killed, fortunately)…

    …The sequel of this affair is that the children, who had lost their way, were found in a vineyard.

    Over 50 years later, blood libels were still going strong. However, even when a body was found, it was not the Jews who had killed him:

    The Truth about the Murder (1911-05-12):

    When the body of the murdered boy was discovered, it never entered anybody’s head to accuse the Jews of the crime.

    Everybody, including the police, suspected the step-father of having assassinated the lad, whom he had always ill treated.When the news of the murder reached St. Petersburg, Deputy Markoff converted it into a ritual accusation.

    The Kieff Real Russians were themselves astonished to hear of the turn of events, but they could not resist the temptation of a campaign against the Jews.

    And in the same issue:

     
    At Korostish (Kieff), they had had a ritual accusation of their own. Fortunately, a Russian confessed to the murder of a little girl, and the Jews breathed freely.

    In 1913, an unusual story happened at Budapest. Encouragingly, neither the police nor the courts were happy to join the antisemites and the Jew, Finkelstein, had their full support.

    The second unusual point is that the child was alive and not even missing. Here’s the tale.

    THE RITUAL MURDER LIBEL IN BUCHAREST (1913-03-07):

    A Lawyer Convicted for Blackmailing.

    A sensational case was tried the other day at Bucharest. A lawyer, named Niculesou Scartan, and his secretary, Constantinesou, were indicted for attempting to blackmail a Jew, Finkelstein.

    The fact that a lawyer tried to blackmail a Jew is not what is sensational. It’s that he was indicted for it.

     

    It appeared from the evidence that a certain M. Parg had complained to the Crown Prosecutor that Finkelstein had drawn blood from his (Parg's) child for use at the Jewish Passover.

    The accusation was dismissed by the Crown Prosecutor as being unfounded.

    Parg, supported by Scartan, than brought a charge against Finkelstein in the Criminal Court, which acquitted the defendant.

    If the courts won’t harm the Jew, they’d have to do it privately.

     

    Scartan, accompanied by his Secretary, called on Finkelstein, and threatened him with a campaign in the antisemitic press unless be paid 1,000 francs as hush money.

    Finkelstein acquiesced in the demand, and named a time when Scartan could call for the money.In the meantime he communicated with the police, and when the two men arrived at Finkelstein's house they were taken into custody.

    The trial lasted several days, and resulted in the conviction of the two defendants, each of whom was sentenced to two months' imprisonment.

    Hopefully, the two criminals learned their lesson – this time, the police are on the side of truth.

    Blood libels crop up every so often today, too, though not to the extent that they used to. Though the accusation cannot possibly be true, as Jews are forbidden to eat blood, that won’t deter our enemies.

    As we say in the Haggada, in every generation they stand against us to destroy us, and G-d rescues us from their hands.

    We’re still here.

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