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September 5: The Blood Libel

September 5, 2011

blood_libel_woodcutAccording to historian Walter Laqueur, there have been at least 150 recorded cases of blood libels (accusations of ritual murder) against Jews that resulted in their arrest and/or execution. (The first was in Norwich, England in 1144.) From 1736 until 1753 there were many blood libel cases throughout Poland, resulting in “a huge number of innocent victims who perished in great torture,” writes Dr. David Jakubowicz. “Every Christian child who died from unclear reasons such as an accident, a vague criminal act and the like, was a ‘Corpus delicti’ in a ‘blood libel’ trial against a Jew who . . . lived close to where the incident occurred.” The first of that Polish wave took place on this date in 1736, after a woman beggar seen near the dead body of a child in Posen was arrested and tortured into “confessing” that she had sold the child to the elders of the local synagogue. Numerous Jewish leaders of Posen were arrested, tortured, and killed or imprisoned until a judicial commission released them after four years.

“The advance of civilization did not bring about the disappearance of the preposterous idea. . . . Even today the infection continues latent.” —Cecil Roth, 1934