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Blood Libel: The Passover After Beilis

Blood Libel: The Passover After Beilis

Associate Editor

Today in history:

Jan. 18, 1943 saw the first shots of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The Nazis intended to deport 8,000 Jews but the resistance forceed the Nazis to retreat after 5,000 were deported, saving 3,000 lives. The uprising resumed on erev Pesach, three months later.

And in 1914, 29 years prior:

In the paper this week, there’s a look back at the Mendel Beilis case, the most famous blood libel of the 20th century. Despite his acquittal in 1913, amid international attention and support, on the eve of Passover the very next year, the blood libels started all over again, to much less attention.

On March 23, 1914, there were reports from Uman (where Reb Nachman is buried) that a Christian boy who was employed in a matzoh factory, where they were using machines, allegedly had his hand shoved into the machinery by Jewish boys. He lost a large quantity of blood, reported the Times (March 24, 1914) "which went to the makig of the bread [matzoh]." The Times printed the story without qualifications, directly from Novoe Vremya, a Czarist paper, although the Times headline was blunt: "Blood Ritual Charges / Russian Anti-Semites Revive Them As Passover Approaches".

Also, in Kovel, a 8-year-old’s body was found under a railroad bridge "with the head, neck and chest pierced by wounds. Inquiries point to a red-haired man in a gray coat who was seen near the railway on the day before, carrying something in his arms. He said his burden was a sick child. The inquiry is proceeding."

You don’t know any Jew with red hair, do you?

Of course, there are still blood libels today, a tale told by Palestinians.

The most ironic blood libel came in 1891 when Czar Nicholas II (prior to being czar) was in Japan when an attempt was made on his lfe. (With a saber). Some of the Tokyo papers said it served him right, since the Czar was a Christian and, everyone knows, Christians killed Japanese children for their blood to use in Christian ritual. The assassin was arrested but the Japanese government did not press charges — against Nicholas, for the blood libel. The future czar who returned to Russia, and it was in the name of Czar Nicholas II that Beilis was arrested, for killing a Christian boy for his blood.

Speaking of blood libels, if you go for this sort of museum thing, there’s an exhibit at the YU Museum (highlights from the collections at the Center for Jewish History) featuring a blood libel item: "The Trial of the Jews of Trent (1478-1479). Ink. gouache and gold on paper. Written for the first Duke o Wurtemberg and bearing his arms, this is the only known German copy of the records of the trials of the Jews of Trent, accused of the ritual murder of a Christian boy named Simon in 1475. It’s the only blood libel item on display.

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