Jewish Blood Passover
By Ariel Toaff
The author Ariel Toaff maintains the following regarding Jews:
1) Jews are evil by nature, unnatural, corrupting, disruptive, and destructing element in society that must be eliminated if humanity wants to defeat their diabolical plan to enslave us and live according to human nature
2) Jews purposely lend money at excessively high levels of percentage to enslave borrowers to the banking system they own or control
3) Jews buy and sell justice with huge bribes
4) Jews pull off all sorts of fraudulent bankruptcies and swindles
5) Jews resort to poisoning and assassination when thwarted
6) Jews are obsessed with hatred for Christians and the Christian religion
7) Jews have in the past and continue in the present to kidnapped, rape and castrate Christian boys on a large scale and sold them into slavery for centuries. This is the true reason why they were expelled from England in 1290 and from Spain in 1492.
8) Jews use human blood in all sorts of quack practices despite Biblical prohibition
9) Jews use Christian human blood in their matzoth balls at Passover and for this purpose they kidnap young white children to torture and murder them by draining their blood out of the body.
10) Jews use Christian human blood in their wine at Passover but the blood must be from Christian boys no more than 7 years of age. Most white children are abducted and murdered for this purpose. The blood has to be certified kosher by a rabbi.
11) There is a large trade in fake blood products and animal blood which is unsuitable to this purpose according to Talmudic requirements strictly followed by Jews. Some have tried to sell blood to Jews but were rejected because they [Jews] claimed that it was animal blood since no Christian boys were abducted and murdered by torture to drain out the blood from their bodies by cruel torture methods.
Blood Passover: Jews and ritual murder
By Ariel Toaff
This writing courageously faces one of the most controversial topics in the history of Jews; one which has always served as a war horse of “anti-Semitism” by the accusation against them for centuries of abducting, sexually abusing, and murdering Christian children to use their blood in Jewish Passover rites. Where Italy is concerned, nearly all ritual murder trials were held in the North Eastern regions characterized by large settlements of German origin Jews i.e., Ashkenazims. The most famous case of this kind occurred in Trent, Italy during 1475 as a result of which many local Jews were indicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a young boy who became known as “Simon of Trent” and was venerated as a saint for several centuries until only a few decades ago. An unprejudiced rereading of the original trial records, however, together with records of several other trials viewed within the overall European context and supplemented by an exact knowledge of the relevant Hebrew texts, throws new light on the ritual and therapeutic significance of blood in Jewish “culture” leading the author of the present study to the reluctant conclusion that particularly where Ashkenazi Jewry was concerned, the “blood libel” accusation was not always an invention.
Ritual homicide trials are a difficult knot to unravel. Most researchers simply set out in search of more or less convincing confirmation of previously developed theories of which the researcher himself appears firmly convinced. The significance of any information failing to fit the preconceived picture is often minimized and sometimes passed over entirely in silence.
Oddly, in this type of research that which is to be proven is simply taken for granted to begin with. There is a clear perception that any other attitude would involve hazards and repercussions which are to be avoided at all costs. There is no doubt that the uniformity of the defendant’s confessions contradicted only by variants and incongruities generally relating to details of secondary importance was assumed by the judges and so-called “public opinion” to constitute proof that Jews are characterized by their great mobility and widespread dispersion, and practiced horrible murderous rituals in hatred of the Christian religion. The stereotype of ritual murder like that of profanation of the host and cannibal sacrifice was present in their minds from the outset suggesting to both judges and inquisitors alike the possibility of extorting symmetrical, harmonious and significant confessions, triggering a chain reaction of denunciations veritable and proper manhunts and indiscriminate massacres. While attempts have been made to reconstruct the ideological mechanisms and underlying theological and mythological beliefs, with their theological and mythological justifications which rendered the persecution of Jews possible as the practitioners of outrageous and blood thirsty rituals, particularly in Europe, little or nothing has been done to investigate the beliefs of the men and women Jews accused of ritual crucifixion, desecration of the host, haematophagy [eating of blood products] and cannibalism.
On the other hand, if an exception be made for the first sensational case of ritual crucifixion which occurred in Norwich, England during 1146 or the equally well known “blood libel” case at Trent, Italy in 1475 the trial records and transcripts usually referred to under the generic term “historical documentation” constitute in actual fact, very poor and often purely circumstantial evidence highly condensed in form and very sparse in detail and totally insufficient for research purposes.
Perhaps for this very same reason that which is missing is often artificially added assumed or formulated as a hypothesis in the absence of any explicit probative evidence one way or another i.e., in the desired direction. In the meantime, the entire matter is immersed in a tinted bath from which the emerging image is superficial at best and enveloped in a cloud of mystery with all the related paraphernalia from a distant past, and must remain forever incomprehensible to researchers intent on examining these problems through the application of anachronistic interpretive categories. These efforts — obviously unreliable — are generally performed in good faith or more exactly almost always in good faith. Thus in Anglo-Saxon historical / anthropological research on Jews and ritual murder, magic and witchcraft traditionally feature among the favorite aspects under examination. This approach for a variety of reasons, is enjoying an extraordinary rebirth at the present time but that which seems to obtain a high degree of popularity at the moment is not necessarily convincing to meticulous scholars, not content with superficial and impressionistic responses. Nearly all the studies on Jews and the “blood libel” accusation to date have concentrated almost exclusively on persecutions and persecutors; on the ideologies and presumed motives of those same persecutors for their hatred of Jews; their political and / or religious cynicism; their xenophobic or racist rancor and contempt for minorities. Little or no attention has been paid to the attitudes of the persecuted Jews themselves and their underlying patterns of ideological behavior – even when they confessed themselves guilty of the specific accusations brought against them. Even less attention has been paid to the behavioral patterns and attitudes of these same Jews; nor have these matters been considered worthy even of interest, attention or serious investigation. On the contrary, these behavioral patterns and attitudes have simply been incontrovertibly dismissed as non existent or as if invented out of whole cloth by the minds of “anti-Semites” and fanatical obtusely dogmatic Christians. Nevertheless, although difficult to digest, these actions once their authenticity is demonstrated or even supposed as possible should be the object of serious study by reputable scholars. The condemnation or alternatively the aberrant justification of these rituals cannot be imposed upon researchers as the sole and banal options. Scholars must be permitted the possibility of attempting serious research on the actual or presumed, religious, theological and historical motivations of the Jewish protagonists themselves. Blind excuses are just as worthless as blindly dogmatic condemnation for neither can they demonstrate anything other than that which already existed in the mind of the observer to begin with. It is precisely the possibility of evading any clear, precise and unambiguous definition of the reality of ritual child murders rooted in religious faith which has facilitated the intentional or involuntary blindness of Christian and Jewish scholars alike both pro and anti Jewish. Any additional example of the two dimensional “flattening” of Jewish history viewed exclusively as the history of religious or political “anti-Semitism” at all times, must necessarily be regretted. When “one-way” questions presuppose “one-way” answers; when the stereotype of “anti-Semitism” hovers menacingly over any objective approach to the difficult problem of historical research in relation to Jews, any research ends up by losing a large part of its value. All such research is thus transformed by the very nature of things into a “guided tour” conducted against a fictitious and unreal background in a “virtual reality show” intended to produce the desired reaction which has naturally been decided upon in advance. As stressed above, it is simply not permissible to ignore the mental attitudes of the Jews who were tried and executed for ritual murder or persecuted on the same charge. At some point, we must ask ourselves whether the confessions of the defendants constitute exact records of actual events or merely the reflection of beliefs forming part of a symbolic, mythical and magical context which must be reconstructed to be understood. In other words, do these confessions reflect merely the beliefs of gentile judges, clergy and populace with their private phobias and obsessions or on the contrary, of the defendants themselves? Untangling the knot is not an easy or pleasant task but perhaps it is not entirely impossible.
In the first place, therefore, we must investigate the mental attitudes of Jews themselves in the tragic drama of ritual sacrifice together with the accompanying religious beliefs, superstitious and magical elements. Due attention must be paid to the admissions which made historical and local context identifiable within a succession of German speaking territories on both sides of the Alps throughout the long period from the first crusade to the twilight of the Middle Ages. In substance, we should investigate the possible presence of Jewish beliefs relating to ritual child murders linked to the feast of Passover while attempting to reconstitute the significance of any such beliefs.
The trial records particularly the minutely detailed reports relating to the murder of little boy Simon of Trent cannot be dismissed on the assumption that all such records represent simply the specific deformation of beliefs held by the judges, who are alleged to have collected detailed but manipulated confessions by means of force and violence to ensure that all such confessions conformed to the anti-Jewish theories already in circulation at the time. A careful reading of the trial records in both form and substance recall too many features of the conceptual realities, rituals, liturgical practices, and mental attitudes typical of and exclusive to one distinct particular Jewish world features which can in no way be attributed to suggestion on the part of judges or prelates to be ignored. Only a frank analysis of these elements can make any valid, new and original contribution to the reconstruction of beliefs relating to child sacrifice held by Jewish perpetrators themselves — whether real or imagined – in addition to attitudes based on the unshakeable faith in their redemption and ultimate vengeance against gentiles emerging from blood and suffering which can only be understood in this context. In this Jewish Germanic world in continual movement profound currents of popular magic had over time, distorted the basic framework of Jewish “religious” law changing its forms and meanings. It is in these “mutations” in the Jewish tradition – which are so to speak authoritative – that the theological justifications of the commemoration in mockery of the passion of Christ is to be sought which in addition to its celebration in the liturgical rite, was also intended to revive in action and vengeance against a hated enemy continually reincarnated throughout the long history of Israel.
Paradoxically, in this process which is complex and anything but uniform, elements typical of Christian culture may be observed to rebound –sometimes inverted unconsciously but constantly– within Jewish beliefs mutating in turn and assuming new forms and meanings. These beliefs in the end became symbolically abnormal, distorted by a Judaism profoundly permeated by the underlying elements and characteristic features of an adversarial and detested religion, and unintentionally imposed by the same implacable Christian persecutor. We must therefore decide whether or not the confessions relating to the crucifixion of children by Jews the evening before Passover and the testimonies relating to the utilization of Christian blood in the “celebration” of the Talmudic feast, represent in actual fact or mere myths, i.e., beliefs and ideologies dating far back in time or actual ritual practices on events which actually occurred in reality and were celebrated in prescribed and consolidated forms, with their more or less fixed baggage of formulae and anathemas accompanying the magical practices and superstitions which formed an integral part of the mentality of the Jews themselves. In any case, we should avoid the easy short cut of considering these trials and testimonies only as projections of the stereotypes, superstitions, fears, and beliefs of the judges and populace. Such a method would trigger a process inevitably leading to the dismissal of these same testimonies as valueless documents with little basis in reality except as indications of the obsessions of a Christian society which saw in the Jew, merely a distorted mirror image of its own defects. This task appears to have seemed absolutely prohibitive to many scholars and well educated men of good will having concerned themselves with this difficult topic. First, Gavin Lanmuir who starting from the facts of Norwich, England considers the crucifixion and ritual haemotophagia which appear in two different phases of history, as simply the cultivated and interested inventions of ecclesiastical groups denying Jews any role at all except a merely passive one devoid of responsibility. Lanmuir was later followed by others who although examining the phenomenon of ritual child murder from different points of view, intelligently and competently starting with the late Middle Ages, paying particular attention to the Trent trial documentation, considered it all tout court and often a priori a baseless libel, an expression of hostility on the part of the Christian majority against the Jewish minority. According to the point of view adopted by these researchers, the inquisitor’s interrogation methods and tortures served no purpose other than to orchestrate a completely harmonious confession of guilt i.e., of adherence to a truth already existing in the minds of the inquisitors. The use of leading questions and a variety of stratagems, including in particular were intended to force the defendants to admit that the victim had indeed been kidnapped and tortured according to Jewish ritual, and finally killed in hatred of the Christian faith. The confessions are said to be obviously unbelievable since the murders were allegedly committed to permit the ritual use of Christian blood, in violation of the Biblical prohibition against the ingestion of blood, a prohibition scrupulously observed by all Jews. As to torture, it is best to recall that its use in the municipalities of northern Italy at least from the beginning of the 13th century was regulated not only by tractate but by statute as well. As an instrument for determining the truth, torture was permitted in the presence of serious and well-justified clues in cases in which it was considered truly necessary by the magistrate and judges. All confessions extorted in this manner to be considered valid had to be corroborated by the inquisitor under normal conditions i.e., in the absence of physical pain or even the threat of renewed torture. These procedures while unacceptable in our eyes today were normal and seem to have been observed in the case of the Trent trials. Israel Yuval, following in the footsteps of Cecil Roth’s stimulating pioneering study is more critical and seems more open minded. Yuval stresses the link between the ” blood libel” accusation and the phenomenon of mass suicides and child murders among the German Jewish communities during the first crusade.
The picture which emerges is one of Ashkenazi Jewry’s hostile and virulent reaction against surrounding Christian society — a reaction finding expression not only in liturgical invective but above all, in the conviction that Jews themselves were capable of compelling God to wreak bloody revenge against their Christian persecutors thus bringing redemption closer. More recently, Yuval very relevantly demonstrated that the Ashkenazi responses to ritual murder accusations were surprisingly weak. These responses whenever they were recorded contained not the slightest rejection of the probative evidence, but rather consisted of a mere tu quoque of the accusation against Christians: “Nor are you yourselves exempt from guilt of ritual cannibalism.” As Yuval wrote, David Malkiel had already noted the manner in which phenomenal prominence was given to the scene described in a secondary Midrash even in the illustrations of the Passover Haggadah of the German Jewish communities to the scene of the Pharaoh taking a health giving bath in the blood of cruelly massacred Jewish children. The message, which cast not the slightest doubt upon the magical therapeutic effectiveness of children’s blood seemed intended to turn the accusation around: “It is not we Jews or if you wish not just we Jews who have committed such actions; the enemies of Israel in history have been guilty of these things as well in which case it was Jewish children who were the innocent victims.” Any showing that these murders celebrated in the Passover ritual represented not just myths i.e., more or less consistently widespread consistent religious beliefs, but rather actual rites pertaining to organized groups and forms of worship which were actually practiced, requires a respect for due methodological prudence. The existence of this phenomenon once it is unequivocally proven, must be viewed within its historical, religious and social context, not to mention the geographical environment in which it is presumably said to have found expression with all the related and peculiar characteristics which cannot be replicated elsewhere. In other words, we must attempt to search for the heterogeneous elements and particular historical religious experiences which are alleged to have made the killing of Christian children for ritualistic purposes, appear plausible during a certain period within a certain geographical area within the German speaking regions of trans-Alpine, Cisalpine Italy and Germany or wherever there were strong ethnic elements of Jewish origin any time between the Middle Ages and the early modern era as the expression of collective adjustment of Jewish groups and a presumed desire on the part of God in this sense, or as the irrational instrument of pressure to reinforce that desire as well as in the mass suicides and child murders during the first crusade. In this research we should not be surprised to find customs and traditions linked to experiences which did not exist elsewhere; experiences which were to prove more deeply rooted than the standards of religious law itself although diametrically opposed in practice accompanied by all the appropriate and necessary formal and textual justifications. Action and reaction, instinctive, visceral, virulent, in which children, innocent and unaware, became the victims of vengeance. The blood of innocent Christian children bathing the altars of a God considered to be in need of guidance, and sometimes of impatient compulsion impelling him to protect and to punish. At the same time, we must keep in mind that in the German speaking Jewish communities the phenomenon where it took root, was generally limited to groups in which popular tradition which had over time distorted, evaded or replaced the ritual standards of Jewish halakhah in addition to deeply rooted customs saturated with magical and alchemical elements, all combined to form a deadly cocktail when mixed with violent and aggressive religious fundamentalism. There can be no doubt that once the tradition became widespread the stereotypical image of Jewish ritual child murder continued inevitably to take its own course out of pure momentum. Thus, Jews were accused of every child murder much more often wrongly than rightly especially if discovered in the springtime. In this sense, Cardinal Lorenzo Ganganelli later Pope Clement XIV was correct in his famous report in both his justifications and distinctions. The records of the ritual murder trials should be examined with great care and with all due caution.
In connection with the witchcraft trials, Carlo Ginzburg pointed out that the defendants in a trial of this type, […] “ended up by losing all sense of their own cultural identity as a result of the acceptance in whole or in part by violence or apparently out of spontaneous free choice of the hostile stereotype imposed by their persecutors. Anyone who fails to conform by simply repeating the results of these findings of historical violence must seek to work upon the rare cases in which the documentation is not just formally set forth in question and answer form, in which therefore, one may find fragments relatively immune from distortions of the culture which the persecution was intent upon blotting out.”
The Trent trials are a priceless document of this very kind. The trial records especially the cracks and rifts in the overall structure permitting the researcher to distinguish and differentiate, in substance, and not just in form between the information provided by the accused and the stereotypes imposed by the inquisitors, are dazzlingly clear. This fact cannot be glossed over or distorted by means of preliminary categorizations of an ideological or polemical nature, intended to invalidate those very distinctions. In many cases, everything the defendants said was incomprehensible to the judges – often, because their speech was full of Hebraic ritual and liturgical formulae pronounced with a heavy German accent, unique to the German Jewish community, which not even Italian Jews could understand; in other cases, because their speech referred to mental concepts of an ideological nature totally alien to everything Christian. It is obvious that neither the formulae nor the language can be dismissed as merely the astute fabrications and artificial suggestions of the judges in these trials. Dismissing them as worthless, as invented out of whole cloth, as the spontaneous fantasies of defendants terrorized by torture and projected to satisfy the demands of their inquisitors, cannot be imposed as the compulsory starting point, the prerequisite, for valid research, least of all for the present paper.
Any conclusion, of any nature whatsoever, must be duly demonstrated after a strict evaluation and verification of all the underlying evidence sine ira et studio, using all available sources capable of confirming or invalidating that evidence in a persuasive and cogent manner. The present paper could not have been written without the advice, criticism, meetings and discussions with Dani Nissim, a long-time friend, who, in addition to his great experience as a bibliographer and bibliophile, made available to me his profound knowledge of the history of the Jewish community of the Veneto region, and of Padua in particular. The conclusions of this work are nevertheless mine alone, and I have no doubt that that the above named persons would very largely disagree with them. I have engaged in lengthy discussions of the chapters on the Jews of Venice with Reiny Mueller, over the course of which I was given highly useful suggestions and priceless advice. Thanks are also due to the following persons for their assistance in the retrieval of the archival and literary documentation; for their encouragement and criticism, to Diego Quaglioni; Gian Maria Varanini; Rachele Scuro; Miriam Davide; Elliot Horowitz; Judith Dishon; Boris Kotlerman and Ita Dreyfus. Grateful thanks are also due to those of my students who participated actively in my seminars on the topic, held at the Department of Jewish History at Bar-Ilan University (2001-2002 and 2005-2006), during which I presented the provisional results of my research. First and foremost, I wish to thank Ugo Berti, who persuaded me to undertake this difficult task by giving me the courage to overcome the many foreseeable obstacles which stood in the way.