Ritual Murder: "Never, Never -- Hardly Ever"?
They Killed 'Em -- They Killed 'Em Not
Mea Culpa -- or Eppur Si Muove?
For a comparison between the original and revised editions of BLOOD PASSOVER [Pasque di Sangue], click here
For a short summary of deletions and interpolations, click here
For added chapter of no interest to anyone, click here
For quotes from Ronie Po-chia Hsia, click here
For general discussion of Toaff's newly invented fairy tale of the "voluntary donors", click here
For Ariel Toaff on the "Jewish Stink" and Other Items of Deliciousness (excerpts from Mostri giudei ["Jewish Monsters"]), click here
For excerpts from Toaff's alleged "recantation", click here
Blue = emphasis added to Toaff’s remarks
Red = my comments
Quote from Ronnie Po-chia Hsia in green
Though related to a peer,
I can hand, reef and steer,
And ship a selvagee,
I am never known to quail
At the fury of a gale,
And I’m never, never sick at sea!
He’s hardly ever sick at sea!
Gilbert and Sullivan, H.M.S. Pinafore
Trials and Historical Methodology
In Defence of Blood Passover
(from revised edition, November 2007, with Toaff's "recantation")
[COMMENT: This is Toaff's "recantation". Note that every apparent concession is immediately followed by a counter-attack. That he does not believe in his own fairy tale of the "voluntary donors"-- inserted under duress -- is quite obvious, but will be analyzed separately.
Toaff is well aware that one cannot assert a negative in situations in which the positive is not only easily possible, but is inherent in the very nature of the situation.
This is the reason for the constant zig-zagging back and forth between the "never, never" and the "hardly ever".]
Even before my essay Blood Passover became available for purchase in bookstores, and immediately afterwards, I was attacked with extreme violence in Italy, Israel and the United States for what I had written, even by those who had not even read it. These attacks were made, not just out of a concern for scholarly accuracy, but also, and in particular, on grounds of an ethical and political nature. I do not presume that my book is without defect; but I consider the extremely intemperate attacks on me to have been unjustified -- all the more so in a country like Italy, which has no censorship, and which has witnessed the indulgent publication and indulgent acceptance of books of a far lower scholarly standard than my own.
I wish to respond here to the criticisms directed against me by historians; I will respond only to those who have actually attempted to study my research methodology, my use and selection of sources, and the correctness of the hypotheses and conclusions which I proposed and considered myself justifying in suggesting. I wish to respond in a detailed and documented manner, for the purpose of avoiding involuntary or intentional misunderstanding. As a learned 19th century rabbi from Ancona once remarked with some bitterness, “The words leaving your mouth, flying away with the wind, will reach the ears of your neighbour. He who wishes you well, will hear what you say; he who wishes you ill, will hear what he likes”.
To eliminate any possible misunderstanding on this point, I would like to summarize the object and boundaries of my research. First of all, I wish to state clearly that I have no doubt whatever that so-called “ritual murder or child murder” must be relegated
to the rank of myths -- not rites actually practiced by Jewish communities living and working in the German-speaking territories of northern Italy, although Jews were accused of these murders many times during the Middle Ages and afterwards. “Ritual murder” was -- and is -- a slanderous stereotype.
[Translation into English: They never killed ‘em. Never! Honest!]
Nevertheless, the possibility that criminal acts, accompanied by crude ritualistic stage-play, may actually have been committed, in some cases, by groups of extremists or individuals with minds unhinged by religious mania and blinded by a desire for revenge against those whom they believed responsible for the trials and tragedies of their people, cannot be excluded.
[Translation: Well, OK, maybe they killed ‘em, but only once in a while!
This is the old Gilbert and Sullivan joke of “Never, Never -- Hardly Ever”.
Toaff is playing a game with us. The game is:
They killed ‘em, they killed ‘em not.
They killed ‘em, they killed’ em not,
They killed ‘em.
But don't worry -- when they killed 'em, they weren't really Jews -- just "individuals with minds unhinged by religious mania and blinded by a desire for revenge, etc"!
This is the old game of changing your definitions every time the argument goes against you. The manner in which Jews habitually switch back and forth between philosophical systems to suit themselves has been noted elsewhere. When a Jew commits a crime, he is an individual, an isolated person; we are individualists. When a Christian criticizes a Jew, he is an "anti-Semite", a member of a group, bearing hereditary guilt; we are collectivists; all Christians are guilty.]
There is nothing in support of this possibility [...] except the confessions of men sentenced to death -- confessions obtained by violent torture. The truthfulness of these confessions remains entirely to be proven.
Having said the above, I wish to state that my research was principally intended to investigate the role of the so-called “blood culture” in the German-speaking Jewish world and in the surrounding Christian society. This role was an all-purpose one -- therapeutic, magical and alchemical, warding off evil and bringing good fortune, setting at nought the strict Biblical and rabbinical prohibition against the ingestion of blood. In substance, I proposed to verify the extent to which [...] these practices, modelled by foreign influences, modified the norm; I wished to study the unforeseen or unpredictable consequences of these practices, in terms of open and bitter conflict with the Christian community. In other words, I wished to reconstruct the popular the beliefs of Medieval Ashkenazi Judaism, in its full life and depth: drenched in superstition and magic, and animated by visceral anti-Christian sentiments – a world more or less intentionally relegated to oblivion, at least until recent times.
The Trent trial for the murder of little Simoncino (1475), and the extensive related trial documentation made available at a later time, enabled me to perform a detailed examination of the confessions of those accused of this crime. I wondered whether these confessions -- bearing in mind that they were extorted by torture -- might nevertheless contain elements attributable to the mentality, traditions and particular rites of those particular Jews, in terms of their everyday lives, and the celebration of their festivities -- particularly, Passover. Based on an extensive comparison and cross-referenced checking of Hebrew sources, I concluded that there were indeed grounds to suppose that the magical, symbolic use of blood, dried and reduced to powder,
had become, over time -- despite rabbinical opposition -- an integral part of particular rites and liturgies relating to the Jewish Passover. The picture which emerges from the extensive Jewish documentation recently published by Israel Yuval is reflected in the statements of the Trent defendants -- clearly indicating that the use of blood was indeed characteristic, in particular, of extremist Ashkenazi groups, whose strength in terms of numbers is difficult to estimate. During the Passover meal, these people -- the products of a German Judaism decimated by the traumas of the Crusades, by massacres and forced baptism -- expressed their resolute aversion to Christianity by means of the so-called “ritual of curses”. According to this hypothesis, which I considered established by significant factual material, these consecrated anathemata acquired additional, terrible, magic power when a few grains of powdered Christian blood were symbolically dissolved in wine, transforming it into the blood of Edom – Christianity, the uncompromising persecutor – against whom these curses were directed. Upon the conclusion of this deterrent liturgy, the polluted wine was thrown away, without being brought to the mouths of those at the table. Between this dried blood, utilised in the rite – obtained from unknown but self-interested “donors”, who remained alive and well, but came from indigent families,
we buy blood
[COMMENT: We defy Toaff to provide proof of the existence of these “voluntary donors” in even one, single, solitary case, let a alone a generalized practice over centuries. As it turns out, the “proof” consists of a single sentence from Ronnie Po-chia Hsia’s MYTH OF RITUAL MURDER, falsified, mistranslated and taken out of context, totally distorting the plain meaning of both context and sentence. This is the sort of thing that ruins the reputation of an historian.
Is THAT game “worth the candle”?
Well, apparently so, since one of John Demianiuk’s defenders in Israel was nearly blinded by an acid thrower while attending a funeral, while another “committed suicide” by "falling" from a 15th story window.
In short, these fairy tales about “voluntary donors” are about as “voluntary” as any confession ever given under torture. ]
and the alleged “ritual murders”, there was no connection at all, except in the minds of the judges (and not just those at Trent), interested in bringing the Jews into association with the accusation.
[COMMENT: No connection at all -- absolutely none – how could anyone possibly imagine such a thing? -- except for the discovery of the body, found nearby, drained of blood and bearing the wounds typical of nearly all alleged Jewish ritual murder cases.
Who finds the heifer dead and bleeding fresh
And sees fast by a butcher with an axe,
But will suspect 'twas he that made the slaughter?
Who finds the partridge in the puttock's nest,
But may imagine how the bird was dead,
Although the kite soar with unbloodied beak?
-Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 2, Act 3, scene 2]
According to their tendentious interpretation, the magical, therapeutic, alchemical use of blood, warding off evil and bringing good fortune, was used in support of this deadly blood calumny, shoring up the plausibility of the accusation.
And it is at this point that I wish to state that, in my opinion, scholarly research – and this includes the field of history -- cannot be subjected to preconditions linked to ideological postulates or political expediency. There are no areas of research to which access is prohibited for fear that someone might come up with a hypothesis contradicting the standards of “political correctness” or general acceptability. Otherwise, the foundations of freedom and progress – forming the very basis of scholarly research and its ability to shatter existing paradigms -- may be seriously hobbled or even crippled. The search for historical truth cannot -- and must not -- be made the servant of considerations of political expediency or conditioned by instrumentalisation and distortion. But once he has entered the mine field one has chosen to investigate,
an historian has a duty to handle documents correctly: bringing new sources to light; rereading known sources from a new point of view – points of views plausible on the grounds of scholarship -- supporting his hypotheses with adequate arguments, the solidity of which should be constantly checked.
In entering the field of Jewish historical research, these problems become particularly complex. Unless one prefers to write predictable apologetics or contribute the nth building stone to an atemporal, stereotypical reconstruction of the past, the obvious and real danger of anti-Semitism, with its infinite instrumentalisation of generalisations made in bad faith, its hatred for Jews and Israel, pregnant with contemporary implications, overshadows the topic at all times, menacingly and threateningly. Is the game worth the candle? My answer is, regardless of everything, affirmative and without hesitation. Studying the real history of the Jews (not of Judaism) in both a positive and negative sense, abandoning the schema of the “vale of tears”, in which there are only ever-suffering victims [...] can only serve to reinforce Jewish identity: not a “virtual”, constantly “edifying” identity, but an active working force in history, with all its errors and inevitable contradictions, beyond artificial or self-interested schematizations.
Paradoxically, among those who openly oppose this historical point of view -- apart from those who wish the Jews well and wish to bring them closer to themselves with embraces which are sometimes suffocating -- many Jews also view with suspicion the work of the historian, if not with open disapproval. As observed with acuity by Yosef Haim Yerushalmi, “those Jews who still seek to maintain themselves within the enchanted circle of tradition, or who only returned to it recently, consider the work of the historian quite irrelevant: they do not desire the historicity of the past, but its eternal, immutable contemporaneousness” (1).
[...] Dialogue with such people can be conducted usefully on other levels, but not on that of scholarly research.
One more word on the mass media, often interested in the abnormal and the scandalous, conditioning a large segment of public opinion on topics of which the public often knows nothing, but wishes to learn the essentials immediately. In this situation, the art of presenting a book without taking the trouble of reading for oneself has become a highly sophisticated pastime -- as brilliantly described recently by Pierre Bayard (Comment parler des livres qu’on a pas lus?, Paris, 2007). All one need do is analyse the cover, imagine the contents of the book, read half a review of it, hastily written by someone who may or may not have read it either -- and the result is a lengthy series of “virtual” debates and research congresses, accompanied by the intervention of politicians and men of the Church and synagogue. Historical research -- which should be studied and evaluated using the professional tools of persons trained in historical research, thus falls easy and tempting prey to “know-it-alls” in search of scandal and instant enjoyment. For an historian to be complicit in arousing a media hullaballoo for purposes of advertising promotion would, in reality, be quite counter-productive, automatically disqualifying him as a serious profession. Libraries and archives, seminars and conference halls, might perhaps be less attractive to television studios or newspaper editorials, but they are doubtlessly the only natural environment compatible with the work of the historian. Outside of this environment, the historian is like a fish out of water, deprived of the tools and language of his craft, faced by audiences fatally distinct from the kind of audiences he would have preferred to address.
Several people have stated that the papers of the inquisitorial trials -- conducted in secrecy and quite arbitrarily, apart from the fact that they were conducted by means of the aberrant and systematic recourse to torture to obtain piloted, symmetrical confessions from the accused -- may at most be utilised as prosecution documents, revealing the mentality of the prosecutors. The depositions of the defendants are said, in fact, to be obviously unreliable, since they were extorted using the terrible power of torture, an instrument capable of forcing anybody to confess anything. Conceding even a patina of reliability to the confessions of Jews in “ritual murder” trials is said to be like giving credence to the guilt of witches, the heiresses to this stereotype, who were accused of flying through the night on broom sticks to obscene trysts with the devil.
Still, the total unreliability of trial documents and confessions extorted under torture is only superficially obvious – as is the highly convenient reference to witches. In fact, without detracting from our more-than-obvious condemnation of a cruel and detestable inquisitorial instrument (unfortunately still in use today), we may legitimately ask ourselves whether the tortured persons lied always and in every case, and only confessed what their tormenters wished to hear. In other words, if the confessions extorted by the judges and inquisitors were not generally true, can we say that they were always false? The uncritical rejection tout court and a priori of the validity of all confessions obtained under torture also implies the rejection of a great many historical studies – even excellent, recent ones -- on heresies and heretics; after all, these, too, are based almost exclusively based on trial documents (2).
And how are we to react in those cases in which the accused -- although tortured – failed to confess to the accusation? Let me cite one example. Roper -- known as Schneider Jüd, a Christian who worked as a tailor, was a friend of the Jews of Trent and often visited their homes -- was arrested with the other defendants and repeatedly subjected to cruel torments for the purpose of making him confess. This “good German”, however, never admitted anything – in my view, because he didn’t know anything -- and the judges were compelled to release him, much against their will. Must we assume, in this case, that this one Christian tailor was simply equipped with a sturdier physical constitution than that of the Jews, enabling him to endure torture? Or must we suppose, with Ronnie Po-Chia Hsia (Trent 1475. A Ritual Murder Trial, New Conn., 1992), that the tailor’s obvious affection for the Jewish families involved acted as a fortifying tonic? We find it hard to believe.
But there is more. In other, particularly important, cases, the great majority of the most highly accredited Jewish historians view the confessions of tortured persons in a diametrically opposite manner, conceding to them a degree of plausibility and credibility laden with extraordinary implications. Thousands of Spanish and Portuguese defendants were dragged before the terrible ecclesiastical tribunals, subjected to exuberant doses of torture and constrained to confess. Many of them were cruelly executed and their bodies burnt in
autos-da-fé, victims of a perverse legal system which permitted no valid defence. Here as well, there were chain-reaction denunciations; here, as well, the confessions were detailed and symmetrical. Here, as well, trial documents are almost the only documents we have in throwing light on the heresy of the marranos, whether real or imagined.
Some of the most prominent Jewish historians have nevertheless expressed not the slightest doubt in this regard. The confessions of the accused, subjected to unbearable torment, were said to testify faithfully to rites actually practiced by them, in secret, and to their full and undefended adherence to Judaism (which was precisely what the inquisitors wanted to make them say). Yitzhak Baer (A History of the Jews in Christian Spain, Philadelphia, Pa., 1961), fully shares this romantic and stereotypical thesis, according to which a submerged, but heroic, Jewish life was emerged with perfect clarity from the papers of the Inquisition. The trials were said to have shown “that the majority of the conversos were true Jews”; that “conversos and Jews constituted one and the same people, joined by links of religion, destiny and Messianic faith”; and that the Inquisition was substantially correct in its appraisal of the character of the conversos”.
“In this lay the principle value of the records of the Inquisition. The confessions and testimonies contained in those records breathe nostalgia and intense desire of their national homeland, both terrestrial and celestial, and the consuming aspiration towards all those things, both small and large, sanctified by national tradition, and towards something, even grander, serving to create the people and keep it alive” (II, pp. 424-425) (3).
To tell the truth, some historians have expressed serious doubts as the plausibility of this idyllic reconstruction of the Jewish-converso heresy. The Portuguese historian Antonio José Saraiva (Inquisão e Cristãos Novos, Oporto, 1969) argues forcefully that the true aim of the Holy Office was the fabrication, rather than the destruction, of crypo-Jews. Nearly all the victims of the Inquisition, both persons tortured and confessed offenders, were alleged to have been sincere Catholics who had nothing to do with Jewish practices (4).
But his conclusions have been generally and wilfully ignored, or hotly disputed, by Jewish historiography (5).
Before him, a Jewish historian, Benzion Netanyahu (The Marranos of Spain, New York, 1966), arrived at very similar research findings [...] claiming that the
[Once again: "Never, Never!"]
This regardless of the fact that perhaps it may, to some extent, have had some correspondence, in sad reality, to crimes committed by individuals deranged by obsessions of a religious nature, transferred to the realm of action (Pasque di sangue, p. 117, first edition).
["Hardly Ever!". See also note on definition changing, above.]
This is a “Hesitation Waltz” if I ever heard one.]
But it is a mistake to hold that the other, specific practices of the groups I investigated, as revealed by the statements of defendants under torture, are to be considered tout court as myths.
A few years ago, the historian Israel Yuval (“Two Nations in Your Womb”: Perceptions of Jews and Christians, Tel Aviv, 2000), reconstructed the particular rites and liturgy of extremists fringes active within the Jewish community in the German-speaking territories, decimated by massacres and forced conversions during the Crusades. Yuval, who had not examined the Trent trials, reconstructed the so-called ritual of the anti-Christian curses, practiced by these Ashkenazi Jews at Passover, which also found expression in the course of the Haggadah, when they listed the ten plagues of Egypt and rhythmically sprinkled the wine from the chalice onto the table.
The rite -- with its particular formulae, absent from the Passover liturgy of Italian, Sephardic and Oriental Jews, as well as from the liturgy generally adopted by other Ashkenazi Jews, is described in the Sefer Ha-rokeach, by rabbi Jacob Mulin Segal (Maharil), who lived in Italy between the 14th and 15th centuries, as well as in certain Franco-German Jewish texts remaining in manuscript form (14).
In stating his conclusions, Yuval stressed that the ritual of the curses in the Haggadah had indeed transformed the Jewish Passover, substituting an historical commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt with aspirations for a Messianic redemption built upon revenge against the Christians, “using particularly violent and aggressive expressions which one might search for in vain among Jews of Iberian origin” (15).
Well, this ritual of the curses, reconstructed by Yuval, reappears, in precise form and to the letter, in the confessions of the Trent defendants: we find the same particular liturgy, the same sequence of operations. The implications of this fact should in no way be underestimated if it is really desired to reconstruct the mentality of the Ashkenazi Jews who moved Germany to Trent. Moreover, as I will attempt to explain below, the reality of the rite of the “Christian blood in the wine” during the Passover dinner is a hypothesis which cannot be rejected a priori.
I disagree with the criticism, raised against me by Carlo Ginzburg, that “those accounts (of alleged “ritual murders”) were interpolated into descriptions of ceremonies with which the accused were familiar, such as, predictably, the Jewish Passover”, and that “the presence of anti-Christian elements in the ritual described, under torture, by the accused”, amounted to “a generic cultural context”. In fact, the confessions of the accused at Trent give a clear and well-founded impression that the rites described are not normal ceremonies of the Jewish Passover, but particular Passover rites, proper to a fringe of the German Jewish community, with virulently anti-Christian connotations.
The depositions given under torture by the accused at Trent have even, moreover, in some cases, been used as credible historical sources in the past (16).
An examination of the confession of Lazzaro da Serravalle, servant of Angelo da Verona, describing the contents of the Passover sermon of Samuele da Nuremberg, reveals the characteristic central motif: the spurious birth of Jesus, conceived by the Virgin during her menstrual period.
As has been appropriately stressed, this theme appeared only in some late fifteenth and sixteenth century versions of the famous anti-Christian text Toledot Yeshu, “The Stories of Jesus”, and has revealed itself “of importance due to the information it contains of relevance to the Trent trial, and remains, for the moment, the oldest source explicitly considering Jesus the son of a menstruating woman”. The “narrator’s German origins” have also been noted, indicating “a possible German Jewish origin of the source as well” (17).
It therefore seems obvious that the anti-Christian content of Lazzaro da Serravalle’s confession under torture have not always, at least in this case, been perceived as merely evocative, self-interested interpolations by the Trent judges; on the contrary, they have been recognised as reconstructions of authentic, undamaged fragments of a mentality and culture peculiar to the Ashkenazi Jewish defendants. I do not believe, in this sense, that an unreliable source has been utilised in an uncritical, or at least suspect, manner.
I note with some surprise that Ronnie Po-Chia Hsia declares himself in agreement with me on the authenticity of the trial records describing the anti-Christian invective and the fervent profession of faith of Israel da Brandenburg, one of the protagonists of the Trent occurrences, prior to being taken to execution. Torture is, it is true, a source of hatred (18).
But upon what basis is it supposed that this attitude of
anti-Christian hostility on the part of the young German Jew was not part and parcel of the cultural and psychological heritage of the Jewish world from which he came, regardless of any tortures to which he was subjected?
I have repeatedly stressed that the testimonies of the accused in inquisitorial trials should not be disqualified a priori, but deserve careful analysis, based on their constituent elements and an appropriate investigations and references, such as to permit the formulation of well-founded hypotheses. One recent comment is well taken:
“For year, the historians of pre-modern Europe normally based their work on the papers of the Inquisition and other archive material, containing trial sources, as first-hand sources. With regards to the recourse to torture in medieval and pre-modern judicial systems, the method of utilisation of these sources presents a delicate methodological problem. It seems to me that the best way to face this problem is to examine all the archive sources, bar none, as texts to be interpreted. Origins, intended recipient, type of document, considerations as to the production and conservation of the material, language (language and works for structuralists) and numerous other factors should be taken into consideration in establishing whatever significance these fragments of the past may still possess for us. In methodological terms, this appears to be the crucial point in evaluating Toaff’s work -- not just an a priori consideration that the use of trial records is a mistake (19).”
In my view, this is still the core question -- not the uncritical, preconceived rejection of procedural sources considered suspect.
Equivocal and suspect sources
Several people have accused me of having unhesitatingly “drunk from the polluted fountain of the anti-Semites and converts”, the latter, naturally malevolent and resentful of their ex-companions in the faith. To start with, I am said to have “fished with both hands” from the “notorious” Dissertazione apologetic sul martirio del beato Simone da Trento (Trent, 1747), by the Franciscan Benedetto Bonelli, a hagiographic text unanimously discredited by the most alert historians.
Well, I defy anyone who has read my book without prejudice to find one single instance in which I have made reference to the texts
contained in the Dissertazione, which I consider “invalidated by anti-Semitic prejudice” (20).
Yet the transcription of the texts of the Trent trials, as published by Bonelli, are faithful and precise at all times. Proof, if proof was ever needed, that the passages published by Quaglione and Esposito contain no perceptible discrepancies in this regard (21).
In my book, I made reference to these transcriptions, almost always reproduced by the erudite Franciscan in the notes; I consider the transcriptions reliable and technically accurate. My quotations from Bonelli therefore relate exclusively to records of the Trent trials not yet published by Quaglione. The recently-announced forthcoming publication of this additional material will no doubt confirm my opinion in this sense.
I took a similar course of action in relation to another declaredly hagiographic text, that of the priest Giuseppe Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento (Trent, 1902). Ignoring the polemical lucubrations and anti-Semitic delirium of the Trent priest, I referred exclusively to that part of his text which, as Quaglione has already observed, constitutes “almost a pure and simple paraphrase of the trial transcripts” (22).
A separate discussion is required for the texts of the converted Jews to which I made reference in Pasque di sangue, in a manner similar to my treatment of similar material in my preceding books, which were nevertheless praised and much appreciated by my critics. Several people even extended their censorious judgement to my colleague Elliot Horowitz, accused of delving too deeply into the unreliable and tendentious literature of the neophytes.
Let us take the most significant example, that of the large-scale proselytizing text composed by the Venetian Shemuel Nahmias, a disciple of Leon da Modena, baptised under the name of Giulio Morosini (Derekh Emunah. Via della fede mostrata algi ebrei, Rome, 1683). I have no hesitation in maintaining that the Morosini’s book is a text of exceptional importance, in some ways the only one of its kind, for having provided a detailed and absolutely accurate description of popular rites and beliefs, including the most ancient of these rites, widespread among Jews living in Italy, all memory of which would otherwise have been irremediably lost. It is my belief that (apart from his personal comments, which are motivated by obvious anti-Jewish resentment) the descriptions provided, by Morosini, of Jewish religious customs is more extensive, detailed and less reticent, than the overly-praised (until recently) Riti ebraici by Leon da Modena (Paris, 1637; Venice, 1638).
The importance of this text lies, not, in fact, in the author’s arguments of a polemical, confessional or polemical nature,
but rather, as stressed by Fausto Parente, in the “truly minute awareness of Jewish ritualistic law” demonstrated by the author (23).
I have attempted to show the manner in which the above described German Jewish world, drenched in superstition and alchemical magical, traumatized by experiences of violence and tragedy, often careless in their compliance with the laws of their countries of residence and even official Jewish ritualistic law, suspicious and diffident of Italians, both Jewish and Christian, finally, and fatally, became the target of the blood accusation (29).
My reconstruction of the mentality and behaviour of this Judaism of Germanic origin has been substantially accepted by many scholars (30).
By others, however, it has been judged with unjustified severity:
“Toaff has an interpretive paradigm all his own, which attributes infanticide and ritual murder more generally, not to all Jews but only against the Ashkenazi. This Jewish world of the German-speaking territories, barbarized by rituals and dominated by a superstitious faith in the therapeutic and magical uses of blood, driven by deeply-rooted hatreds of the Christian population, has seemed to him the right candidate for the origins of infanticide and for its dissemination up to the borders regions of Trent and the Veneto. But why doesn’t he make it clear that bishop Hinderbach came from this same Germanic world as well, and that, in his mind, the conviction of the guilt of the Jews was established from the very outset of the trial?” (31)
My text, by contrast, is quite clear and explicit in this regard:
The participants in this magical mental horizon included not only the Jews, accused of witchcraft and infanticide, ritual cannibalism and evil spells, but their accusers as well, obsessed with diabolical presences and the continual search for virtuous talismans and stupendous antidotes, capable of curing and preserving the body and soul from the wiles of men and demons. Giovanni Hinderbach, prince bishop of Trent, the true organizer of the 1475 trials, had grown up in Vienna in the years following the great massacre of the Jews, accused of backing the Hussites (1421) and exposed by that same Duke Albert II to bloody vengeance as partisans of the heretics. Even before poor Simonino’s child murder, when he had not yet risen to his official fame as "punisher of the Jewish murderers", Hinderbach had already found ways to show his lack of sympathy for them. In one case, thus, he had not hesitated to express his self-satisfied approval of cannibalism, when the victims were Jews. During the military confrontation between Venice and Trieste in 1465, during which Friedrich III intended to enforce his rights, Hinderbach, who was then acting as imperial ambassador before the government of the Serenissima, sang the praises of the Hapsburg militia, called upon to defend Trieste, for their courage and their demonstrated loyalty to the Emperor. By true right, observed the pious bishop, the German soldiers, in case of necessity, rather than lay down their arms, were to alleviate their hunger by eating the flesh of cats, rats and mice; and even that of local Jews, Jews resident in the city.
Friedrich III was, as Burcardo di Andwil informs us, in addition to mathematical sciences, a passionate cultivator of astrology and necromancy, and for this reason is said to have remarked that he liked to surround himself with Jews and Chaldeans, people highly partial to superstitious practices. But Friedrich’s faithful servant, Hinderbach, was no less so. Magic and witchcraft in fact exercised an irresistible fascination over the humanist bishop, who was a friend of Enea Silvio Piccolomini. Hinderbach assimilated Jews outright with necromanticists, always ready to perform exorcisms and curses in the service of the devil. Demons love blood; and the necromancers who resuscitated cadavers used blood with little parsimony in their divination, mixing it with water taken from fountains and rivers. Hinderbach had no hesitation in maintaining that the Jews were enchanters and necromancers, "because they kill Christian children and drink and consume their blood, as they did last year at Trent, and in many other places it has been discovered and proven". The practical Caballah, which these Jews followed more or less in secret, was to be assimilated in all respects to black magic and necromancy. It is to be noted that, during the first festival of the sainted child, held at Trent in 1589 with a great confluence of people, a celebrative pamphlet, later published in Rome, was compiled with the title of Ristretto della vita et martirio di S. Simone fanciluuo della citta di Trento. This work maintained, in the wake of Hinderbach, that the child had been killed by the Jews, "followers of the Caballah, vain science under which name magic and necromancy often hide" (32). [pp 69-72 of original Blood Passover]
Moreover, regarding the problematical depositions of Giovanni da Feltre, the converted Jew held prisoner in the castle of Buonconsiglio who denounced his erstwhile companions in the faith, I never simply quoted a second-hand document without ever bothering to consult publications containing and reproducing the original trial sources. In fact, I cited the text published by Quaglione -- with the relevant discussion in this regard -- word for word and at great length -- in the Chapter Five (33).
The far-from-idyllic relations between Italian and Ashkenazi Jews and their respective cultural and religious worlds has been the topic of much debate. Some people have even attempted to circumvent Israel Yuval’s persuasive arguments that the virulence of the anti-Christian attitudes of this German Jewish community was its most salient characteristic. In effect, any entirely positive description of the late Medieval Ashkenazi world would appear artificial to me, and not very believable, not to mention the unjustified mirage of idealised relations between Italian Jews and Ashkenazi immigrants. Serious historians with a profound knowledge of Jewish realities in the Italy of late Middle Ages and early modern period, like Isaia Sonne, have debunked this legend -- a legend utterly lacking any significant supporting documentation.
In his writings, Yoseph Ha-Cohen (Giuseppe Sacerdoti da Voltaggio), the most important chronicler of 16th century Italy, took a strongly hostile attitude towards Jews of Germanic origin, to whom he attributed innumerable misdeeds, blaming them directly for many expulsions and even the conflagrations of Jewish books. Sonne provided a coherent explanation of the motives inspiring the attitudes of the chronicler, paradigmatic, according to him, of relations between Italian and Ashkenazi Jews.
“Yoseph H-Cohen takes pains to stress that the German Jews, with their wickedness of soul and behaviours [sic], were the cause of the crisis in the relations between the Jews and surrounding society in Italy. The opinion of Italian Jews – particularly, those of Sephardic origin – of Ashkenazi Jews resembled that of cultured Italians towards uneducated German barbarian. Every time Yoseph Ha-Cohen turns his accusations against the Ashkenazis, he hastens to specify the Jewish sources from which he has drawn the information [...] as if to distance himself from the accusation that he is repeating mere anti-Semitic propaganda. For this reason, he takes pains to ensure that his statements are always confirmed by Jewish witnesses above any suspicion.
“Elsewhere, we run into rare Jewish sources and documents relating to the facts and events which must be revealed only to a few persons, because in great part, it seems, they could feed the propaganda of the anti-Semites. This is the reason for which they were intentionally destined for oblivion by many official historians of our people. For the opposite reason, these accounts have been preserved in non-Jewish documentation. Among the Jews, accounts of those facts were handed down from generation to generation only to a few elect, which made use of them when they saw fit.”
Isaia Sonne wrote this note in volume no. XXII of the “Hebrew Union College Annual”, published at Cincinnati in 1949, and republished in 1954, in Hebrew, in Jerusalem, in an appendix to his classical essay on the Jews in Italy at the time of the Counter-Reformation, stating that, in dealing with Jewish history, the Jews have always practiced a form of rigid self-censorship, deleting or consigning to forgetfulness any facts or events which might be unpleasant or counterproductive compared to the image one wished to convey of the Jewish people. The intention, a correct one, was to prevent Jews themselves from supplying later anti-Semites with additional weapons in support of their designs. The cui prodest was thus in effect in the writing of the history of the Jews even then; as a result, the official historiography of the Jews was rendered uniform, characterised by rigid adherence to this criterion of prudence.
Blood. Myths or rites?
As is well known, the Biblical prohibition against eating or drinking blood is absolute and inflexible (Lev. 17. 10-12, Deut. 23-25, etc.). Jewish ritualistic law, halakhah, based on the Mishnah of the Talmud, subjects the prohibition against the ingestion of blood to rigid and minute standardisation, intended to prevent even inadvertent contravention of this provision, considered among the fundamental elements of Jewish identity. The accusation of the Trent judges that the Jews ingested blood during the Passover dinner and committed ritual murder to procure it, therefore appeared to lack any basis in fact -- a detestable calumny with which to smite the defendants, designated as guilty without appeal from the very outset. Many scholars have gladly adopted this conclusion as their own, sparing them the trouble of uncomfortable and indelicate investigation into the subject.
Piero Camporesi in a magnificent study of twenty years ago (Il sugo della vita. Simbolismo e magia del sangue. Milan, 1988), illustrated the manner in which, in popular medicine, blood -- and “young” blood in particular -- constituted an indispensable component of primary importance in the preparation of unguents, restrictive pomades, magical electuaries and philtrums of proven effectiveness. The more expert specialists knew how to prepare and treat the blood with care and affection so that it would fully manifest its marvellous therapeutic qualities. Young blood, ingested in the right dosages, proved itself the infallible remedy for reducing one’s own biological age.
In my book, I attempted to show the manner in which magic and popular medicine, superstition and alchemy, was handed down, slowly but profoundly, in both Christian society and broad -- certainly the less educated – segments of the Ashkenazi Jewish community (including the Jews of Trent) flagrantly circumventing and ignoring even the strictest and most basic standards of Jewish ritualistic law. First, a few words about the prohibition against the ingestion of blood (34).
In the heart of the Christian and Jewish West, the Jews, with slight hesitation, ingested animal and human blood, cooked, dried and reduced to powder, attributing to it extraordinary magical, exorcistic and therapeutic powers. That which appears repellent to us today, possessed, at the time, an irresistible fascination and power of seduction. Thus, recourse to oils and balms extracted from fetid mummies; medications based on powders prepared from the craniums of hanged men; unguents and pomades of human fat, encountered, in practice,
no obstacles impeding their use, among either Christians or Jews.
Following in the wake of David Sperber’s ground-breaking studies in this field, (Mihhaghe’Israel, “The Customs of the Jewish People”, Jerusalem, 1991), I reached the conclusion that, as regards German Judaism, customs rooted in time often had the power of evading and sometimes completely annulling Biblical and Talmudic norms. The rabbis were therefore constrained, a posteriori and against their will, to stoop to pacts with this fact of reality, of which they disapproved, seeking to mitigate the violence of the consequences (35).
The handbooks of segullot, secret remedies and medications drawn up and disseminated by experts in the Caballah, as practiced by Ashkenazi Judaism in the Middle Ages and the early modern era, contain a vast range of recipes based on blood, used as a haemostatic and in oral transfusions, the magical and therapeutic efficacy of which was taken for granted. The lists of the “secrets” of Elia Loans, the Baal Shem of Worms, of Shabbatai Lipschütz, Sacharja Plongiany Simoner and many others -- more or less well known -- Ashkenazi specialists in spagyrics [herbal medicines using alchemical procedures], prescribe dried, young human blood as a coagulant powder believed to possess extraordinary virtues in healing the circumcision wound. The blood of the ibex was prescribed to cure epilepsy. Another cure for epilepsy was the menstrual blood of a virgin, dried and dissolved in wine; that of rabbits was used to facilitate pregnancy, while young menstrual blood was prescribed to mitigate excessive menstrual flow (36).
Love potions were prepared with human blood, extracted from the sufferer’s little finger, dissolved in wine and administered to a beloved person resistant to courting.
It has been objected that the texts of these segullots date back to historical periods postdating the Trent Trial, i.e., the 16th and 17th century; while the ritual responses which I cited among the sources -- although originating from the same geographical area – only date back to the 18th century. But anyone even slightly familiarity with handbooks of popular medicine of this kind knows that the same unchanged recipes are reproduced over and over again for centuries. We have obvious proof of this in the utilisation of young blood in powdered form (even, and particularly, of Jewish and not Christian children) as a marvellous haemostatic for the circumcision wound, recommended in the segullot handbooks of the Baal Shem of Worms (of Lipschütz and Simoner, apparently already adopted and widespread in the 15th century Ashkenazi communities of
both Germany and Italy, as reported, among other things, by the accused at Trent, in testimony which must be considered quite credible. We should not therefore be astonished if a large part of these ancient recipes (rarely, those contemplating the use of blood) are still republished in Israel today, intended for a well-defined, but in no way restricted, clientele. Among this segment of the population (often the more Orthodox, but not always), of not inconsiderable importance and numbers, long-established superstitious customs and a faithful adherence to the empirical remedies of the practical Caballah continue to possess very considerable importance. As for the ritual responsals, their authors, among them Jacob Reischer of Prague (1670-1734), in permitting the use of blood taken orally (in this case, animal blood) for therapeutic purposes, but not in the case of serious illnesses, make reference to the custom, in force from time immemorial in the German-speaking territories, so much so as to permit the rabbis to declare the custom, flatly, minhagh Israel, that is, a “Jewish custom consolidated over time”, capable of possessing validity even in contradiction to the standards of the Torah (37).
As I said, the rabbis found themselves, often obtorto collo [against their will] and a posteriori, constrained to accept a reality which conflicted with the norm. They knew they were powerless to modify a deeply-rooted custom, and therefore opted for the only alternative remaining available to them: that of limiting the consequences of an obvious violation of the dictates of the Torah. To accomplish this, they decided to permit the consumption of blood, in minimum quantities, only when dried and deprived of any alimentary connotation (“when it has been rendered dry to such a point as to be transformed into a piece of wood, all humidity having been eliminated”) (38).
The merchants of Jewish blood, who, together with their Christian colleagues, travelled the roads of Europe with their waxed bags, presented their clients with rabbinical certificate of suitability (kasherut), guaranteeing a completely dessicated product without alimentary significance. This powdered blood could, therefore, be used during the year for whatever curative or magical purposes were thought fit, without fear of violating any rabbinical interdiction. In the case of unguents and syrups prepared from the bodies of mummies, the rabbis obviously permitted their use if the raw material was extracted from the cadavers of gentiles and not Jews (39).
“The Ashkenazi Jews, like the others, have eaten foods not permitted by the rite, sometimes asking and obtaining a problematical rabbinical dispensation. This is also true in the case of blood, where the prohibition against the consumption of human blood was generally handled with a certain carelessness -- certainly greater than that relating to the blood of beasts or birds. The consumption of human blood was not only less repellent than it may appear to us today, but in not infrequent cases the rabbis found themselves compelled to permit its use (43).”
For these reasons, there are many verifiable, authentic Jewish testimonies on the ingestion of blood, both animal and human, for the treatment of both body and soul, in confirmation of the confessions of the Jewish defendants at Trent. But the step from a therapeutic, and even magical and alchemical, use of blood, to its transformation into a major element in the celebration of the Jewish Passover, linked, in turn, to alleged “ritual murder”, is not a short one, and is far from a matter of course. Let us first rapidly discard the hypothesis -- even if only theoretical -- that the Jews (at Trent or elsewhere) soiled their hands with atrocious crimes for the purpose of procuring the blood of Christian children in order to celebrate their Passover rites.
[COMMENT: When Jeffrey Dahmer got caught with human body parts in his refrigerator, nobody said, oh, well, OK, he liked to eat people, but “let us first rapidly discard the hypothesis” – “even if only theoretical” -- that he ever killed anybody; he just liked to eat ‘em, that’s all. It is obvious that Toaff’s claim in this regard amounts to a demand that certain classes of defendant – Jews, in this case – be held above the law. This is why Jews have been persecuted in every society they have ever lived in.]
At the same time, let us also discard the assumption -- which seems a bit “canned” to me -- that, once we reject the stereotype of “ritual murder”, we must, of necessity, conclude that the Jews did not actually use human blood in the Passover ritual. We are referring to certain Ashkenazi Jews, driven by a burning, visceral and well-justified aversion towards Christianity
Let me see if I understand this correctly:
JEWS kidnap CHRISTIAN children for centuries and CASTRATE them, for purposes of offering them for SALE -- as EUNUCHS -- in Islamic Spain -- for CENTURIES -- as admitted by Toaff himself in Chapter Eight -- and JEWS have a right to hate CHRISTIANS???
Compared to this, the Aztecs of ancient Mexico were almost civilized. At least, they didn't do it just for money.
Note that the characteristic Jewish aversion towards every host people among whom they have ever lived is ALWAYS “well-justified”, but that the slightest criticism of Jews by Christians is NEVER justified -- regardless of the circumstances -- and never has ANYTHING to do with the actual admitted criminal actions of the Jews themselves. Any Christian who hated Jews the way the Jews hate us, would be considered a dangerous psychotic even by fanatical Nazis. What normal person refers to his enemies by reference to other enemies 3,000 years ago?
The Jews and the world just can't get along,
We're never right, they're never wrong, etc.. ]
and anyone representative of Christianity (the “Edom” of the sacred books), guilty of indiscriminate massacres, forced baptisms and the kidnapping of Jewish children.
As we have seen, these Jews had transformed the central significance of the Passover haggadah into an aspiration for revenge against Edom -- Christianity, successor to the perfidious Pharaoh -- and the hope of Redemption, constructed by God on its ruins, In addition to the liturgical invocation, of German-Jewish origin, pouring out the ire of the God of Israel (shefokh) upon the people who failed to recognize Him, destroying them, Israel Yuval reconstructed “the rite of the curses” accompanying the reading of the ten plagues of Egypt, as practiced by these extremist fringes, beginning with “dam”, the word meaning “blood”. In addition to the Maharil, cited above, Rabbi Shalom da Wiener Neustadt, also stressed the anti-Christian significance of sprinkling the wine onto the table during the reading of the plagues of Egypt, rendering “the rite of the curses” a peculiar and distinctive ceremony of extremist Jewish groups of the Ashkenazi diaspora.
“When they name the ten plagues of Egypt, each time, they dip the finger into the cup of wine standing in front (of the head of the family) and they pour a little bit of it out, onto the table [...] saying: 'From this curse may God save us'. The reason is that the four cups of wine (which must be drunk during the recitation of the Haggadah) represent a wish for the salvation of the Jews and a curse against the nations of the world. Therefore (the head of the family) pours the wine out of the glass with his finger, signifying that we Jews shall be saved from such curses, which shall, by contrast, fall upon our enemies” (44)
The explanation of this rite is found in the Rokeach, according to which “they sprinkle the wine towards the outside (onto the table) in correspondence to the sixteen surfaces of the vengeful sword of God” (45).
The defendants at the Trent trial, who practiced the ritual of the curses, confessed under torture that, prior to the recitation, the head of the household was accustomed to opening the glass phial containing dried human blood (the “blood of a Christian child” according to the defendants, or rather, according to the
dictation of the judges),
[COMMENT: I hate to say this, but at this point Toaff is simply lying. The phrase "This is the blood of a Christian child", appears in Askenazi Hebrew (zeh ha-dam shel goi katan) in the confessions -- a language of which Toaff admits the judges had no knowledge, in a pronunciation which not even Italian Jews could understand. See pp. 177-179, Blood Passover, first edition, chapter Twelve, pp. 181-183, of the revised edition.
What the hell is the point of lying about something which Toaff has written and published in the same edition of the same book, a book written by himself? Is he trying to tell us something?]
pouring a pinch into the chalice, together with the wine. They then proceeded to pour the wine onto the table, pronouncing the list of the ten plagues against Edom -- the Christians. Finally, without drinking the wine, they poured the remainder into a basin or cracked earthenware jug, and threw it away.
My hypothesis is that, while the particular contents of the confessions relating to the blood being that of a Christian child -- presumably sacrificed as dictated by necessity – is a self-interested and obviously false
[COMMENT: Why? Why should it be obviously false?]
insertion by the judges, intended to prove the guilt of the Jews, the first part of the discourse, relating to the use of Christian blood during the Passover meal, is anything but improbable. In the moment of reciting the curses, for the head of the family responsible for the rite, shaking a few grains of powdered Christian blood into the wine (the same dried and powdered Christian blood which, during the year, had been used to provide for a thousand other needs, whether therapeutic or intended to bring good luck), the blood was thought to possess the power of symbolically transforming the contents of the chalice into the blood of Edom. This gesture is said to have provided additional potency to the curses, giving them their marvellous efficacy and potency, reinforcing the terrible curses which, as Yuval has written, “constituted in and of themselves a violent act of destructive magic, born of a violent and aggressive Messianism” (46).
Then, the wine, transformed into the blood of Edom, death-bringing and accursed, was sprinkled onto the table and the remainder thrown into the trash or onto the road, obviously without being brought to the mouths of those at the table.
The procedure was no different, although with contrasting distinguishing marks, from that followed involving the circumcision wine, in the interpretation recently provided by Lawrence A. Hoffman. In the ceremony of the milah, a few drops of the blood of the circumcised child, poured into the wine, had the power to transform it into blood, and was therefore (in contrast to the curses of Pesach) given to the child, his mother and the mohel to drink, bringing good luck and warding off evil (47).
[COMMENT: This is a very common practice even today. So much for the prohibition against the"ingestion of blood". That Jews suck the bloody penises of circumcised children during the circumcision ceremony is very well known; but admissions that the blood is drunk afterwards are extremely rare. See also pp. 186-87, second edition, as well as in footnote 35, which proves the same thing, but forgets the drinking.
we suck it
This passage mentions the “drinking”, but forgets about the “sucking”! And these are the people who spent thousands of years telling us that ritual murder is absurd, because Jews are forbidden to ingest blood!
we drink it we suck it
Look up milah on google and see what you find (for example, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brit_milah).
Or better yet, search for metzitzah or metzitzah b'peh.
The Jews are a Stone-Age people. -C.P.
Now back to Toaff: ]
If my hypothesis possesses a basis of truth or at least of plausibility, relating to the blood accusation, intended to designate the use by the Jews of Christian blood at Passover, then we are dealing with rites -- not myths – actually practiced in the Middle Ages by a minority of German-origin Jews on both sides of the Alps. In other words, while “ritual murder” was, and is, a myth, the use of the blood in the Passover ritual of the curses against the Christians was in fact -- as I have sought to demonstrate -- a singular and deviant rite, practiced by extremist Ashkenazi fringes.
As we have already seen, the Ashkenazi rabbis, in a valiant but largely unrealistic attempt to extirpate a ritual of which they disapproved, sought to limit its dissemination and consequences, while awaiting better times (which were thought to be coming). Some of these (David Tebel Sprinz of Bamberg, Moshe Jodenmeister of Halle and Shimon Katz of Frankfurt-Main hastened to exonerate the less well-to-do Jews and those with dependent families from the problematical rite of the curses and the blood. They also recommended that no more than a minimum quantity of dried blood -- the size of a lentil -- be dissolved in the wine (which in any case was not drunk). Once again, in the behaviour of the Jews, practice took precedence over norms, and all the efforts of the rabbis to save what could be saved or pretend that the problem didn’t exist, were in vain.
It seems superfluous to note that there was no relationship of any kind, either causal or consequential, between the so-called “rite of the blood and the curses”, celebrated by these Jews during the first two evenings of the Jewish Passover, and “ritual murder”, notwithstanding the efforts of the judges to imply that there was.
[COMMENT: See remark concerning Jeffrey Dahmer, above]
In the rural realities of medieval Germany, where everyday life was drenched with alchemical fantasies and magic, both Jewish and Christian families often carried waxed bags or ampoules containing blood, preferably young,
coagulated or dried, recommended in an infinity of contingencies, real or imagined, and not just for the treatment of physical ills. The “donors” of this blood, always for payment, were alive and well, and came from indigent families in search of easy money.
As stressed by Ronnie Po-Chia Hsia (The Myth of Ritual Murder. Jews and Magic in Reformation Germany, new Haven, Conn., 1988), “for a parent reduced to misery, for anyone finding himself in need of money, blood, even that of one’s own son, was a product to sell, like any other” [retranslation].
Highest prices paid for blood
Toaff is falsifying his quotation to imply that Ronnie Po what’s-his-name is generalizing about medieval society as a whole; in fact, Ronnie etc. what’s-his-name is speculating as to one person's motives, in a single case, that of the peasant, Philip Bader, assuming that Bader’s second confession – the only one given under torture -- is the truth! Since the original records appear to have disappeared and there were three “confessions”, nobody even knows what really happened in this case. Toaff cites this one sentence out of context, mistranslates it, falsifies it, and then generalizes about medieval society as a whole, in the absurd attempt to fob us off with his fairy tale of the “voluntary donors”.
This is not a momentary memory lapse. Toaff repeats this same fantastic fairy tale, complete with additional imaginary details -- in his book EBRAISMO VIRTUALE, published 7 months after the 2nd edition of BLOOD PASSOVER.
“Quel sangue, pagato sempre profumatament, proveniva da famiglie indigenti, con molti figli a carico e in cerca di denaro facile. Ronnie Po-chia Hsia ha infatti ragione nel sottolineare che ‘per un genitore ridotto in miseria, per chi come lui si trovava in bisogno di denaro, il sangue, anche quello del proprio figlio, era un prodotto da vendere come un altro’”.
EBRAISMO VIRTUALE [Virtual Judaism], September 2008, p. 109.
Translation of Toaff's retranslation:
“This blood, always paid for very generously, originated from indigent families, with many dependent children, in search of easy money. Ronnie Po-chia Hsia is in fact correct in stressing that ‘for a parent reduced to poverty, or anyone like him, in need of money, blood, even that of his own son, was a product to sell like any other’”.
In other words, the act of buying the blood of male Christian children as a simple alternative to murdering them is transformed into an act of open-hearted charity, rather like the Salvation Army feeding the homeless at Christmas time!
The actual quote from Ronnie Po-chia Hsia, quoted correctly and in context, is rather different:
“It all began in the village of Benzhausen in the Lordship of Buchheim, located to the northwest of Freiburg [footnote deleted] [in 1504]. On Good Friday , the cowherd boy Andreas was tending his herd in the fields when his cattle’s moos alerted him to the corpse of a little boy, who turned out to be one of his playmates, Matthew Bader [illustration]. The cries of the cowherd boy drew the villagers to the spot; judging from the pale corpse, they surmised that it had been lying there for at least three days. The body was removed and buried in the churchyard. Six days later, the father of the dead boy, Philip Bader, was arrested for theft. After he had confessed to stealing, the bailiff confronted Bader about the death of his child [...] At first, Bader denied knowledge of the circumstances of the murder, but when he was brought to the churchyard and presented with the corpse of his child, which the authorities had dug up, he was ready to ‘confess’. As a contemporary poem commemorating the event tells it, and in the words of Philip Bader, the mad Jews went to him and offered him money for a Christian child to celebrate Passover. Out of a throng of boys playing nearby, the Jews supposedly picked Bader’s own son. They assured him, Bader told the bailiff, that the child would not be killed; all they wanted was a little Christian blood, and they intended to draw this from the Bader boy, who was barely seven year old. A bargain was concluded. Bader took his boy to the Jews of Waldkirch in exchange for a handsome sum [five gulden, the price of a horse -C.P.]. After this initial confession, the bailiff applied torture and Bader changed his story. Now he admitted that he was acting entirely on his own accord: he had heard that Jews pay good money for Christian blood and had drawn blood from his own son’s neck to sell to the Jews. But when he approached the Jews, they turned from him and scolded him for trying to sell them animal blood. Rebuffed, Bader threw away the blood. Since his two testimonies contradicted each other, Bader was tortured further, and the village bailiff referred the case to his master, the Lord of Buchheim [...]
"[footnote 26]: [...] Although [sic] the poem represents a contemporary report of the trial, the facts seem highly reliable. The poet narrates both sets of confessions even though he strongly rejects Bader’s second confession, attributing it to the ‘devil’s work’, to make the poor man confess in order to exculpate the Jews [...] [?] [NOTE: the” second confession” was the one that EXONERATED the Jews, the only one given under torture. The original records seem to have disappeared. There were three confessions. –C.P.]
"[...] Under interrogation, the arrested Jews protested their innocence and said that the father Bader must in fact have killed his own child for blood money [COMMENT: Is this an admission that the Jews bought blood? Or does it mean that Bader must have killed the child in the BELIEF that he could sell the blood? In view of the fact that they actually refused to buy it according to the second confession, the latter interpretation seems far more likely. -C.P.]. [...] Once more, Bader changed his story, insisting now that the Jew Lameth of Waldkirch had purchased and killed his son. [...] On 30 May, Bader was executed in Buchen. Just before his execution, he again protested his innocence: the Jews and not he had killed the boy [...] Without evidence, the Jews had to be released [footnote referring to the same poem].
"So far, the case seemed straightforward. Family violence was endemic in rural society; and killing one’s own child was but one step removed from child abandonment. It was possible that Bader had not intended to kill his boy and that he had merely wanted to sell blood to the Jews. In any event, once the boy had died from the wound inflicted by his father, and once the corpse was discovered, the initial fantasy of Jewish blood magic that had motivated the gruesome act in the first place also supplied the father with the ideal scenario for self-defence. The crucial point is that, to certain segments of village society, at least to its marginal elements, the discourse of Jewish ritual magic and ritual murder was in itself neutral: what concerned these rural folks was not the intrinsic evil of Jewish magic, as formulated by the intellectuals, but the practical implication of magic, Jewish or otherwise. For Philip Bader, who was obviously in dire need of money, blood, even that of his own child, was just another commodity for sale; Jewish magic only turned evil when the practical consequences of the unsuccessful transaction became a threat to himself” [blah, blah, blah, etc. etc].(Is Ronnie Po a “post-modernist”? He seems addicted to speculating about what what was in people’s minds all the time, using strange words like “discourse” and “narrative”.)
Source: Ronnie Po-chia Hsia, THE MYTH OF RITUAL MURDER , pp. 90-94".
Pp. 128-29 of the same book provide another contemporary account of the same case:
"In the year 1503 [sic] [correct year: 1504] [...] a child was missing on one of the farms near Dentzlingen. A neighbour found him in the woods, having been alerted by the bellowing of an ox. Shortly thereafter, the child’s father was apprehended in Buchen on suspicion of theft. At first he feigned ignorance regarding his child, but when he was shown the body he began to sweat. Without torture he confessed that he had sold his four-[correct age: seven] year-old child to two Jews in Waldkirch for five guldens [the price of a horse - C.P]; they told him the child would not die, that they only wanted to draw some blood from him; but alas, things turned out differently, and the child died because of this. I saw the child with my own eyes, about four weeks after the murder; and with my fingers I held and touched the prick wounds. I also saw the execution of the father in Buchen; he died confessing that the Jews had stabbed his child to death […]"
Ronnie Po-Chia Hsia also describes a few other, similar cases, but nothing supporting the Toaff fairy tale of the "voluntary donors":
"In May [of 1401], the bailiff and councillors of Diessenhofen, a small town on the South German-Swiss border, arrested the Jew Michael and charged him with paying a Christian servant to obtain Christian blood from a boy, who died from the bleeding. Under torture, Michael confessed to a widespread ritual murder cover-up [...] he also confessed to a Jewish plot to poison the air in order to slowly kill off all Christians [...]" (ibid, p.88)
"In the same year [as the Philip Bader case], 1504, the shoemaker Bryhenn came under suspicion of the magistrates due to the sudden death of his stepson [...] Arrested in nearby Hanau, he confessed to having struck and killed his stepson in anger. But, when threatened with judicial torture, Bryhenn said he stabbed his stepson with awls, collected the blood, and sold it to the Jew Gumprecht. The latter was interrogated under torture but maintained his innocence. When Bryhenn was condemned to death, he retracted his accusation and Gumprecht was released" (ibid, p. 94).
"[...] in 1543, two women found [a] five-year old boy in a field outside Volkerode [...] The bailiff summoned all men and women over ten years of age from the village to the scene of the crime. Upon examining the corpse, he found that the foreskin of the penis had been cut off and saw prick marks on both arms. Returning to the village the next morning for further questioning, the bailiff saw a shepherd running away into the woods. With the help of four hundred villagers, he caught the fugitive, Heinrich, the shepherd, who immediately blamed Jacob the Jew of putting him up to the murder [...] the shepherd claimed that he would recognize Jacob on sight. Wisely, the bailiff presented Heinrich with the gatekeeper of the castle, whom the suspect mistook as Jacob [...] After the murder, Heinrich returned to the corpse, cut off the boy’s foreskin and drew some blood from the corpse. He was planning to sell the blood to the Jews and to frame them for murder. Sentenced to death, Heinrich publicly confessed to the innocence of the Jews before his execution [...]" (ibid, p. 158).
"[in 1562] the labourer Leonard Wümpffhaymer of Sulm, accused Moses and another Jew ‘from Löwenstein’ of buying a four-year-old boy from him and them murdering the child [...] In fact, the accuser was first arrested because he struck his mother and was suspected of several murders. In any event, the count’s officials arrested the two Jews and tortured them into confessing their ‘guilt’ (ibid, pp. 199-200).
"[...] Moses of Berchlingen confessed to six articles of crime on 12 February [...] that the reason all Jews need Christian blood is this: just as the angels slew all the first-born of the Egyptians and spared only those households painted with the lamb’s blood, so the Jews also want to paint their dead with Christian blood in order that God would be more merciful to them at the Last Judgement [...]" (ibid, pp. 199-200)."
NOTE: One thing to look for in all these tales is any description of the carrying capacity of the vessels used to collect the blood. The body of a seven-year old boy will yield approximately one half-gallon of liquid blood. The following tales may easily be dismissed as untrue:
“Elias the Jew said that the Jews then carried the blood of the young children in a glass and their heads into his room” (ibid, p. 19).
“And for him to carry the blood, Matthew the Jew gave him a glass” (ibid, p. 96).
It is obvious that none of this is very convincing, and that nobody really knows what happened in the Bader case. There are no "voluntary donors".
For more quotes from Ronnie Po-Chia Hsia, click here]
Now back to Toaff. Get this:]
Rare was the eventuality in which a father, in the clumsy attempt to extract the blood from the carotid, accidentally caused the death of the son. In that case the tragic accident was followed by the exemplary punishment of the guilty party, despite the involuntary nature of his act (48).
[COMMENT: The implausibility of the fairy tale of the “voluntary donors” will be discussed separately in greater detail. But just for starters, where did the person convicted in this one single, solitary case – the peasant, Philip Bader -- ever get the idea that the Jews would pay him for his son’s blood?
How does one person's failure to do something prove that thousands of other people did the same thing successfully, over a period of centuries? This is a logical absurdity.
Note that in actual fact, according to this same account, they REFUSED to pay him.
I have read Ronnie what’s-his-name’s book, and it implies nothing of the sort. For every fairy tale of Jews offering to buy blood -- and this is just about the only one -- you get 10 or 20 stories about Jews offering to buy CHILDREN. This is far more plausible. After all, if you were going to engage in a series of cash transactions implicating yourself in a series of murders, you would much prefer dealing with people well aware that they were committing a serious crime. That way they will shut up about it.]
The Hebrew phrases
The confessions of the Trent defendants sometimes contain Hebrew phrases in the Ashkenazi pronunciation, transliterated by trial notaries with numerous errors and a great lack of clarity. In my book, I reconstructed them precisely for the first time, noticing that they often consisted of time-honoured anti-Christian invective and sometimes unusual liturgical formulae which had remained unknown until now, according to the defendants, accompanying rites related to the blood accusation. At this point, let me just transcribe a significant sample of these formulae: “Thus may our enemies be destroyed”; “The hanged one, Jesus the heretic”; “Insults and shame of the hanged Jesus, and may the same happen to all our enemies”; “You were crucified and pierced like Jesus the hanged one, in ignominy and shame like Jesus” (49).
As we see, these phrases in Hebrew present not a few problems, which cannot be excluded, relating to the intention expressed and the context within which these phrases were said to have been pronounced. Whoever listened to them and transcribed them had no knowledge of Hebrew; otherwise, these phrases would never have been rendered almost incomprehensible and riddled with mistakes. For the same reason, I cannot believe we can accept the suggestion that some apostate (perhaps the ex-Ashkenazi Giovanni da Feltre) supplied a self-interested consultancy to the judges on this point
for the purpose of rendering the confessions of the defendants more credible under torture (50).
In this case, the texts are would have been transcribed correctly, or at least comprehensibly.
The fact that the judges and notaries at the Trent trial had no knowledge of Hebrew or Yiddish is also proven by the fact that a few letters, exchanged amongst themselves by a few families of northern Italy, are transcribed with many errors when annexed to the trial records. Their content must have remained obscure to the Trent judges, otherwise it would have been recognized that they obviously contradicted the matter which the judges were seeking so vehemently to prove. Whoever wrote those letters in Yiddish was, in fact, lamenting the indescribable sufferings of the Jews of Regensburg, “victims, like those at Trent, of the ignoble calumny of ritual homicide” (51).
[COMMENT: It is should be obvious that a few self-pitying remarks in a few letters exchanged between Jews in another town prove nothing.]
At Regensburg, in fact, another blood accusation trial opened in 1476, as a corollary to the Trent trial. The open consultancy of a few converted Jews, masters of Hebrew and Yiddish, is said to have sufficed to persuade Hinderbach, the prince-bishop, to reject those letters, thus saving face.
[COMMENT: Why? How does this follow?]
Precisely the consideration that judges and notaries were unable to understand or transcribe those phrases correctly, when pronounced in Hebrew or Yiddish, inclines us to think that these phrases were authentic and not deliberately inserted into the confessions.
[COMMENT: We have translated the added chapter discussing these letters, inserted among the notes to the revised edition. The chapter proves nothing of the kind: Toaff provides no proof that Hinderbach rejected them, or that they "saved face". Why he included this material and bothers to make this claim is a mystery to us.]
and Elliot Horowitz have all, at various times, hypothesized or maintained the reality of this phenomenon based on heterogenous documentation also linking it to heterodox and extravagant celebrations of the carnaval of Purim (56).
[QUESTION: Just exactly what kind of "savage homicidal rites" are these persons, at least two of them Jews, referring to here? White slavery? Organ trafficking? The kidnaping and castration of Christian children to be sold into slavery in Moslem Spain for centuries, as described in Chapter Eight of Toaff’s own book? Or ritual murder?]
To save readers the trouble of hopping down the page, the references to this single sentence are as follows:
56. Cfr. B. Lazare, L’antisemitisme son histoire et ses causes, Paris, 1894, Chapter XIII; J. Frazer, The Golden Bough, IInd edition, London, 1900, pp. 173-198 (translated as Il ramo d’oro. Studio sulla magia e la religione, Torino, 1991); C. Roth, Feast of Purim and the Origins of Blood Accusations, in “Speculum”, VIII (1933), pp. 520-526; E. Horowitz, Reckless Rites. Purim and the Legacy of Jewish Violence, Princeton (N.J.), 2006.
In this regard, Michael Pellivert observed that it is not a question of accusing the entire Jewish people, but of admitting a long-known fact, i.e., that there has never been a people without its monsters (57).
[COMMENT: Answer: apparently, yes. That this person is, in fact, referring obliquely to the ritual murder accusation is proven by the title of the article cited: "And Supposing They Did Drink Blood?"]
57. Cfr. M. Pellivert, And Supposing They Did Drink Blood? In “Ha-Aretz”, 20 February 2007 [available on the Internet, in English: http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/and-supposing-they-did-drink-blood-1.213544].
[ADDITIONAL COMMENT: This is the opinion for which Julius Streicher was hanged at Nuremberg: that ritual murders have occurred, but only rarely, practiced intermittently by small sects.
Ritual murder accusations are only credible on the assumption of relatively small numbers of victims. The Jews cannot have killed thousands of children per year in Medieval Europe. They could probably do so today, but many of the bodies would be found, and these accusations would be far more common than they are.
Why do the Jews insist on sucking the bloody penises of circumcised babies and then drinking the blood afterwards, together with the mother and other relatives of the child? Because they are a fossil people. Anything they did thousands of years ago, at least some of them will be found doing today. This includes the ritual murder of children -- which is also discussed at great length in the Bible -- for example, opening my King James almost entirely at random, I find the following at Isaiah 57:5:
"Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of the rocks".
Weaning the Jews away from these practices was an almost hopeless task for centuries.
That Jews continue to do these same things today is admittedly an inference -- and still requires proof in any individual case -- but the inference is inescapable. Toaff now quotes Umberto Eco, author of “The Name of the Rose”:]
Umberto Eco [non-Jewish medievalist Italian novelist], who dedicated a short article to the matter, appears to agree: “The problem does not particularly bother me, because, over the course of time, there have always been individuals dedicated to more or less Satanic cults, forming part, not of the history of religions, but of psychiatry; [...] for this reason, it is not improbable that Jewish criminal lunatics have existed” (58).
58. Cfr. U. Eco, Mangiar Bambini, [Eating Children] in “L’Espresso”, 21 February 2007 [available on the Internet, in Italian]
[COMMENT: At this point one gets the very clear impression that Jews are perfectly well aware that ritual murder accusations represent the truth, at least in some cases, but do not care, and are very close to admitting it, just as they brag about just everything else.
- Sure, we controlled Communism, they say, what of it?
- Sure, we control Hollywood, they say, what of it?
- Sure, we control pornography, they say, what of it?
- Sure, we caused both Gulf Wars, they say, what of it?
- Sure, we use the blood of male Christian children in our Passover matzohs or shimmurim, what of it?
- Sure we suck bloody baby penises and drink the blood afterwards, what of it?
- Sure, we kidnapped Christian children for centuries, castrated them, and sold them into slavery in Islamic Spain, what of it?
This is not a love of truth, it is Jewish arrogance.]
In Pasque di Sangue, I have not attempted to negate the differences between butchers and victims or exchange the roles, but only to show that the Ashkenazi Jews, having survived the trauma of the massacres and forced baptisms, did not always intend to exist as helpless and pitiable burnt offerings. Their determination to resist and react was channelled into their bitterly anti-Christian liturgy and their ritual, which also included, in my view, the magical, malefic use of blood – but not ritual murder, which was and is an entirely Christian invention. But in this dialogue between persecutors and persecuted, even the Jews had a voice. And it was not always a voice submissive and suffocated by tears.
“If anti-Semitism -- if anti-Semitic stereotypes -- can exist in the historical narrative, in the mental reconstruction of the historians, as a topic with a life all its own and compact in itself; if one can really imagine the construction of a solidly stratified “storage tank” – a more or less self-contained “glacier” of stereotypes, i.e., places of “memory” where one can go fishing, picking up terms of polemic like crystallizations or exhibits, then perhaps we will have abandoned the habit of viewing all accusations made against Jews as merely a problem of communication between Jews and Christians in which Jews may be offered an opportunity to speak; on the contrary, any possible identification of the Jews as objects without a voice, as immobilized victims in their destiny of suffering, will be assumed as a hypothesis from the very outset of the investigation” (59).
I fully concur with these remarks, and cannot therefore agree that I should merely refer to a “glacier” of anti-Semitic stereotypes, suggesting “that which should be at the core
of any book on the topic of ritual murder; that is, the teoleogical elaboration and Christian narrative, starting with the 2nd-3rd centuries [...] in the myth of the destructive aggressiveness of those who formed no part of the society of the Christians” (60).
In fact, I am firmly convinced that the history of anti-Semitism is not, in fact, the only road which can be taken, alongside the usual travelling companions in whose eyes the Jews have the right idea in existing only as perennially passive victims.
My writing was intended to give rise to one last, clear consideration. The principles of Judaism do not always coincide with the real behaviour of flesh-and-blood Jews, and practice, which should at any rate be contextualized at all times, often deviates from theory. The plausible pain of the rabbis in view of this distressing observation should not, however, cause us to idealize the reality, as they did, pretending that the reality is only a faithful mirror of the ideology and the norm. Writing Jewish history is not equivalent to composing a sermon to be read in the synagogue with an apparatus of notes, or celebrating the saints and martyrs of our people in all cases and under all circumstances (61).
For this reason, the work of the historian is always difficult, sometimes painful and unrewarding.
1) Cfr. Y.H. Yerushmalmi, Zakhor, Parma, 1983, p. 107.
2. See, in the regard, the very appropriate remarks of S. Luzzatto, La storia divisa, in “Il Corriere della Sera”, 26 February 2007; A. De Vincentiis, Nella natura delle accuse il punto dolente della polemica, in “Il manifesto”, 4 March 2007; R.De Mattei, Ha regione Ariel Toaff. Anche la tortura fa storia, in “Libero”, 4 March 2007; F. Cardini, Una vicenda editorial che deve far riflettere, in “Toscana Oggi”, 25 March 2007.
3. Following in Baer’s romantic wake, were Haim Beinart, who did not hesitate to attribute complete accuracy to the records of the Inquisition, capable of throwing light on the impenetrable network of the marrano communities and their enduring faith in Judaism (cfr. H. Beinart, The Records of the Inquisition. A Source of Jewish and Controverso History, in “Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Science and Humanities, II, 1967, no. 11; Id, La Inquisición y el problema de los conversos hasta 1492, in La vida judía en Sefarad, Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid, 1992, pp. 43-62). In connection with this stereotypical and nostalgic reconstruction of the religious life and aspirations of the conversos, put together by Baer, Beinart and a great proportion of modern Jewish historiography, see the intelligent criticism of Herman P. Salomon in the preface to the IVth edition of the famous A History of the Marranos by Cecil Roth (New York, 1974).
4. See in particular, the recent edition of the book in English, by H.P. Salomon and I.S.D. Sassoon: A.J., Saraiva, The Marrano Factory, The Portuguese Inquisition and Its New Christians.
5. On this polemic, see in particular A.B. Lorence, The Inquisition and the New Christians in the Iberian Peninsula. Main Historiographic Issues and Controversies, in The Sephardi and Oriental Jewish Heritage, Jerusalem, 1982, pp. 13-72; D.M. Gitlitz, Secrecy and Deceit. The Religion of Crypto-Jews, Philadelphia (Pa.), 1996. See moreover recently N. Wachtel’s beautiful book, La foi du souvenir, Labyrinthes marranes, Paris, 2001, and C.B. Sutczynski’s excellent introduction to the Hebrew edition of S. Schwarz, The New-Christians in Portugal in the 20th Century, Jerusalem, 2005.
6. In connection with the reactions to my book and the contradictory methodological attitude of Israeli historiography, see the relevant notes recently written in this regard by Yair Barak (Mahalakj ben ha-tippot [A Path Between the Drops], in “Ha-Aretz”, 2 April 2007).
7. Cfr. A. Foa, Riti di sangue e accuse infondate, in “la Repubblica”, 8 February 2007; Ead., I pericoli di un metodo analogico, in “Storicamente”, 18 March 2007.
8. De Vincentiis’s comments in this regard (Nella natura delle accuse il punto dolente della polemica, cit.) appear particularly pertinent to me.
9. Cfr. A. Prosperi, Inquisizioni cristiane ed ebrei, in Atti dei Convegni Lincei no. 191; Le Inquisizioni cristiane e gli ebrei, Rome, 2003, pp. 7-28; Id. L’Inquisizione romana e gli ebrei, in M. Luzzati, (author) L’Inquisizione gli ebrei in Italia, Bari, 1994, pp. 67-120.
10. See in this connection F. Cardini, Pasque di sangue. Il coraggio dell storia, cit.; Id. Storici, il paradigma censurato, in “L’Avenire”, 28 February 2007; Id., Una vicenda editoriale che deve far riflettere, cit.
11. Cfr. A. Cavaglion, Iniziato male, finito peggio. Sul caso Toaff, in “Lo Straniero”, 6 Marzo 2007.
12. Cfr. C. Ginzburg, Pasque di snague e sabba, miti ma non riti, in “Il Corriere della Sera”, 23 February 2007.
13. Massimo Introvigne, (Il caso Toaff. Torna l’accusa di sangue contro gli ebrei, in “Il Giornale”, 12 February 2007), a zealous lawyer, has shown that he believes this, noting, in his malevolent book review, with ill-concealed contempt, that ”when you look carefully, Toaff’s argument is just the ‘Murray heresy’ all over again, applied to the blood accusation; “one would also have to admit that the witches travelled to meet the Devil on broomsticks”.
14. Rokeach, Ms. Hebr. Bodleiana, Oxford, no. 1103. Cfr also J. Mulin Segal (Maharil), Sefer ha-minhaghim. The Book of the Customs, by Sh. Spitzer, Jerusalem, 1989, pp. 144-145; I. Ta-Shma in Efraim Talmage Memorial Volume, by D. Walfish, Haifa, 1993, pp. 85-98.
Cfr. I. Yuval, “Two Nations in Your Womb”. Perceptions of Jews and Christians, Tel Aviv, 2000, pp. 144-145. A loyal friend, although a critic, Gadi Luzzato Voghera (Un libro scomodo, in ”Laboratorio Alfa”, 24 February 2007) reproached me for the statement that, in the collective mentality of these Ashkenazi Jews, “the Passover Seder had a long since transformed itself into a celebration in which the wish for the forthcoming redemption of the people of Israel moved from aspiration to revenge, and then to cursing their Christian persecutors”, judging it “apodictic and incautious”. I believe that, in the light of Yuval’s well-accepted study on the subject, it is possible to answer such a criticism in a persuasive and documented manner.
16. Cfr. R. Di Segni, Due nuove fonti sulle “Toledot Jeshu”, in “La Rassegna” Mensile di Isfraele”, LV (1989), pp. 131-132.
17. I cannot therefore agree with Kenneth Stow’s misleading comment (A Book Full of Sound and Fury, in “Storicamente”, 18 March 2007), that the Toledot Yeshu “is an old text, the motifs, hardly flattering, were possibly in place over a millennium before Trent, nor was the book of a necessarily Ashkenazi origin”. In effect, it seems well-established that the motif of the Virgin, impregnated during her menstrual period, made its first appearance in the German manuscripts of the Toledot Yeshu of the late 15th century and early 16th century.
18. Cfr. Ronnie Po-Chia Hsia, The Truth About Trent, in “Ha-Aretz”, 16 February 2007; “During a November 2 interrogation, Israel, hanging on the rack, denounced the Christian faith […] Here, at last, is the kernel of truth in Professor Toaff’s convoluted argument: torture creates hatred!”.
19. Cfr. A. Shear, Miscellany, in “Tea, Lemon, Old Books”, 5 March 2007.
20. See supra, p. 249 . Here, and in the following, the references to the text are also accompanied by an indication between parentheses of the corresponding pages of Pasque di sangue.
21. The criticisms directed against me on this point by Nicola Cusumano (Ebrei e accuse di omicidio rituale: in marginea un libro di Ariel Toaff, in Mediterranea. Richerche Storiche”, IV, April 2007, pp. 141-152), therefore appear unjustified to me, as if using the (exact) transcriptions of the trial documents were equivalent to sharing and welcoming to any extent the anti-Semitic prejudices of the Trent friar.
22. Cfr. D. Quaglioni and A. Esposito, Processi contro gli ebrei di Trento (1475-1478). I: I processi del 1475, Padua, 1990, p. 5.
23. Cfr. E. Parente, Il confronto ideologico tra l’ebraismo e la Chiesa in Italia, in “Italia Judaica”, I (1983), pp. 345-357.
24. Cfr. K. Stow, A Book Full of Sound and Fury, cit.: D. Abulafia, Blood Libels are Back, in “The Times Literary Supplement, 28 February 2007; A. Prosperi, E l’ebreo torturato confessa, in “la Repubblica”, 10 February 2007.
25. Cfr. R. Po-Chia Hsia, Trent 1475. A Ritual Murder Trial, New Haven (Conn.), 1999, pp. 92-93.
26. Cfr. M. Rubin, Gentile Tales. The Narrative Assault on the Late Medieval Jews, New Haven (Conn.), 1999, p. 190-195.
27. Cfr. Foa, Riti di sangue e accuse infondate, cit.; Ead., I pericoli di un metodo analogico, cit.
28. Cfr. supra, pp. 77-78 [75-76]
29. Based on the phenomenon, not of the suicides, but of the killings of the children and disciples “for the sanctification of the name of God”, that is, to prevent their forced baptism, and this in obvious conflict with the norm of the Torah which prevents killing, H. Soloveitchik (Pawnbroking. A Study in the Inter-Relationship between Halakhah, Economic Activity and Commercial Self-Image, Jerusalem, 1985, p. 111), took note of the fact that, “for the Ashkanazi rabbis, it was impossible to conceive of the fact that thousands of Jews, devote, God-fearing and prompt to sanctify His name, should, in fact, violate the norms of His law, day after day”. See also supra, pp. 108-109 [105-106].
30. See, among others, G. Busi, Brutte sorprese a Pasqua, in “Il Sole 24 Ore”, 11 February 2007; R. Weinstein, A Blood-Stained Version of History, in “Ha-Aretz”, 8 March 2007; Id., Un’occasione perduta, in “Storicamente”, 18 March 2007.
31. Cfr. Prosperi, E l’ebreo torturato confessa, cit.
32. Cfr. supra, pp. 61-62 [59-60].
33. Cfr. supra, Chapter V. See, in particular, no. 16, p. 258.
34. See the argument in Chapter VI (“Magical and Therapeutic Blood”).
35. D. Sperber (Minhage’ Israel, pp. 59-65), inspired by H. Pollack’s prior studies (Jewish Folkways in Germanic Lands, 1648-1806, Cambridge, 1971) and those of H.J. Zimmels (Magicians, Theologians and Doctors, London, 1952), presents a picture very similar to my own of the popular Jewish world of Germany and quotes a vast selection of texts on the widespread use of animal blood and mummified human beings with therapeutic intent.
36. As correctly observed by David Abulafia and Gadi Luzzato Voghera, one cannot exclude the possibility that miraculous unguents and syrups with portentous therapeutic and magical effects, with esoteric and fantastic names (Dragon’s Blood, Tiger’s Balm), sometimes constituted catchwords for purposes of effect, mere evil-smelling homemade counterfeits.
37. I believe I answered this point in relation to Ruggero Taradel’s objections (L’Accusa di sangue tra storia e leggenda, in “Morashah”, 15 February 2007), a scholar whom I respect but whose works relate to the period subsequent to that with which I concerned myself in the book.
38. On the dispensation for the consumption of “cooked blood”, the structure of which has been radically modified, in addition to the sources already cited by myself in Pasque di sangue, see Y. Engel, Commentary on Talmud, Menachot, 21a; I, Meir, Responsa, Yoreh De’ah, paragraph 11, Tel Aviv, 1961, pp. 27-32. I wish to think rabbi Menachem Sreter of Jerusalem for kindly indicating the texts in question to me (written communication of 7 April 2007).
39. Cfr. Sperber, Minhaghe’ Israel, p. 61.
40. Cfr. supra, p. 105 .
41. R. S. Izchaki (Rashì) commentary on the Talmud, Ketubot, paragraph 1; Tossafot to Talmud, Keritot 21b.
42. Cfr. supra, p. 107 .
43. Cfr. E. Hildesheimer, Consumo di cibi proibiti, senza che sussista pericolo di vita, Ramat Gan, 2006. The essay was written in the context of a Graduate Seminary on the topic of ritual murders, held at the Department of Jewish History of the University Bar Ilan.
44. Cfr. supra, pp. 169-175 [166-171]; Yuval, “Two Nations in Your Womb”, pp. 116-117.
45. Cfr. N. Coronel, Chamishah kuntresim, “Cique fascicoli”, Vienna, 1864, c. 27a.
46. Cfr. Yuval, “Two Nations in Your Womb”, p. 145.
47. Cfr. L.A. Hoffman, Covenant of Blood. Circumscision and Gender in Rabbinic Judaism, Chicago (Ill.), 1996, pp. 96-135; cfr. supra, pp. 150-151, 186-188 [146-147].
48. Cfr. Po-Chia Hsia, The Myth of Ritual Murder, cit., pp. 92-94.
49. “Ken ikkaretù kol oyevenu”; “talui Yeshu ha-min”; “le-cherpah we-liklimah la-talui Yeshu, kach yihye’ le’chol soneenu”; “atta nizlavtà we-nidkartà ke-Yeshu ha-talui le-boshet we-liklimah ke-Yeshu”. Cfr. Supra, pp. 203-204 [195-196].
50. Cfr. Busi, Brutte sorprese a Pasqua, cit.
51. Cfr. supra, pp. 85-86, 236[ 83-84]. These letters will soon be published in a transcription by Boris Kotlerman, of the Department of Yiddish Studies of the University Bar Ilan.
52. Cfr. M.G. Muzzarelli, La cultura dei perseguitati. A proposito di “Pasque di sangue”, in “La Nazione”, 12 February 2007.
53. Cfr. A. Esposito and D. Quaglioni, “Pasque di sangue”. Le due face del pregiudizio, in “Il Corriere della Sera”, 11 February 2007.
54.I wish to thank Philippe Ben Natan for kindly supplying me with his text and for permitting me to use it freely. The essay was discussed and approved at the time by Professors Israel Yuval of the University of Jerusalem, Avi Gross of the University Ben Gurion di Be’er Sheva and Simon Schwarzfuchs of the University Bar Ilan.
55. Cfr. M. Barilan, Sugli omicidi rituali, oggi e allora, in “Ynet”, 16 February 2007. The same author recently advanced an interesting hypothesis on the origins of the blood accusation, this, too, based on Jewish behaviour, in this case, the dissemination in medieval society of embryotomy, an operation considered morally disputable (cfr. M. Barilan, Abortion in Jewish Religious Law: Neighbourly Love, Imago Dei and a Hypothesis on the Medieval Blood Libel, in “Review of Rabbinic Judaism”, 8.1, Leiden, 2005).
56. Cfr. B. Lazare, L’antisemitisme son histoire et ses causes, Paris, 1894, Chapter XIII; J. Frazer, The Golden Bough, IInd edition, London, 1900, pp. 173-198 (translated as Il ramo d’oro. Studio sulla magia e la religione, Torino, 1991); C. Roth, Feast of Purim and the Origins of Blood Accusations, in “Speculum”, VIII (1933), pp. 520-526; E. Horowitz, Reckless Rites. Purim and the Legacy of Jewish Violence, Princeton (N.J.), 2006.
57. Cfr. M. Pellivert, And Supposing They Did Drink Blood? In “Ha-Aretz”, 20 February 2007.
58. Cfr. U. Eco, Mangiar Bambini, in “L’Espresso”, 21 February 2007.
59. Cfr. Todeschini, Sterotipi antisemiti: il serbatoio e il ghiacciao, in “Zakhor”, II (1998), pp. 157-166.
60. Cfr. Id, Molta retorica, nessuna prova, in “la Repubblica”, 9 February 2007.
61. Robert Bonfil, zelous disciple of Haim Beinart, moves along this line of thought, with the addition of several additional points of vengeful aggressiveness: “Toaff’s thesis [...] is an offence to the memory of the victims of torture, supplies ammunition to anti-Semites of all kinds, including the negationists of the Shoah, and nullifies the seriousness of historical research and the legitimacy of our work by means of an arbitrary obfuscation of the confines of true and false, between the licit and the illicit” (cfr. R. Bonfil, Un’antica impostura riesumata, in “Il Corriere della Sera”, 13 February 2007; Id., Questo testo, una tragedia, in “la Repubblica”, 15 February 2007; Id., in The Jewish Chronicle, 16 February 2007; Id., Di che si preoccupano laggiù, all’Universita Bar Ilan: Decideranno i responsabili di licenziare Toaff da tutti i suoi incarichi? in “Ha-Aretz”, 6 March 2007).
...but Jewish ritual murder is absurd
because Jews are disgusted by the ingestion of blood!
For a comparison between the original and revised editions of BLOOD PASSOVER [Pasque di Sangue], click here
For a short summary of deletions and interpolations, click here
For added chapter of no interest to anyone, click here
For quotes from Ronnie Po-chia Hsia, click here
Excerpts from Ariel Toaff's "Defence of Pasque di Sanque"
Excerpts from "Jewish Monsters"