Red= deletions from first edition
= interpolations in revised edition
Blue = emphasis

For comparison between the original and revised editions of BLOOD PASSOVER [Pasque di Sangue], click here
For added chapter of no interest to anyone, click here
For Ariel Toaff's Apologia pro Vita Sua, 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


Nevertheless, although difficult to digest, these actions, once their authenticity is demonstrated or even supposed as possible,

p. 9]

should be the object of serious study by reputable scholars. The condemnation, or, alternatively, the aberrant justification of these rituals cannot be imposed upon researchers as the sole, and banal, options. Scholars must be permitted the possibility of attempting serious research on the actual, or presumed, religious, theological and historical motivations of the Jewish protagonists themselves. Blind excuses are just as worthless as blindly dogmatic condemnation: neither can demonstrate anything other than that which already existed in the mind of the observer to begin with. DELETED It is precisely the possibility of evading any clear, precise and unambiguous definition of the reality of ritual child murders rooted in religious faith which has facilitated the intentional or involuntary blindness of Christian and Jewish scholars alike, both pro- and anti-Jewish.

Any additional example of the two-dimensional “flattening” of Jewish history, viewed exclusively as the history of religious or political “anti-Semitism” at all times, must necessarily be regretted. When “one-way” questions presuppose “one-way” answers; when the stereotype of “anti-Semitism” hovers menacingly over any objective approach to the difficult problem of historical research in relation to Jews, any research ends up by losing a large part of its value.

All such research is thus transformed, by the very nature of things, into a “guided tour” conducted against a fictitious and unreal background,in a “virtual reality show” intended to produce the desired reaction, which has naturally been decided upon in advance (2).

FOOTNOTE DELETED 2) For example, the recent volume by S. Buttaroni and S. Musial, Ritual Murder. Legend in European History, Crakow - Nuremberg - Frankfurt, 2003, opens with a preamble which is, in its way, conclusive: "It is important to state from the very beginning that Jewish ritual murder never took place. Today proving such theories wrong is not the goal of scientific research" (p. 12).

In this Jewish-Germanic world, in continual movement, profound currents of popular magic had, over time, distorted the basic framework of Jewish religious law, changing its forms and meanings. It is in these "mutations" in the Jewish tradition – which are, so to speak, authoritative – that the theological justifications of the commemoration [in mockery of the Passion of Christ] is to be sought, which, in addition to its celebration in the liturgical rite, was also intended to revive, in action, vengeance against a hated enemy continually reincarnated throughout the long history of Israel (the Pharaoh, Amalek, Edom, Haman, Jesus). Paradoxically, in this process, which is complex and anything but uniform, elements typical of Christian culture may be observed to rebound -- sometimes inverted, unconsciously but constantly -- within Jewish beliefs, mutating in turn, and assuming new forms and meanings. These beliefs, in the end, became symbolically abnormal, distorted by a Judaism profoundly permeated by the underlying elements and characteristic features of an adversarial and detested religion, unintentionally imposed by the same implacable Christian persecutor.

DELETED:  We must therefore decide whether or not the alleged “confessions” relating to the crucifixion of children the evening before Passover; the testimonies relating to the utilization of Christian blood in the celebration of the feast of the Passover, represent, in actual fact, mere myths, i.e., beliefs and ideologies dating far back

p. 11]

in time; or actual ritual practices, i.e., events which actually occurred, in reality, and were actually celebrated, in prescribed and consolidated forms, with their more or less fixed baggage of formulae and anathemas, accompanying the magical practices and superstitions which formed an integral part of the mentality of the Jews themselves.

CHANGED In any case, I repeat, we should avoid the..  CHANGED, p. 13 new edition: In any case, even in eliminating the calumnious stereotype of ritual child murder, central to the accusation, we should avoid the easy short-cut of considering these trials and testimonies only as projections -- extorted from the accused by torture and other coercive methods, both psychological and physical -- of the stereotypes, superstitions, fears and beliefs of the judges and populace. Such a method would trigger a process inevitably leading to the dismissal of these same testimonies as “valueless documents with little basis in reality”, except as “indications of the obsessions of a Christian society” which saw, in the Jew, merely a “distorted mirror image” of its own defects. This task appears to have seemed absolutely prohibitive to many scholars, even famous ones, well-educated men of good will, having concerned themselves with this difficult topic.

According to the point of view adopted by these researchers, the inquisitor’s interrogation methods and tortures served no purpose other than to orchestrate a completely harmonious confession of guilt, i.e., of adherence to a truth already existing in the minds of the inquisitors. The use of leading questions and a variety of stratagems, including, in particular, refined torture, were intended to force the defendants to admit that the victim had indeed been kidnapped and tortured according to Jewish ritual, and finally killed in hatred of the Christian faith. The confessions are said to be obviously unbelievable, since the murders were allegedly committed to permit the ritual use of Christian blood, in violation of the Biblical prohibition against the ingestion

p. 12]

of blood, a prohibition scrupulously observed by all Jews. DELETED As to torture, it is best to recall that its use in the municipalities of northern Italy, at least from the beginning of the 13th century, was regulated, not only by tractate, but by statute as well. As an instrument for determining the truth, torture was permitted in the presence of serious and well-justified clues in cases in which it was considered truly necessary by the podestà [magistrate] and judges. All confessions extorted in this manner, to be considered valid, had to be corroborated by the inquisitor, later, under normal conditions, i.e., in the absence of physical pain or even the threat of renewed torture (5). These procedures, while unacceptable in our eyes today, were therefore in fact normal, and seem to have been observed in the case of the Trent trials.

FOOTNOTE DELETED 5) In this regard, see E. Maffei's recent Dal reato alla sentenza. Il processo criminale in età communale, Rome, 2005, pp. 98-101.


Israel Yuval, following in the footsteps of Cecil Roth’s stimulating pioneering study (6), is more critical and seems more open-minded. Yuval stresses the link between the “blood libel” accusation and the phenomenon of the mass suicides and child murders during the German Jewish communities during the First Crusade. The picture which emerges is one of Ashkenazi Jewry’s hostile and virulent reaction against surrounding Christian society, a reaction finding expression, not only in liturgical invective, but above all, in the conviction that the Jews themselves were capable of compelling God to wreak bloody revenge against their Christian persecutors, thus bringing redemption closer (7).

More recently, Yuval very relevantly demonstrated that the Ashkenazi responses to ritual murder accusations were surprisingly weak These responses, whenever they were recorded, contained not the slightest rejection of the probative evidence; rather, they consisted of a mere tu quoque of the accusation against Christians: "Nor are you, yourselves, exempt from guilt of ritual cannibalism" (8). As Yuval wrote, David Malkiel had already noted the manner in which phenomenal prominence was given to the scene, described in a secondary Midrash even in the illustrations of the Passover Haggadah of the German Jewish communities, to the scene, of the Pharaoh taking a health-giving bath in the blood of cruelly massacred Jewish children (9). The message, which cast not the slightest doubt upon the magical, therapeutic effectiveness of children’s blood, seemed intended to turn the accusation around. “It is not we Jews, or, if you wish, not just we Jews, who have committed such actions; the enemies of Israel in history have been guilty of these things as well, in which case it was Jewish children who were the innocent victims”.

DELETED Any showing that these murders, celebrated in the Passover ritual, represented, not just myths, i.e., more or less consistently widespread, consistent religious beliefs,

p. 13]

but, rather, actual rites, pertaining to organized groups and forms of worship which were actually practiced, requires a respect for due methodological prudence. The existence of this phenomenon, once it is unequivocally proven, must be viewed within its historical, religious and social context, not to mention the geographical environment in which it is presumably said to have found expression, with all the related and peculiar characteristics which cannot be replicated elsewhere. In other words, we must attempt to search for the heterogeneous elements and particular historical-religious experiences which are alleged to have made the killing of Christian children for ritualistic purposes appear plausible, during a certain period, within a certain geographical area (i.e., the German-speaking regions of trans-Alpine and Cisalpine Italy and Germany, or wherever there were strong ethnic elements of German Jewish origin, any time between the Middle Ages and the early modern era), as the expression of collective adjustment of Jewish groups and a presumed desire on the part of God in this sense, or as the irrational instrument of pressure to reinforce that desire [on the part of God], as well as in the mass suicides and child murders "for the love of God", during the First Crusade.



p. 15]

DELETED The present paper could not have been written without the advice, criticism, meetings and discussions with Dani Nissim, a long-time friend, who, in addition to his great experience as a bibliographer and bibliophile, made available to me his profound knowledge of the history of the Jewish community of the Veneto region, and of Padua in particular. The conclusions of this work are nevertheless mine alone, and I have no doubt that that the above named persons would very largely disagree with them. I have engaged in lengthy discussions of the chapters on the Jews of Venice with Reiny Mueller, over the course of which I was given highly useful suggestions and priceless advice. Thanks are also due to the following persons for their assistance in the retrieval of the archival and literary documentation; for their encouragement and criticism, to Diego Quaglioni; Gian Maria Varanini; Rachele Scuro; Miriam Davide; Ellioth Horowitz; Judith Dishon; Boris Kotlerman and Ita Dreyfus.

Grateful thanks are also due to those of my students who participated actively in my seminars on the topic, held at the Department of Jewish History at Bar-Ilan University (2001-2002 and 2005-2006), during which I presented the provisional results of my research. First and foremost, however, I wish to thank Ugo Berti, who persuaded me to undertake this difficult task, giving me the courage to overcome the many foreseeable obstacles which stood in the way.
p. 79]

Israel had obtained this information in 1470 from Mosè of Ulm, the special envoy to whom the Germanic Jewish community had entrusted with the task of traveling to Emperor Frederick III’s palace by horseback to obtain the release from prison of the Jews involved in the affair (13). As we know, the imperial intervention failed because it was received too late, after the public executions had already occurred. This same Hinderbach, in a missive sent to Friar Michele Carcano of Milan, remembered that numerous Jews from Endingen and Pforzheim, both men and women, had been found guilty of ritual murder and had been put to death on the order of the Count of Baden a few years before  (14). INTERPOLATION p.  81 of new edition: We must therefore note that certainly these and other testimonies, although extorted with torture and piloted by the judges towards the conclusions which they wished to reach, also included descriptions and accounts of events which actually occurred and which can be documented from other sources. (15)

Footnote 15. The following persons have made excellent, even if not entirely convincing, contributions in this regard: Po-Chia Hsia, who, referring to the testimonies of the Trent defendants on the facts of Endingen and Pforzheim, considers it all a clumsy inquisitorial manipulation intended to confer plausibility on slanderous reports, invented out of whole cloth, using unnatural juxtapositions of evens, known and real. "And so, the real and the imaginary fused into a seamless whole, the lies [...] told under duress only confirmed the veracity of the historical Endingen trial which became, in turn, the fulcrum of the fictive universe of Jewish violence". (R. Po-Chia Hsia, Trent 1475, A Ritual Murder Trial, New Haven, Conn., 1992, p. 90).: Elsewhere, the same author…

15) Ronnie Po-Chia Hsia errs, for example, when, in referring to the detailed deposition of Maestro Tobias on Frederick's visit to Venice in 1469, and on the presence in the city of the "merchant of Candia" (who, as we have seen, should be identified as David Mavrogonato), speaks of a fable with an exotic flavor, imagined by the Jewish physician to placate his tormenters and to put an end to the tortures to which he was being subjected (ibidem, pp. 46-47). But, as may easily be demonstrated, Tobias' testimony was precise in all its particulars and responded to that which he had actually seen and that which had really happened on that occasion. Miri Rubin, who has examined the German trials for desecration of the Host, although he considers them a slander, cannot help but note that the testimonies often contained elements the acceptability of which was beyond doubt ("the testimony contains true and imagined aspects of Jewish communal life"). Cfr. M. Rubin, Gentile Tales. The Narrative Assault on Late Medieval Jews, New Haven (Conn.), 1999, p. 123.

DELETED One might be tempted to draw a clear line of demarcation between the evidence given by the Trent defendants, for which exact records exist, and the others, for which no historical documentation for these accusations and denunciations has thus far been found. The latter could be dismissed as fantasies and delirium, produced by atrocious suffering, under torture, by persons devastated by suffering and incapable of reacting, or as the nightmare projections of beliefs held by the judges and suggested by the inquisitors. But such an attempt does not seem logical or convincing, and would, in the last analysis, appear to be completely counterproductive if an attempt be made to confront the problem of ritual child murders and place these crimes in their historical context, establishing their geographical extent and limits. Thus, precisely those exact records which have come to light, at least where some of the testimonies are concerned, should teach us not to dismiss their reality out of hand, or without persuasive justification, even if they are in fact exaggerations or distortions of events for which the historical documentation has not yet been found (15).

Moreover, at least one other case places us in the same dilemma; we find it difficult to dismiss detailed testimony confirmed by clear documentary fact. At the beginning of the trial, the Trent inquisitors decided to interrogate a convert -- a “Jew turned Christian”, as such converts were then called -- who, in the days of Simon’s tragic death, was being held prisoner at Trent for another crime which had nothing to do with ritual child murder. But as to the child murders, which the Jews were accustomed to commit on Passover eve, Giovanni of Feltre -- that being the name of the convert, the son of Sacheto (Shochat), a Jew from Landshut in Bavaria -- seems to have much to tell. Around 1440, at Landshut, to be exact, when he was a child and

p. 80]

still a Jew, the recent convert had heard that the Jews of the local community, including his own father, had killed a Christian child to collect the child’s blood for ritual purposes.

The police authorities arrested forty five Jews, as the result of a raid effected in their district, and later burnt them publicly at the stake. Other Jews, including Shochat, had taken refuge in flight, seeking shelter with their families in the Cisalpine regions of Italy (16). Both the child murder at Landshut and the subsequent massacre of the Jews are precisely confirmed by the extant contemporary historical documentation (17). So it is not easy to dismiss Giovanni di Feltre’s familiar testimony, although it is considered automatically unreliable on all the particulars not confirmed by the historical documentation or in relation to which we lack sufficient means of verification.

This does not yet explain how the Jews, and the Ashkenazi Jews in particular, could reconcile the Biblical prohibition against the oral consumption of blood – which was rigid and without exceptions -- with the custom, apparently well-rooted, of using it, nonetheless, in medications and elixirs of various kinds, proven and tested over time. Since these elixirs are often true and proper medications, even if not contemplated by official medicine, the Jewish ritual law (halakhah) only permitted them when the patient was considered in danger of his life, in which case the complete and temporary abolition of all the norms of the Torah -- Jewish law -- was permitted in order to save the patient. But, as we have noted, in popular practice, blood, both human or animal, appeared even in preparations to be administered to patients suffering from minor complaints, or complaints of only relative seriousness, or even as a curative in the toils of love. Confronted by these obvious contradictions, even

CHAPTER SIX  (beginning p. 93)

p. 104]

the defendants in the Trent trial found it necessary to take a position, and to explain and justify such things. CHANGED: And this was not an easy task at all, partly because many of them lacked the necessary culture to do so.

NEW VERSION OF SAME SENTENCE, p. 107 of new edition: And this was not an easy task at all, partly because the accused were perfectly well aware of the real objectives of the judges with their questions on this matter. 

Following deletion then occurs on p. 104 of the old text:

DELETED: Lazzaro da Serravalle, servant in Angelo da Verona’s house, attempted to do so instinctively, without entering into any over-complicated reasoning. In his view, the dictates of the Torah referred to animal blood only -- which was always prohibited -- while it was permitted to ingest the blood of a human being, particularly if it was the blood of a Christian, the declared enemy of the Jews and Judaism (40). As usual Israel Wolfgang, who must have possessed rather more culture than Lazzaro, although not strictly rabbinical, attempted to supply a more elaborate response, ingenious and less crude. To the young artist from Brandenburg, it was clear that the Torah and later rabbinical regulations presupposed two different moral codes, one applying to the Jewish world, and the other applicable to the surrounding Christian world, which was different and often hostile and menacing. Therefore, that which was prohibited between Jews was not necessarily prohibited in relations between Jews and Christians. For example, the Biblical norm which prohibited usury between two brothers (Deut. 23:21), "unto a stranger thou may’st lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury"), was interpreted as concerning exclusively relations between Jews, while usurious lending to Christians was automatically permitted -- so much so as to be universally practiced (41). With a bold analogy, which we decline to believe was extorted by judges exceptionally erudite in Jewish matters by means of ingenious verbal and psychological trickery, Israel Wolfgang maintained that even the Biblical prohibition against human blood was absolute for Jews, and rigid when it involved blood extracted from the veins of Jews, but was permitted and even recommended when originating from the body of Christians, or Christian children in particular (42).

In this regard, it is worth recalling that, in that which Camporesi calls as "the dark tunnel of necromantic medicine", specialty shops offered alchemists and herb alchemists oils and balsams extracted from fetid mummies, miraculous electuaries containing the powder of craniums, often from persons condemned to death, fat from human flesh, distilled from the bodies of persons killed and suicides (43). It is not surprising that popular medicine should also have permitted them as legitimate medications, prescribing them not only in the cure of serious and dangerous complaints. The sole recommendation in these cases remains the explanation that oils, fats and bones in powder, mummies and human flesh

p. 105]

in poultices -- as Israel Wolfgang explained to the judges of Trent with reference to human blood -- were not to be extracted from the corpses of Jews. DELETED The rabbinical responses were rather clear in this regard, when they hastened to stress that "there is no prohibition against usefully benefiting from the dead bodies of Gentiles" (44).

The authoritative German rabbi sought to uphold the ritual lawfulness of dried blood totally without any liquid component, stating that, in this manner, the blood must be considered to have lost any alimentary connotations. But obviously, the central justification of his argument remained the notion that a custom established over time in the community of Israel, even if in contrast with the norms, was to be considered perfectly authorized and permissible. INTERPOLATION p. 108 new edition: Reischer was writing in the 16th century, but was referring to the custom of consuming animal blood (recourse to human blood, as we have seen, was considered less serious) as a widespread practice among German Jews from time immemorial, and therefore having become, thanks precisely to its antiquity, minhagh Israel, that is, a “custom of the Jewish people).  

p. 106]

p. 108]

from the sale (50). In any case, it seems certain that, in the reality of the German territories, blood was frequently purchased and sold, at high prices, for the most diverse purposes, and that young human blood was certainly preferable to animal blood. It was, therefore, foreseeable that the ambiguous and equivocal sector of selling and purchasing human blood was rife with fraud and counterfeiting for the purpose of increasing one’s profits with the minimum of effort. INTERPOLATION p. 111 of new edition: Apart from a few unpleasant and involuntary working accidents, this blood belonged to live “donors” whose families, due to their indigence, intended to supplement their meager income by means of a trade considered legitimate, certainly not out of the ordinary, and in no way embarrassing.  

According to Trent defendants, their more alert clients had demanded that the resellers provide certificates of ritual suitability, signed by serious and acknowledged rabbinical authorities, as was customarily done for food products prepared according to the religious rules of the kashrut. No matter how paradoxical and improbable this fact may appear to our eyes -- so much so as make one believe that it was invented out of whole cloth by the judicial authorities of Trent -- we believe that this matter deserves a certain amount of attention and precise verification, where possible, of the underlying facts and particulars upon which it appears to be built. INTERPOLATION p. 111 of new edition: In fact, as we have seen, the German rabbis found themselves constrained to stoop to the compromise of permitting the consumption of human blood, both animal and human, reduced to powder, for medical and magical purposes of various kinds, according to widespread practices of the surrounding Christian society, particularly, in rural areas. The kashrut certificate with its signature, which accompanied the product, guaranteed that the blood had lost all alimentary connotation and could be used without fear of violating the Biblical and rabbinical prohibition. As Rabbi Reischer of Prague is said to have explicitly stated years later, “this blood was dried to such a point as to have been transformed almost into a piece of wood, being deprived of all humidity; therefore, it is not prohibited in any way”.     

OLD FOOTNOTE 44, CHAPTER SIX, EXPANDED INTO NEW FOOTNOTE 33, CHAPTER SIX: Hebrew: Mete' goim enam asurim ha'anaah; en asur ba-anaah ella mete Israel; met goy mutar ha'anaah afilu le-choleh she-en-bo sakkanah ("One may also use the corpse of a non-Jew in curing a sick person who is not in danger of losing his life"). See David b. Zimra, Sheelot w-teschuvot. Responsa, vol. III, Fürth, 1781, no. 548 [= 979]; Abraham Levi, Ghinnat veradim. Responsa ("The Rose Garden"), Constantinople, Jonah b. Ja'akov, 1715, Yoreh' de'ah, vol. I, response no. 4; Jacob Reischer, Shevut Ya'akov. Responsa ("The Captivity of Jacob"), vol. III, Offenbach, Bonaventura de Lannoy, 1719, no. 94 (see also the following note). The responses on this topic are based on the opinion expressed in regards to the Tossaphists, the classical Franco-German commentators on the Talmud. INTERPOLATION: In this regard, see also H.J. Zimmels, Magicians, Theologians and Doctors, London, 1952, pp. 125-128, 243-244. Daniel Sperber (Minahaghe’ Israel) [“The Customs of the Jewish People”], Jerusalem, 1991, in Hebrew, pp. 59-65), also inspired by the studies of H.J. Zimmels, (Magicians, Theologians and Doctors, London, 1952) and H. Pollack (Jewish Folkways in Germanic Lands, 1648-1806, Cambridge, 1971, presents a wide selection of Hebrew texts revealing the widespread use, in German Judaism, on a popular level, of animal blood and mummified human bodies for therapeutic purposes. The rabbi Elkana Hildesheimer, in an essay soon to be published, dedicated to this topic (Consumption of Prohibited Foods in the Absence of Life-Threatening Danger, Ramat Gan, 2008, in Hebrew, examining these and other rabbinical texts, reaches the conclusion that “the Ashkenazi Jews have consumed foods not permitted by the rite, perhaps requesting and obtaining a problematical rabbinical dispensation. This is also true of human blood, when, generally, the prohibition against ingesting human blood was faced with a greater carelessness than that involving the blood of beasts and fowl. The consumption of human blood not only appeared less repellent than it may appear to our eyes today, but in infrequent cases the rabbis found themselves compelled to permit it”.       


p. 112]

William, asking his mother Elviva for permission to take William with him to work as an apprentice. The woman’s suspicions and hesitation were soon won over thanks to a considerable sum of money. The following day, little William was already traveling the streets of Norwich in the company of the self-proclaimed cook, directly to the dwelling of his aunt Leviva, Godwin Sturt’s wife, who became informed of the apprenticeship undertaken by the child and his new patron. But the latter individual awakened numerous suspicions in the aunt, Leviva, who asked a young girl to follow them and determine their destination. The shadowing, as discreet as it was effective, took the child to the threshold of the dwelling of Eleazar, one of the heads of the community of Norwich, where the cook had little William enter the house with the necessary prudence and circumspection.

At this point, Thomas of Monmouth allowed another key witness to speak, one who had been strategically placed inside the Jew's house. This was Eleazar's Christian servant, who, the following morning, had by chance, witnessed, with horror -- through the crack of a door left inadvertently open -- the cruel ceremony of the child’s crucifixion and atrocious martyrdom, with the participation, carried out with religious zeal, of local Jews, "in contempt of the passion of our Lord”. DELETED Thomas kept the date of the crucial event clearly in mind. It was Palm Sunday, Wednesday 22 March of the year 1144.


p. 167]

simultaneously with the recitation of the plagues of Egypt, recalled the cruel punishment said to have come from the "vengeful sword" of God (12).

A famous contemporary of Maharil, Rabbi Shabom of Wiener Neustadt, has also confirmed the anti-Christian significance of the sprinkling of the wine during the reading of the plagues of Egypt.  "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” (13).

It should be noted that the ritual of the wine and the curses was practiced only in Jewish communities of German origin, while it was quite unknown among Jews of Iberian origins (Sephardim), or Italian and Oriental Jews. INTERPOLATION p. 171 new edition: Its reconstruction was recently convincingly proposed based on the testimonies of the German rabbis, cited above, in addition to other manuscripts of the Sefer ha-rokeach (“Book of the Pharmacist”), the famous compendium of Eleazar of Worms (13th century) (new footnote 14).

It was not known until today that the ritual of the curses with its particular formulae and accompanying symbolic gestures had been adopted by the Jews of Trent in their Passover liturgy, which was pointedly anti-Christian in nature.    

NEW FOOTNOTE 14: Rokeach, ms hebr. Bodeiana, Oxford, no. 1103. See also N. Coronel, Chamischah kuntresim (“Five brochures”), Vienna, 1864, c. 27a: I. Ta-Schma in Efraim Talmage Memorial Volume, by D. Walfish, Haifa, 1993), pp. 85-98. I.J. Yuval, “Two Nations in Your Womb”. Perceptions of Jews and Christians. Tel Aviv, 2000, pp. 116-117, 144-145) is the scholar who provided a detailed description of the ritual of curses, practiced by certain Ashkenazi communities, sustaining that these curses had in fact transformed the contents of the Jewish Passover and ”making use of virulent and aggressive expressions, which it would be vain to search for among the Jews of Iberian origin”, had superimposed upon the memorial of the Exodus from Egypt the aspiration for a Messianic redemption constructed on the ruins of the Christian world. ”As God revenged Himself on Egypt, striking their first born with death, thus in future will He strike the nations of the world and destroy them in the final redemption” (cfr. Yuval, “Two Nations in Your Womb”, cit. p. 116).           



p. 182]

the perfect male lamb was being lost, and, in its place, (the Jews) now used the blood of a Christian boy [...] and they do this and consider it necessary as a negative memorial (of the Passion) of Jesus, God of the Christians, who was a male, rather than a female, and who was hanged and died on the cross in torment, in a shameful and vile manner" (30).

Israele, Samuele of Nuremberg’s son, referred to the rite’s ancient value in a response to his judges relating to the significance which came to be attributed, over time, to the mixing of the blood into the unleavened bread. "We consume it in the unleavened bread" he said, “as a memorial of the blood with which the Lord commanded Moses to paint the door-posts of the doors of Jewish houses when they were the slaves of the Pharoah" (31).

On the other hand, Vitale of Weissenburg, Samuele’s agent, preferred to confer a second meaning upon the rite, that is, that of an upside-down memorial to the Passion of Christ, considered as an emblem and paradigm of the fall of Israel’s enemies and of divine vengeance, forewarning of final redemption. "We use the blood", he declared, "as a sad memorial of Jesus [...] in outrage and contempt of Jesus, God of the Christians, and every year we do the memorial of that passion [...] in fact, the Jews perform the memorial of the Passion of Christ every year, by mixing the blood of the Christian boy into their unleavened bread (32).

INTERPOLATION pp. 186-87 of new edition: If we strip the confessions of the accused away from the obvious interpolations of the judges, intended to confirm the responsibility of the Jews in child murder for ritual purposes, we are presented with a complex image of a hypothetical, but not improbable, ceremony which the Jews of Trent and other Ashkenazi communities are said to have performed during Passover. During the dinner of the Seder, before the list of the ten plagues of Egypt and the anti-Christian invectives, which, as we have seen, had been added to the Passover liturgy by particular fringes of the Ashkenazi diaspora, the head of the family was said to have dissolved in the wine, to be sprinkled onto the table (which was later said to have been thrown away and not drunk by the tablemates, a few grains of powdered Christian blood, pronouncing the formula “this is young Christian blood”. The act was said to possess a profound symbolic power, transforming the wine into the blood of Edom, the hated Christian persecutors deserving the bitterest curses. In some cases, it appears that some Jews extended the ritual of the curses to the preparation of the shimmurim, the three “solemn” azzime, as well. During their preparation, in the pierced dough, to prevent it from rising, a symbolic quantity of dried Christian blood was said to have been added. The operation was said to have been accompanied by the invective ken ikkaretu kol oyeveha “Thus may our enemies be consumed”, in Angelo da Verona’s translation.

The anti-Christian anathemata, recited while the wine was being sprinkled rhythmically onto the table, “constituted in its own right an explosive act of destructive magic, born of a violent and aggressive Messianism [new footnote 33] The addition to the wine of a small measure of Christian blood was said to have served to transform it symbolically into the blood of those addressed by the curses, conferring upon them an explosive and tremendous magical value. The dried blood was said to have been drawn from the same vial as that from which it was extracted on the most diverse occasions during the year, for therapeutic or exorcistic purposes, as, for example, when, together with egg yolk, it was administered to Anna da Montagnana, Samuele da Nuremberg’s daughter-in-law, to protect her during her pregnancy. It was obviously not the product, direct or indirect, of a child murder.     

It has recently been stressed that it is easy to note how the Ashkenazi Jews had believed in a redemption founded on a symbology of blood, expressed principally in the rites of the Seder of Passover and of circumcision [new footnote 34]. The mohel, after
sucking the blood from the circumcision wound, spat it into the wine, which was then smeared on the child’s lips for exorcistic and propitiatory purposes. A few drops of the blood of the circumcised child was sufficient to transform the wine into a benefic potion of infallible salvific efficacy. (35). It should not therefore be surprising that during the Middle Ages, at Worms and in the other Jewish communities of the valley of the Rhine, the wine with the blood of the circumcised child was poured, in the synagogue, onto the steps of the Ark containing the scrolls of the Law, with exorcistic and luck-bringing intent (36). 

In the symbology of circumcision, a drop of the blood of the Jewish child shaken into the wine transformed it into a benefic fluid, bringing good luck to the people of Israel. If the analogy is consistent, in the magic ritual of the Passover curses, a few grains of the powdered blood of a Christian child should have possessed the power to transform the wine into a death-bringing potion, capable of conferring tremendous efficacy upon the ardent aspiration for revenge upon the people of Christ. In both cases, although with contrary symbolic effect, the wine-blood, rather than being drunk, should be poured onto the ground or onto the table.  


33)  Cfr. Yuval, “Two Nations in Your Womb” [misprint: Two Nations in Your Bombs" -- a Freudian slip?] op. cit., 145.

ALL 34) Cfr. L.A. Hoffman, Covenant of Blood. Circumcision and Gender in Rabbinic Judaisim, Chicago, Ill., 1996, p. 135. (“That Jews believed in deliverance by blood symbolism, of which the seder and circumcision were two primary vehicles, I think is plain to see”).

35) The child’s blood flows from the wound and the mohel sucks it out. He pours wine […] after which he puts the wine, as blood, on the baby’s lips […]: the wine is treated as if it is about to become blood in the child’s system. By it he will be healed” (cfr. Hoffman, Covenant of Blood, cit., pp. 92-95). Amram Gaon (10th century) expressed “a coherent conviction that blood is salvific”, and nevertheless the commixture of the circumcision blood and the wine and above his benediction, probably “were added not by rabbinic enactment at all, but by the folk” (cfr. ibidem, pp. 84-87, 91, 110).

36) Cfr. Jacob Mulin Segal (Maharil), Sefer ha-minhagim (The Book of Customs), by Sh. Spitzer, Jerusalem, 1989, pp. 482 ff; Y. Shemesh, Minhage’ Warmaisa (“The Use of Worms”), Jerusalem, 1992, vol. II, p. 71.

David Tebel Sprinz was actually a rather well-known rabbi. Born in 1400, he had governed the Talmudic academy of Bamberg until 1448, and moved to Nuremberg around the middle of the century, taking control of the local yeshiva. He was still alive in 1474, carrying on his activity at Poznán in Poland (38). Samuele’s information in this respect was therefore correct, although we have no way of knowing how much truth there might be in his assertions relating to the subject of the teachings which Sprinz is alleged to have imparted orally in relation to the blood rituals. It is, however, a fact that three German rabbis, all of top-level importance, were implicated in the Trent trials in various ways relating to the transmission of traditions relating to ritual child murder, the use of blood in the Jewish Passover and the contemptuous commemoration of the Passion of Christ. Together with David Tebel Sprinz of Bamberg, we find the names of Jodenmeister Moshè of Halle, who also moved to Posnán just like his predecessor, and Shimon Katz, president of the rabbinical tribunal of Frankfurt am Main. It seems hardly accidental to me that none of the Ashkenazi rabbis -- from the most famous to the least well-known -- active in the German-origin Jewish communities of northern Italy is mentioned in the trial records; the only rabbis mentioned are ones whose activity was always carried on in Germany.

INTERPOLATION  p. 190 of new edition: David Sprintz, Mosche of Halle and Shimon Katz were probably the German rabbis who permitted the use, although begrudgingly, for purposes of exorcism, of the blood in the wine of the Passover curses, although they attempted to subject it to restrictions of various kinds.   

The observation that neither Italian Jews nor Italian Jewish communities were ever accused of committing ritual child murders compelled the Trent judges to investigate this phenomenon in order to determine whether or not the Italian Jews were simply unaware of the custom or


p. 185]

rejected it as contrary to the principles of Judaism, in contrast to the Jews of Germanic origin.

INTERPOLATION p. 190 of new edition: In their responses, the defendants, in contrast to the judges interested in revealing in the authenticity of the rite of infanticide, restricted themselves to illustrating the Passover rite of the wine, the blood and the curses, which did not appear among the traditions of the Italian Jews, without any sense of embarrassment or astonishment.     

p. 186]

suppliers of ritual oranges for German Judaism was the Italian Riviera, particularly, San Remo. Lazzaro and David, on the other hand, were headed for Riva on the Lago di Garda, where they knew that what they were needed could be found in the green orchards surrounding that delightful body of water (42).

Even the commemorative pamphlet on little Simon, who was now a saint, published in Rome one hundred years after his death, with the obvious intention of recalling the facts relating to his martyrdom through education and admonishment, found space to praise the noble act of these two Jews in denouncing a ritual which they found detestable, considering it a true and proper betrayal of Jewish teachings. The consideration that precisely a clearly hagiographic source, such as the Summary of the Life and Martyrdom of Saint Simon, Child of the City of Trent, a text which is moreover openly anti-Jewish, should preserve and translate their words in a sense of positive appreciation,constitutes grounds for reflection.

CHANGED  If nothing else, it sounds like a confirmation of the existence of a general belief that Ashkenazi Judaism was anything but monolithic in this sense. CHANGED, 186 of new edition:  If nothing else, it sounds like a confirmation of the fact that, even among the Christians, who believed in the ritual murder accusation made against the Jews, there were still those who did not believe it applicable to the generality of Ashkenazi Jews. 


p. 193]

The blood of the sacrifice, far from contaminating the place, was to serve as an irresistible call to God, exhorting Him to implacable vengeance against His enemies and those of the Chosen People, as the necessary preamble to the much-desired Messianic redemption. The blood of the innocent children, shed in the synagogue "in sanctification of the name of God”, or "as a sign of contempt and abomination of the heretical crucifix", therefore served the same function, or, more exactly, served as two symbolic and successive phases of the very same process towards final redemption. INTERPOLATION p. 201 of new edition: The relationship linking the suicides and the infanticides “for the love of God”, which occurred in the German territories during the First Crusade and the subsequent years, with ritual homicide, made against the Ashkenazi Jews, seems indisputable. Their behavior on those occasions seems to stress a complete preparedness for the ritual sacrifice of children. In the eyes of the Christians, it seemed obvious that, if the Jews were prepared to sacrifice their own children without batting an eye, they would be all the more prepared to put Christian children to death to hasten the revenge-bringing redemption. In this sense, ritual infanticide would be considered as the “symmetrical opposite” of the sacrifice of the Jewish children in sanctification of the name of God” (13).

NEW FOOTNOTE 13: This is the hypothesis sustained by Israel Yuval (“Two Nations in Your Womb”), cit. pp. 151-218, amply documented by him. Before him, Ivan Marcus (Hierarchies, Religious Boundaries and Jewish Spirituality in Medieval Germany, in “Jewish History”, I, 1986, no. 27), had invited his readers seriously to explore “the relationship between Jews ritually killing Jews as martyrs and the Christian accusation […] that Jews ritually kill Christians”.    

In the tradition of the German Jews, when the phrase "So that they (the Christians) may prostrate themselves and turn their prayers to vanity and nullity, to a God which is not the Savior" it was the custom to perform gestures of reproof and contempt, such as stamping the feet, shaking the head or jumping up and down on the ground (21). Giulio Morosini reported that, even in his time, when the Jews of Venice recited the liturgical hymn 'Alenu le-shabbeacuh, which he described as "contumelious against Christ and Christians [...] some attest that, when saying these words, they are accustomed to show abomination by spitting" (22). Insulting and scurrilous gestures and obscene acts, even, and most particularly, if performed within the holy confines of the synagogue, lost their negative connotations and served to underline and stress their passionate hatred and implacable contempt. INTERPOLATION, p. 211 new edition: Not surprisingly, insults, curses and obscene gestures, those which often accompanied the Hebrew liturgical declamations against Jesus and Christianity, were attributed in the records of the Trent trial to the Jews accused of the child murder of little Simoncino, in the act of committing the alleged ritual crime. 

The Sabbath right after little Simon’s murder, when the child’s body was placed on the almemor, the Jews of Trent, gathered in the synagogue, abandoned themselves to excessive gestures absolutely without inhibition or restraint. According to the deposition of Angelo da Verona’s servant, Lazzaro, Samuele da Nuremberg, after concluding his fiery anti-Christian sermon against Jesus and His Mother, rushed up to the almemor, and, after “doing the fig”, slapped the boy in the face and spat on him. Not to be outdone, Angelo de Verona imitated these outrageous gestures, spitting and slapping the corpse, while Mosè "the Old Man" of Würzburg “did the fig”, mockingly showing his teeth, while Maestro Tobias allowed himself to be carried away in the performance of other acts of violence, with no shortage of slapping and spitting.


p. 204]

CHANGED SLIGHTLY p. 213 of new edition This scandalous spectacle was CHANGED, p. 213 new edition: said to have been crowned by the other participants, led by Isacco, Angelo’s cook, and Mosè da Bamberg, the traveler, Lazzaro and Israel Wolfgang, the painter, and Israel, Samuele’s son, who, in addition to “doing the fig” like the others, stuck out his tongue and made faces. For their part, Joav da Ansbach, Maestro Tobias’s scullery boy, had no hesitation in performing obscene gestures, and, coarsely raising his caftan, displayed his buttocks [and genitals] shamelessly, a blasphemous act sometimes reserved solely for the passing of holy processions (23). Joav himself, in his confession, added that he had bitten the child's ear in an attempt to imitate or outdo Samuele da Nurmberg (24). Anna da Montagana, the latter’s daughter-in-law, confirmed that she had indeed been present at this unedifying scene (25).

p. 205]

the boy lying on the almemor and the Crucified Christ were one and the same person. Simon did not exist -- if he had ever existed – and, in his place, they saw the Talui, Jesus the hanged, and the Teluiah, the hanged or crucified woman, as Mary was called in an extemporaneous Hebraic neologism. To them, he was the Christ, and whoever had engendered Him -- the detestable embodiments of Christianity, responsible for their miserable Diaspora, their bloody persecutions and forced conversions. Almost trance-like, they cursed and swore, performed contemptuous and obscene gestures, each one recalling tragic family memories and the many sufferings of those who, in their eyes, had embraced the cross as an offensive weapon.

CHANGED: The indignities heaped upon this innocent, sacrificed child in some ways resembled the Cabalistic rite of the kapparot ("The [Fast of] Expiation"), CHANGED, p. 213 new edition: That which the prosecution alleged had happened to the innocent, sacrificed child was said to have followed a procedure in some ways similar to the cabbalistic rite of the kapparot (the “expiation”) of  established custom among German Jews on the eve of the solemn fast of Kippur.

...but Jewish ritual murder is absurd
because Jews are disgusted by the ingestion of blood!