Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/224

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

or any single individual, by bestowing perhaps a piece of land or an office upon him, a papal letter soon appeared warning and threatening with punishment, and reminding the prince that a son of the hand-maid should never be preferred to a son of the free-woman.[1] Cardinal legates of the Pope had it decided at councils (as at Vienna, in 1267) that no Jew should be permitted in a bath-house or drinking-saloon or an inn; that no Christian should dare buy meat of a Jew, since he might thus be treacherously poisoned. The Synod of Salamanca, of the year 1335, declared that physicians of the Mosaic faith offered their services only because they wished to destroy, as far as they could, the Christian people, and so, in effect, the population of all Europe.

In this way the seeds of hate and detestation were sown, and wholesale murder was the harvest. Accustomed to the view that every Jew is a born enemy and debtor to the Christians, the nations, in a time when what was cruel and unnatural was credulously laid hold of with a kind of predilection and even eagerness, held the Jews to be capable of every crime, even the most improbable and impossible. After the twelfth century, the story went about that the Jews craved Christian blood, some imagined for their festival of the passover, others as a remedy against a secret hereditary disease; and, to get it, that they put a boy to death every year. In addition, a pretense was made of knowing that they crucified a Christian every year in mockery of the Redeemer.

If a corpse, on which there were signs of violence, or a dead child, was found anywhere, a Jew must have been the murderer; generally, the crime was supposed to have been committed by a number jointly, and torture was continued till it extorted confessions. Then followed horrible executions, and in many cases a general butchering of the whole Jewish population in town and country. An orderly, unprejudiced judicial procedure was not to be thought of. The judges and magistrates trembled themselves before the rage of the populace, which had its mind made up from the start, and held fast to the presumption that the most infamous deeds might be expected of every member of this murderous people. Occasionally, it was an image of Christ, which a Jew was said to have pierced with a knife or mutilated, that gave the signal for a massacre. After the year 1290, rumors of maltreated and miraculously bleeding Hosts were added. From Paris, where the first case had happened, the news spread to the neighboring countries. Very soon the possession of a similar miraculous treasure was coveted elsewhere; and now it appeared as if the Jews, seized by a demoniacal frenzy, at once believed and disbelieved an ecclesiastical dogma, and had an irrepressible desire for an agonizing death—so frequently were these ostensible outrages revenged upon them.

In London the Jews were murdered because they were suspected

  1. St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, iv, 22-31. (Translator.)