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The Blood Libel and Ritual Murder Accusation 

The blood libel is the allegation that Jews ritually murdered non-Jews, especially Christians, to obtain blood to make Passover bread. It was a complex of deliberate lies, trumped up accusations, and popular beliefs about the murder-lust of the Jews and their bloodthirstiness, based on the conception that Jews hated Christianity and humankind in general. It was combined with the delusion that Jews were in some way not human and had to have recourse to special remedies and subterfuges to appear, at least outwardly, like other men. The blood libel led to trials and massacres of Jews.

Gabriel Wilensky

Did Jews Commit Ritual Murder?

It is astonishing how some people hold on to the preposterous notion that Jews committed ritual murder. Even in recent times, this ancient unfounded accusation prevalent in medieval Christian lands has morphed into modern environments and lexicon. These days Israelis—as proxies for “The Jew”—are being falsely accused of harvesting the organs of Palestinian boys or victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

“The blood libel and ritual murder accusation would be exploited all the way to the time of the Holocaust, in which Nazi antisemitic propagandists would use the imagery of Jews allegedly extracting blood from Christian boys to point to the Jews’ supposed blood lust.”

The accusation of ritual murder began in medieval England when a Christian boy disappeared. The local population, already predisposed to blaming Jews for all the ills of the world, was quick to blame the Jews of kidnapping the boy to extract his blood to make Passover bread. The facts that Jewish Law strictly prohibits the consumption of blood, and that it was never proven that Jews did this other than through bogus confessions extracted by using torture, did not deter Christians everywhere in Europe from believing and perpetuating this accusation. Over the course of the following centuries, every time a Christian boy disappeared or his body was found, Jews were accused of having ritually murdered him to extract his blood. Ultimately, this accusation was an extension of the accusation that the Jews had killed Jesus.

The blood libel and ritual murder accusation would be exploited all the way to the time of the Holocaust, in which Nazi antisemitic propagandists would use the imagery of Jews allegedly extracting blood from Christian boys to point to the Jews’ supposed blood lust. The Nazis had no difficulty in persuading the Christian German population that the Jews were blood-sucking parasites bent on taking the life away from the German volk, as the German people had been hearing these stories from their parents, teachers and priests all their lives.

Even after the Holocaust, there were pogroms against Jewish survivors in Poland in which the blood libel was regurgitated by the local Catholic population. A particularly notable example of this was the assault on the Jewish survivors in the Polish town of Kielce, where an outbreak of anti-Jewish violence resulted in a pogrom in which thirty-seven Polish Jews were murdered out of about two hundred survivors who had returned home after World War II. As the International Emergency Conference to Combat Antisemitism discovered, that type of incident had “something of a religious character about them.”

Even in modern times, in 2020 this canard has not disappeared. The Italian painter Giovanni Gasparro recently unveiled a work depicting the antisemitic blood libel
in a painting titled “The Martyrdom of St. Simon of Trento for Jewish ritual murder” showing several grinning Jews as they collect blood from body of a Christian child.

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