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Judeophobia - History and analysis of Antisemitism, Jew-Hate and anti-"Zionism"
Christian Persecution of Jews in Medieval Europe:II- Massacres, Crusades, Inquisitions, Expulsions

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Chapter 5: Christian Persecution of Jews in Medieval Europe : II- Massacres, Crusades, Inquisitions, Expulsions

Expulsion of the Jews


Main Page: Judeophobia ('Anti-Semitism') - A History and Analysis of Jew Hate

Judeophobia ('anti-Semitism',Jew Hate) in the Pagan Ancient World

Judeophobia (Anti-Semitism, Jew Hate) in the Early Christian Church

Medieval Persecution of Jews I - Proselytization, Conversions and Ghettos

Medieval Persecution of Jews: II- Crusades, Expulsions, Inquisitions and Massacres 

Medieval Persecution of Jews: III- Blood Libels and other Myths

Persecution of the Jews Under Islam

Judeophobia ('anti-Semitism') in the Reformation

Judeophobia in the Enlightenment and 19th Century France

Germany: Racism and Judeophobia ('Anti-Semitism')

Conspiratorial Theories and Russian Judeophobia ('Anti-Semitism')

Marxism and Judeophobia ('Anti-Semitism')

Judeophobia ('Anti-Semitism') in The United States

Contemporary Anti-Zionism

Holocaust Denial

Theories of the Etiology of Judeophobia ('Anti-Semitism')

The story of European Judeophobia so far: forced sermons and baptism, book burning, and ghettos. Now the tale takes a harsher turn: expulsions. Jews had been expelled on many occasions during ancient times, but only from the 4th century on was a systematic policy adopted. In the principal expulsions Jews were removed from a whole country for an extended period. By the end of the 13th century Jews had been expelled from England, France and Germany. This is how the story usually unfolded:

The Jew was caught in a no-win situation. On the one hand he was the “royal usurer” from whom kings squeezed their much needed funds. On the other, he was the local lender and pawn-broker who collected from peasants the money he needed to sustain his uncertain existence. The Royalty protected him as long as he was useful, and as long as the anger of the creditors and mobs simmered below the surface. When the resentment boiled over, the king abandoned “his Jews” and joined in the clamor.

In England, during the civil war of 1262, Jews were attacked in many places; in London alone, 1,500 were killed. In 1279 all Jews in the city were arrested on the charge of debasing the coin of the realm. After a London trial 280 were executed. Edward I ordered those remaining out of the realm by All Saints Day, 1290. The Jews’ possessions fell to the crown. In October, a month before the deadline, 16,000 left for France and Belgium, some finding death on the way, even as close as the Thames where a sea captain allowed many to drown. Jews were readmitted to England in 1650.

France expelled the Jews from most of its territory in 1306 and in 1394; they were not readmitted until 1789. Germany expelled them mainly during the Black Death of 1348 (we will refer to it next chapter). Spain and Portugal (in 1492 and 1497) removed the strongest community of that time (about 300,000 Jews) for virtually half a millennium. In 1495 the Jews were expelled from Lithuania, but were allowed to return eight years later.

Expulsions of Jews from specific towns and regions took place regularly (famous among the modern ones were Prague in 1744 and Moscow in 1891). As a rule, the reason for expelling the Jews was usually the exploitation of Judeophobia by rulers, for fiscal considerations. Socio-economic factors contributed to the hostility of Christian merchants and craftsmen felt towards their Jewish rivals, and to the resentment of debtors towards Jewish moneylenders. When Jews were not indispensable moneylenders and they did not fulfill any vital socio-economic function, the outcome was expulsion.

While most countries have their own cruel history of expulsions, Spain is a special case. After the marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand, respective heirs to the thrones of Castile and Aragon, the two kingdoms were united (1479). Spanish national homogeneity became the goal, and the Conversos (converted to Christianity) were perceived to threaten that goal. Initially, the Catholic Monarchs, as they were called, continued to employ Jewish and Converso functionaries, but later they requested that the Pope extend the Inquisition’s activities to their kingdom. In 1480 two Dominicans were named inquisitors and in the following six years more than 700 Conversos were burnt at the stake. Tomas de Torquemada, confessor to the queen, was appointed inquisitor-general in 1483, and the institution brought terror to the Jews from town to town. In ten years the Inquisition condemned 13,000 Conversos, men and women alike.

The march towards complete religious unity was reinforced when the last bastion of Muslim power in Spain fell, with the triumphant entry of the Catholic monarchs into Granada, in January 2, 1492. The scandal of Conversos who had remained true to Judaism had shown that the segregation of the Jews and limitations of their rights were not sufficient to suppress their influence, and the “New Christians” had to be isolated from that influence. The expulsion edict was signed in Granada to advance political consolidation; in May the exodus began. Hundreds of thousands left the country where their families had lived for over one thousand years, flourishing as merchants, astronomers, physicians, philosophers and poets.

From then on, concern in the Iberian Peninsula with the New Christians, which had long existed, became an obsession directed against those who had remained. The Marranos and their descendants were excluded from public office, guilds, colleges, orders, and even residence in certain towns. All roles in society were to be performed only by Christians with pure Christian ancestry. As time passed, the establishment redoubled its efforts to unearth the traces of any long-forgotten “impure” forefathers.

In Portugal legal distinctions between Old and New Christians were not officially abolished before 1773. Spain went even further and until 1860 “blood purity” was a requirement for admission to the military academy. The college attended by Spain’s most important leaders, the Saint Bartholomew of Salamanca, took pride in refusing admittance to anyone even rumored to be of Jewish descent. But since no one could be absolutely certain of his “blood purity since time immemorial,” the blemish ultimately became negotiable through bribed witnesses, shuffled genealogies, and falsified documents.

The tragic paradox is that when Jewish suffering was so immense, discrimination, humiliation and expulsion were often considered the lesser evils in an epoch when the menace of death hovered continually over the Jews. Thus the Maharal of Prague, a well known rabbi and philosopher, thought that the era of exile in which he lived was more tolerable precisely because its principal sufferings consisted of expulsions. In many places the Jews got accustomed to expulsion and rapid readmission. A 1692 poem by Elhanan Helin of Frankfurt read: “we went in joy and in sorrow; because of the destruction and the disgrace, we grieved for our community and we rejoiced that we had escaped with so many survivors.” Also Tevye the Dairyman in Shalom Aleichem’s play (1894) takes the expulsions lightly-the reason for which we wear hats, he says, is that we have to be prepared to leave at any moment.

The expulsions resulted in loss of property and damage to body and spirit; they left their impression on the entire Jewish nation and its history; they maintained and intensified the Jews’ feeling of foreignness. Consider that after 1492 there were no Jews living openly on the European coast of the Atlantic Ocean, during a period when this had become the center of the world.

The worst part of Jewish martyrdom was undoubtedly the massacres of Jews, which took place sporadically from ancient times, and systematically since the Crusades. Judeophobia surpassed itself in each successive century; the superlatives were belittled by posterior events. Due to Hitler, for example, Bogdan Chmielnicky was eventually forgotten as the most murderous Jew-hater. This Ukrainian patriot fought Polish domination of his country by killing more than 100,000 Jews during 1648-1649. To this day, Chmielnicky is revered as the national hero of the Ukraine.

Under Christian domain, killing Jews was nothing new. It dates back to shortly after the split from Judaism. In Antioch (the town which assumed Alexandria’s importance in the East) rioting Christian factions, the “Blues” and the “Greens,” massacred Jews and burned down the Daphne synagogue together with the bones of the dead (c.480), about which Emperor Zeno commented that it would have been better to burn live Jews instead. This is an example of a sporadic massacre.

In contrast, the first half of this millennium witnessed genocides of Jews as the norm. And this is precisely when the Church reached the zenith of its power. To summarize, the main genocides were the first three crusades and the four Jew-murdering campaigns that followed them. Let me add the name of one ringleader in each case, as follows: the First Crusade (Godfrey of Bouillon, 1096), the Second Crusade (the monk Radulph, 1144), the Third Crusade (Richard the Lion-hearted, 1190), the “Judenschachters” (Rindfleisch, 1298), the Pastoureaux (friar Peter Olligen, 1320), the Armleder (John Zimberlin, 1337), and the Black Death (Friedrich of Meissen, 1348).


As Edward Flannery puts it, to find a more fateful year in the history of the Jews than 1096, the First Crusade, would necessitate going back a thousand years to the fall of Jerusalem, or forward to the Holocaust. It all started on November 27, 1095 in the town of Clermont-Ferrand (mentioned last class), when during the closing ceremony of a council, Pope Urban II called for a campaign “to free the Holy Land from the Muslim infidel.” Massive, ill-organized hordes of nobles, knights, monks and peasants set off - and turned on the Jews. The crusaders decided to start their cleansing on the “infidels at home,” and pounced upon the Jews all over Lorraine, massacring those who refused baptism. Soon it was rumored that their leader Godfrey had vowed not to set out for the crusade until he had avenged the crucifixion by spilling the blood of the Jews, and that he could not tolerate the continued existence of any man calling himself a Jew. Indeed, one common denominator of the genocides we are recounting was the attempt to wipe out the entire Jewish population, children included.

The French Jews warned their German brethren, but to no avail. All along the Rhine Valley the troops, urged by preachers like Peter the Hermit, offered the Jewish communities the option of baptism or death. In Speyer, as the crusaders surrounded the panic-stricken community, huddled up in the synagogue, a woman reinaugurated the tradition of freely accepting martyrdom for the glory of God, “Kiddush ha-Shem.” Hundreds of Jews committed suicide and some even sacrificed their children beforehand. In Ratisbon, the crusaders forced the whole Jewish community into the Danube and baptized them. Massacres occurred at Treves and Neuss, in the cities along the Rhine and the Danube, Worms, Mainz, in Bohemia and in Prague. The end of the journey was Jerusalem, where the crusaders found the Jews assembled in the synagogues and set them ablaze (1099). There, the few survivors were sold as slaves, some being later redeemed by Jewish communities in Italy. The Jewish community of Jerusalem came to an end and was not reconstituted for about one century.

In the first half-year of the First Crusade approximately 10,000 Jews were murdered, almost one third of the Jewish population of Germany and Northern France at that time.

In 1144, the crusaders lost Edessa, and the precariousness of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem was a matter of concern. A second crusade was called for by Pope Eugene III. He and his successors encouraged the Crusaders, often at the Jews’ expense. For example no interest could be charged by Jews on debts incurred by the crusaders (from the 13th century the term “crusade” applied to any campaign from which the Church stood to gain politically). In 1146 the monk Radulph violently attacked the Jewish communities of the Rhineland and exhorted the crusaders to avenge themselves on “those who had crucified Jesus.” Hundreds of Jews fell before the aroused mobs which rushed upon them crying “Hep, Hep” (this cry was probably shortened Latin for “Jerusalem is lost” and was very popular as a Judeophobic motto in Germany; long afterwards it was the name given to the riots against German Jews in 1819).

Brutalities occurred in Cologne and Wurzburg in Germany, and in Carenton and Sully in France. The famous Jewish scholar Rabbenu Jacob Tam was stabbed in five places in memory of the wounds suffered by Jesus. Peter of Cluny (called “the Venerable”) requested that the king of France punish the Jews because “they defile Christianity and fleece Christians. They should not be killed, but they should made to suffer fearful torments and prepared for greater ignominy, for an existence worse than death.”

After the two first crusades, Jews enjoyed a respite in Europe marred by the Almohade persecutions in North Africa and Spain. But when Saladin put an end to the crusader kingdom in Jerusalem, the Third Crusade was launched. King Philip Augustus of France (who had had a hundred Jews burned in Bray in retaliation for the hanging of one of his subjects who had murdered a Jew) joined enthusiastically as did the German emperor. But the most savage repercussions of this crusade were for the Jews of England, who had been spared during the first and second crusades.

Almost the entire Jewish communities of Lynn, Norwich and Stamford were massacred. In York, the Jews took refuge in the castle, where they were besieged, and killed themselves on the eve of Passover.

For the Jews, the crusades became the symbol of the inveterate hostility of Christianity. 300 rabbis from Western Europe emigrated to the Land of Israel in 1211, portentous that their chances, should they stay, would be slim indeed. And as Flannery says, “those who stayed lived to regret their decision.”

The memory of the martyrs was a source of inspiration for the Jews. The martyrs became an object of admiration for the following generations -God had put them to test and they had proved themselves worthy, a symbol of the whole people, and their martyrdom was perceived as victory. The majority of those converted by force were able to return to Judaism - to be the victims of the massacres that broke out later.

The crusades dramatically revealed the physical danger in which the Jews lived, and encouraged the Jews to move to the fortified cities, where they would be less vulnerable (this could partially explain the urban character of the Jews, which we mentioned in our second lecture).

For the Christians, the Jews were now perceived as the implacable enemy of their faith. A whole mythology developed, which exposed “the true character” of the Jews, and to this we will devote our next lecture.

A consequence of the crusades was the institution of the “serfs of the imperial chamber.” The Jews sought the protection of emperors and kings, and bought it at a heavy price. The new status was conceived as a privilege and protection against the fanaticism of the mobs and the rapacity of the barons, but before long it became a device for royal enrichment. Theology helped. The Pope Innocent III spoke of the “perpetual servitude of the Jews,” and the jurist Henry de Bracton (d.1268) wrote: “The Jew cannot have anything of his own. Whatever he acquires, he acquires not for himself but for the king.” By the 13th century many Jews were well worth owning, before they were eventually killed.

The massacres that followed the crusades proved to be even more gory and murderous than their precedents. In Rottingen in 1298 a nobleman called Rindfleisch stirred up the mob which burned the entire community at the stake. Then his “Judenschachters” (Jew-slaughterers) marched through Austria and Germany pillaging, burning, and murdering Jews as they proceeded . One hundred and forty communities were decimated; 100,000 Jews were murdered. In 1306 the king of France had all Jews arrested on a single day and ordered them to leave the country within a month. 100,000 left and settled in nearby lands; nine years later they were readmitted... to be massacred. A Benedictine monk led 40,000 shepherds (the “Pastoureaux”) in a kind of crusade which destroyed one hundred and twenty communities.

The viscount of Toulouse had been informed of the massacre perpetrated by the Pastoureaux in Castelsarrasin and neighboring localities between June 10 and 12, 1320. He set out at the head of an armed detachment in order to check their advance. He returned with twenty four carloads of Pastoureaux, intending to imprison them in the town castle, but the populace came to their assistance and released them. Indeed, another common characteristic of the genocides is the appalling degree of support from the peasants that the murderous mobs enjoyed.

And as always in the case of Judeophobia, the worst was still to come. In 1336-38 one visionary who “received a call to avenge the death of Christ by murdering the Jews,” John Zimberlin, led 5,000 followers armed with crude weapons, wearing leather arm-bands (the “Armleder”) and slaughtered Jews from Alsace through the Rhineland.

The last genocide on our list was occasioned by the Black Death. A plague killed about one third of the whole population of Europe between 1348 and 1350 (almost one hundred million people). The Jewish communities all over Europe were torn to pieces by a populace crazed by the plague. Who could be blamed for the plague if not the archconspirator and poisoner, the Jew? Emperor Charles IV granted immunity to the attackers and conceded Jewish property to his favorites... even before the massacre took place! For example, he offered the Archbishop of Trier the goods of the Jews “who have already been killed or may still be killed” and to a margrave he gave a choice of Jewish houses in Nuremberg “when the next massacre takes place.”

So much death calls for reflection. Maximo Kahn, a German Jewish intellectual who escaped the Holocaust, wrote in 1944: “The death of the Jews is the most enigmatic of all deaths, the most accusing one indeed. During twenty five hundred years Jews have been killed instead of being allowed to die. Long before racist aspirations existed, long before faith spread around... they started to kill the Jews with so much ecstasy that natural death did not scare them at all. Violent death was thrown at them so implacably, that natural death did not give them the impression of death any more. Unnatural death became so natural, that natural death came to be for the Jews what life was for the rest. In the same way that the rest took hold of life, the Jews took hold of death as if it were life, sunshine, song of birds, flower fragrance, or love. Nothing had for them the appeal present in dying without the footprints of murder in their bodies. As a matter of fact, life was transformed into a waiting for death. For more than twenty five hundred years the Jew is born like a convict awaits the moment of his execution. The Jew who does not die a violent death, lives as if his life was pardoned. It is very strange that the word “Jew” did not become yet a synonym for “moribund”...

Such boundless hatred was sustained by a huge body of myths regarding the Jews that cries out to be studied. This we will do in our next chapter.

Gustavo Perednik

Next: Chapter 6: Christian European Persecution of Jews in Medieval Europe: III- Myths- Well Poisoning, Blood Libels and Desecration of the Host

Start - Judeophobia - A History and Analysis of Jew Hate or so-called Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism

Gustavo Perednik


These pages are adapted by the kind permission of Dr. Gustavo Perednik.They  are based on a twelve-lecture Internet course prepared for "The Jewish University in Cyberspace." During 2000 and 2001, the book by Gustavo Perednik "Judeophobia" was published in Spanish. This course summarizes the core ideas of the book. It presents a comprehensive and unique analysis of the development of Jew hate (Judeophobia or anti-Semitism) throughout history. It tries to answer the question "why the Jews?" - why have Jews been particularly singled out for ethnic, racial and religious persecution, and it traces the relationship between anti-Zionism and racist Judeophobia or so-called anti-Semitism.

Zionism and Israel Information Center is grateful to Dr. Perednik for his permission to popularize his works.

History of anti-Zionism External link: Antisemitism


Reproduced by permission. This work is copyright ©1997-2005 by Gustavo Perednik. Please do not copy it in any form without direct permission from the author.  All rights reserved

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