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The use of the blood of Christian children in the celebration of the Jewish Passover was apparently the object of minute regulation, at least according to the depositions of all the defendants in the Trent trials. These depositions describe exactly what was prohibited, what was permitted, and what was tolerated, all in meticulous detail. Every eventuality was foreseen and dealt with; the use of blood was governed by broad and exhaustive case law, almost as if it formed an integral part of the most firmly established regulations relating to the ritual. The blood, powdered or dessicated, was mixed into the dough of the unleavened or "solemn" bread, the shimmurim -- not ordinary bread. The shimmurim -- in fact, three loaves for each of the two evenings during which the ritual dinner of the Seder was served -- were considered one of the principal symbolic foods of the feast, and their accurate preparation and baking took place during the days preceding the advent of Pesach.

During the Seder, the blood had to be dissolved into the wine immediately prior to recitation of the ten curses against the land of Egypt. The wine was later poured into a basin or a cracked earthenware pot and thrown away. The performance of the ritual required only a minimum quantity of blood in powdered form, equal in quantity to a lentil.

The obligation to procure blood and to use it during the Passover ritual was the exclusive responsibility of the head of the family, i.e., a responsible male with a dependent wife and children. Bachelors, widowers, guests and employees, all those without dependent family, were exempt. In view of the difficulty of procuring such a rare and costly ingredient, it was anticipated that the wealthiest Jews would provide blood for the poorest Jews, an eccentric form of charity benefiting heads of families disinherited by fate.

Samuele da Nuremberg reported that:

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"The evening before Pesach, when they stir the dough with which the unleavened bread (the shimmurim) is later prepared, the head of the family takes the blood of a Christian child and mixes it into the dough while it is being kneaded, using the entire quantity available, keeping in mind that the measure of a lentil is sufficient. The head of the family sometimes performs this operation in the presence of those kneading the unleavened bread, and sometimes without their knowledge, based on whether or not they can be trusted" [1].

Maestro Tobias restricted himself to recalling that "every year, the blood, in powdered form, is kneaded into the dough of the unleavened bread prepared the evening before the feast, and is then eaten on the solemn day, i.e., the day of Passover" [2].

This testimony was confirmed by Mohar (Meir), the son of Mosè "the old Man" of Würzburg [3], as well as by the convert Giovanni da Feltre, who had seen his father Schochat (Sacheto) perform the ritual while still living at Landshut in Bavaria [4].

Isacco da Gridel, Angelo da Verona’s cook, admitted to kneading the shimmurim containing blood for eight years, preparing it for the celebration of the Seder. Joav of Franconia, Tobias' domestic servant, recalled the custom from as much as seventeen years back, when she was in service with a rich Jew from Würzburg. Mosè da Bamburg, the traveler staying with Angelo of Verona, in his long deposition, stated that he had personally performed this operation when he was head of the family in Germany. Later, when he moved to Italy, he had seen it performed at Borgo San Giovanni, in the Piacenza region, in the home of money lender Sacle or Sacla (Izchak), who inserted the blood into the unleavened bread while his wife Potina kneaded the dough. Vitale, Samuele da Nuremberg’s agent, attested to the custom as a result of having seen it performed for three consecutive years by his uncle, Salomone, at Monza.

The subject matter of these depositions was also confirmed by the women involved. Bella, the wife of Mayer da Würzburg, reported that she had seen her father preparing the shimmurim from the time she was a child at Nuremberg, in preparation for the first two evenings during which the Seder used grains of dried blood in the dough. Sara, Tobias ’s wife, recalled that her first husband, Elia, whom she married at Marburg, had used blood for this purpose, and that she had also seen the practice in many Jewish homes in Mestre [5].

Bona, Angelo da Verona’s sister, stated that she had seen the brother placing the [dried] blood, [dissolved and] diluted in water, into the dough of the unleavened and so-called solemn bread, the shimmurim, which was kept under surveillance, and had to be eaten during the

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first two evenings of the festival, during the Seder. "Angelo himself, took a bit of the Christian child’s [dried] blood and dissolved it in water, then poured the water containing the blood into the dough with which they then made the unleavened loaves, three of which Angelo and the others members of his family and Bona herself ate during the Passover evening feast, while the other three members ate it the evening of the next day" [6].

Angelo da Verona’s report was rather more detailed. After having briefly recalling that the Ashkenazi Jews "take a small quantity of the blood and they put it in the dough with which they later make the unleavened bread which they eat during the solemn days of the Passover".

He went on to provide a detailed description of the rite of preparing the shimmurim "with blood" [7]. First of all, he explained to the judges, the ritual action was carried out "as a sign of outrage against Jesus Christ, whom the Christians claim is their God". He then continued, supplying whatever clarification he considered dutiful and necessary: "Eating unleavened bread with Christian blood in it means that, just as the body and powers of Jesus Christ, the God of the Christians, went down to perdition with His death, thus, the Christian blood contained in the unleavened bread shall be ingested and completely consumed".

How much truth there was to this key anti-Christian interpretation of the presumed Jewish hematophagia [blood-eating] through the medium of unleavened bread, and just how much was invented to please the inquisitors concerned, is unknown. It is however a fact that Angelo supplied a very colorful and credible representation of the ritual, utilizing the correct formulae from the classical Jewish liturgy.

"They place the blood in their unleavened loaves in this manner: after placing the blood in the dough, they knead it and stir it around to prepare the unleavened bread (the shimmurim ). Then they poke holes in it, pronouncing these words: Chen icheressù chol hoyveha, which, translated, means 'Thus may our enemies be consumed'. At this point, the unleavened loaves are ready to be eaten" [8].

This Hebrew invective is not an invention. It may in fact be found among the blessings and curses pronounced during the so-called "Haggadah of the Jewish New Year" (Rosh Ha-Shanah) just before the feast dinner. On this occasion, the reading of the various formulae was accompanied by the consumption of vegetables and fruit, in addition to fish and a lamb’s head, recalling, by means of a pun on their Hebrew names, the type of blessing or curse which the reader intended

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to pronounce. Leeks are called cartì, and the invective associated with its name was known as she-iccaretu (iccaresu in the Ashkenazi pronunciation) col hoyevenu, that is, "may all our enemies be exterminated" ("consumed" according to Angelo)" [9]. The original inspiration was, as usual, Biblical and prophetical (Mich. 5:9) "And all thine enemies shall be cut off" ( we-chos hoyevecha iccaretu). At this point, it becomes much more difficult to dismiss the insertion of these Hebrew-language execrations into the ritual of the Christian blood added to the solemn unleavened bread as merely the extemporaneous and extravagant invention of Angelo da Verona, "softened up" with torture.

From Samuele da Nuremberg and Angelo da Verona, from Maestro Tobias and Anna da Montagnana, all the accused at Trent were agreed in affirming that the head of the family, who was required to perform the task of directing the reading of the Haggadah, did not shake the blood into the wine before starting the Seder or during the initial phases of the celebration, but only when they were about to recite the ten curses of Egypt. Recalling the years of his stay in the Jewish quarter of Nuremberg with various employers such as Lazzaro, Giosia and Moshè Loff, Mosè da Ansbach, the teacher of Tobias's children, stated that the head of the family placed the blood in the wine at the precise moment of the commemoration of the so-called "ten curses", i.e., the plagues of Egypt [10].

The learned Mosè da Würzburg, "the Old Man", explained that:

"The head of the family takes a bit of the blood of the Christian child and drops it in his glass full of wine [...] then, putting his finger in the wine, with that wine where the blood of the Christian child has been shaken, he sprinkles the table and food on the table with it, pronouncing the Hebraic formula in commemoration of the ten curses, which God sent to the refractory Egyptian people who refused to liberate the Jewish people. At the end of the reading, the same head of the family, referring to the Christians, utters the following words (in Hebrew): ‘thus we beseech God that he may similarly direct these ten curses against the gentiles, who are enemies of the Jewish faith’" [11].

Giovanni da Feltre, the converted Jew, recalled the years of his youth, spent in lower Germany, when his father performed on the ritual of the Seder of Passover, "Both evenings, my father took blood and shook it into his chalice of wine before beginning the Passover dinner, then sprinkled it on the table cursing the Christian religion" [12].

After the reading of the last part of the Haggadah, the head of the family performed the act of adding the blood to the wine to transform the wine into a potion symbolically intended to represent

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the cruel death of Israel’s enemies, immediately before the ten curses. This part of the text of the Haggadah opens with the words: "(The Lord) made us leave Egypt with a strong hand, with the arm extended, with immense terror, with signs) and with prodigies: this is the blood (zeh ha-dam )" [13]. The reason why the haematic fluid of the Christian boy was dissolved in the "wine of the ten curses" at this point was revealed by Angelo da Verona:

"The Jews performed this act in remembrance of one of the ten curses which God inflicted upon the Egyptians when they held the Jewish people in bondage: one of the plagues was God’s transformation into blood of all the waters in the land of Egypt" [14].

As usual, Israel Wolfgang provided some sense of order for these various rituals. The young painter recalled participating in a Seder held in the house of a certain Jew named Chopel, at Günzenhausen, near Nuremberg, in 1460. Chopel used coagulated, pulverized blood, shaken into the wine prior to the recitation of the ten plagues. This was accompanied by the following declaration in Hebrew: "This is the blood of a Christian child", (zeh-ha dam shel goi katan).

According to what may be gathered from Israel Wolfgang’s account, after the reading of this fragment of the Haggadah , which began with the words zeh ha-dam, "This is the blood", the head of the house brought the ampoule containing the powdered blood to the table, added a bit of the contents to the wine in his chalice, and recited the analogous formula beginning with the same words, zeh ha-dam, but in reference to the blood of the Christian child, not in reference to the first plague of Egypt.

He then went on to the reading of the ten curses, the sprinkling of the wine onto the table, and the recitation of the invectives against the goyim -- the Christians. Obviously, the formula, "This is the blood (zeh ha-dam) of a Christian child" was transmitted [from generation to generation] orally; the text of the Haggadah was alleged not to contain this text.

Israel Wolfgang’s revelations continued. In 1474, he [said he] had participated in the celebration of the Jewish Passover at Feltre, at Abramo's house (Abramo being a money lender in that city). On that occasion, Wolfgang had seen the head of the family add the blood to the dough of the solemn unleavened bread (migzo = mazzot), that is, the shimmurim. During the evening ritual of the Seder, Abramo da Feltre, in preparation for the reading of the ten curses, came to table with a glass phial containing a small quantity of dried blood,

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the size of a nut, and shook a pinch of it into the wine, pronouncing the usual formula of the zeh ha-dam: "This is the blood of a Christian child". He then began the recitation of the plagues, pouring the wine onto the table and cursing the gentiles hostile to Israel" [15].

Lazzaro, employed at Angelo da Verona, also told the judges that he had seen the rite performed by his uncle Israel, the influential Ashkenazi banker at Piacenza, who occupied the function of treasurer in the Jewish community of the Duchy of Milan [16]. According to him, Israel, during the recitation of the plagues, diluted the blood into the wine, pronouncing the Hebrew words which meant: "This is the blood of a Christian child" (zeh ha-dam shel goi katan) [17]. In this regard, Mosè of Bamburg confirmed the descriptions of the other defendants, referring to Leone of Mohar, a money lender active at Tortona, with whom he had stayed as a guest in the past, during the Seder of Passover [18]. As often happened, Leone, in the act of adding the dried blood to the wine before the recitation of the ten curses, turned to his guests with the required Hebrew phrase: zeh ha-dam, "This is the blood of a Christian child".

It should be obvious that only someone with a very good knowledge of the Seder ritual, an insider, could describe the [precise] order of gestures and operations as well as the Hebrew formulae used during the various phases of the celebration, and be capable of supplying such [a wealth of] detailed and precise descriptions and explanations. The judges at Trent could barely follow these descriptions, forming a vague idea of the ritual, which was so foreign to their experience and knowledge that they could only reconstitute it in [the form of] nebulous and imperfect images. The Italian notaries, then, had their work cut out for them in [attempting] to cut their way through this jungle of incomprehensible Hebrew terms, pronounced with a heavy German accent. But on the other hand, what interested them, beyond the particulars of difficult comprehensibility, was establishing where these Jews used Christian blood in their Passover rites, adding it to the unleavened bread and the wine of the libation. Imagining that the judges dictated these descriptions of the Seder ritual, with the related liturgical formulae in Hebrew, does not seem very believable.

Goi katan, "little Christian", the expression used in referring to the ritual murder victim, who was usually nameless, is said to have been used during the act of adding his blood to the symbolic foods

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to be exhibited and consumed in the Seder dinner. This expression, although not at all neutral in view of the negative and pejorative connotations attributed to Christians in general, was certainly less contemptuous than the term normally used by German Jews with reference to a Christian child. [For example], the word shekez possesses the sense of "something abominable", while the feminine, shiksa or shikse, is a neologism used, in particular, in reference to Christian girls engaged in romantic relations with young men of the race of Israel [19]. The diminutive [Italianized] term of endearment, "scigazzello", was in use among the Ashkenazi Jews of Venice until relatively recent times. At any rate, the words shekz, sheghez, or sceghesc, employed in a contemptuous manner to refer to the children of those faithful in Christ, viewed as some of the [most] abominable expressions of [all] creation, was in widespread use in all cities with communities of German Jews, even in Northern Italy [20].

It should be noted that the term is absent from the records of the Trent trials; but the terms goi (literally, "people" "nation"), with reference to Christians generally, and goi katan ("little Christian"), in the sense of a child belonging to the faith in Christ were used instead.

In his fierce invective against the Jews, the Venetian convert Giulio Morosini did not fail to censure the virulently anti-Christian education imparted by Jews to their children, according to Morosini, as well as the offensive terminology utilized by Jews in Hebrew to insult Christian children and their churches.

"You are accustomed to instilling in those little children, along with their mother's milk, the observance and the concept of the Law and the holy language, with Hebrew names for many things [...] This is so that they may easily and soon understand the Law and Bible. But at the same time, you inculcate hatred against the Goyim, that is, the Gentiles, by which name you refer to the Christians, never missing a chance to curse them, and make your children curse them. Thus, the name most frequently used against [Christian] children is Sciekatizim, that is, Abominations, which is also the word you use in reference to the ‘Idols’, as you are accustomed to call them. In the same manner, you abominate our Churches with your synonym, Tonghavà, which also means Abomination. And you very often warn them to flee the Tonghavà, not to speak to the Sceketz and other, similar terms of abuse" [21].

In the eyes of the Ashkenazi Jews of Trent, it was obvious that the ritual obligation to use the blood of Christian children in the Passover celebrations was exclusively incumbent upon heads of families, and not on other members of the community. The rule, enounced to the judges by Israel, the son of Samuele da Nuremberg,

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was that "Jewish fathers of families in the feast of Purim , before dinner, take a small quantity of the blood of a Christian child, put it in their cup full of wine and sprinkle the table with it" [22]. Angelo of Verona placed it in the category, not of ritual regulations, but of customs (Hebrew, minhagh, Latin mos) and, as always with patience and in a summary manner, explained that "the established custom is that the head of the family, and no one else, must place the powdered blood in the unleavened blood in the time of the Passover" [23].

Mosè da Würzburg, for his part, reported that, up to the time when he had been the head of a family in various places in Germany, it had been considered obligatory to provide blood for the Passover rites. Subsequently, since he no longer occupied the role of head of family, he had been exempted from performing this duty [24]. Mosè da Bamberg also stated that, as long as he had been the head of family in Germany, he had procured the blood for the Passover Seder. He then went into service with various Jewish families at Ulm and other centers in Franconia, and was considered exempted from this custom [25].

In this regard, it should be noted that the pre-eminent role of the head of family (paterfamilias, a rendering of the Hebrew ha-al ha-bait, "patron of the house"), in the celebration of the Passover rites, particularly, in the medieval Ashkenazi environment, is attested to by many manuscript and printed texts with comments on the Haggadah of Pesach. Among other things, these texts stress that the obligation of the ritual washing of the hands (netilat yadaim) at the beginning of the Seder was only incumbent upon the head of the family, almost exclusively entrusted with the reading of the Haggadah, while all the guests were exempt. Beniamin di Meir of Nuremberg, at the beginning of the 16th century, testified to the existence of this custom, stating that he had observed it to be widespread in all the Jewish communities of Germany. "I have noticed that, most of the time", wrote the German rabbi, "the ritual washing of the hands (in the Passover Seder) is performed only by the head of the family, while the guests do not wash their hands at all" [26].

On the other hand, procuring the raw material required for performance of the blood ritual was not an easy job, involving costs which the heads of poorer families could not afford. It was therefore anticipated that the heads of poorer families were exempt from a task which proved too costly for them, as was unhesitatingly admitted by the ancient expert Mosè of Würzburg when he explained to the inquisitors of Trent that "the Jews naturally require the blood of a Christian child, but

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if they were poor and could not afford any blood, they were relieved of the expense" [27].

Rich Jews, often in a mixed spirit of prodigality and magnanimity, took over the beneficial task of assisting the poorer Jews by supplying the precious fluid required, although obviously in minute amounts. Isacco of Gridel, Angelo of Verona’s cook, recalled that, when he was in service with the head of a family at Cleberg, a rich relative of his wife supplied them a small preparation of dried blood at no charge, stating that "it was customary to do this for the poor". The blood had been acquired from the well-known rabbi Shimon of Frankfurt [28]. Mosè of Bamberg, the professional traveler, also recounted that he had had a dependent family until 1467, and, since his indigence was well known to all, he was supplied with powdered blood "of a size equal to a nut" by Salamone, a rich merchant from lower Germany, and sometimes by Cervo, a wealthy Jew from Parchim in Mecklenburg, who gave him no more than half a spoonful [29].

The rite of the wine, or blood, and curses had a dual significance. On the one hand, it was intended to recall the miraculous salvation of Israel brought about through the sign of the blood of the lamb placed on the door-posts of Jewish houses to protect them from the Angel of Death when they were about to be liberated from slavery in Egypt. It was also intended to bring closer final redemption, prepared for through God’s vengeance on the gentiles who had failed to recognized Him and had persecuted the Jewish people. The memorial of the Passion of Christ, relived and celebrated in the form of an anti-ritual miraculously exemplified the fate destined for Israel’s enemies. The blood of the Christian child, a new Agnus Dei, and the eating of his blood, were premonitory signs of the proximate ruin of Israel’s indomitable and implacable persecutors, the followers of a false and mendacious faith.

The old man, Mosè da Würzburg, stressed both the significance of the blood rite and the curses, from the positive memorial of the blood of the lamb on the door-posts of the houses and the negative memorial of the passion of Christ, scorned and abhorred.

"According to the laws of Moses, it is commanded to the Jews that, in the days of the Passover, every head of family should take the blood of a perfect male lamb and place it (as a sign) on the door-posts of the dwellings. Nevertheless, since the custom of taking the blood of

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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].

The origins of the ritual of the use of blood in the Passover dinner are not very clear; nor do we know the names of the rabbinical authorities who presumably taught it. The only defendants in the Trent trials able to shed any light on the subject were Samuele da Nuremberg and Mosè da Würzburg, both of whom possessed a high degree of Hebrew culture, the fruit of many years of arduous study in the most famous Talmudic academies (yeshivot) in Germany. Neither Samuele nor Mosè were able to provide precise answers in this regard, entrenching themselves behind the hypothesis that the ritual was based on ancient traditions which were only transmitted orally, for obvious reasons of prudence, and that no written traces of it remain in the tests of ritual law. Just when these traditions were formed, and why, was, for them, an unresolved mystery, enveloped in the mists of the past.

Samuele vaguely attributed these traditions to the rabbis of the Talmud (Iudei sapientiores in partibus Babiloniae), who were said to have introduced the ritual in a very remote epoch, "before Christianity attained its present power". Those scholars, united at a learned congress,

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were said to have concluded that the blood of a Christian child was highly beneficial to the salvation of souls, if it was extracted during the course of a memorial ritual of the passion of Jesus, as a sign of contempt and scorn for the Christian religion. Over the course of this counter-ritual, the innocent boy, who had to be less than seven years old and had to be a boy, like Jesus, was crucified among torments and expressions of execration, as had happened to Christ [33]. Another praiseworthy addition was circumcision, to make the symbolic similarity more obvious and significant. We do not know how firmly convinced Samuele was of what he said; but it seems certain that the judges were highly gratified with this kind of macabre confession. This does not detract from the fact that the allegations of this Jew, at least in historical and ideological terms, if not in relation to the practical application of the [alleged] ritual in the case of little Simon, were quite plausible.

Mosè, "the Old Man" of Würzburg, was even vaguer than Samuele, noting that the blood ritual was not recorded in any of the ritualistic scripts of Judaism, but was transmitted orally, and in secret, by rabbis and scholars in Jewish law. Mosè nevertheless confirmed that the Christian boy who was to be crucified during the rite in commemoration of the Christ’s shameful Passion had to be less than seven years old and of the male sex [34].

In accordance with Samuele da Nuremberg’s statements ("we believe that the blood of the sacrificed Christian boy is of great benefit in the salvation of our souls"), it was the custom, attributed to the participants in the blood ritual, to perform collective acts, even if only symbolic, to stress their intervention in the ceremony, such as that of touching the victim’s body. "All those present placed their hands, now one and now the other, as if to suffocate the child, because the Jews believe that they render themselves meritorious before God by demonstrating their participation in the sacrifice of a Christian child". Isacco da Gridel, Angelo da Verona’s cook, in effect, affirmed this in his confession, by describing his own participation in a ritual child murder committed at Worms in 1460, according to him [35].

In a certain sense, this behavior recalled the collective funereal rituals proper to the Judaism of the German territories during medieval times, testified to, among other things, in the writings of Rabbi Shalom of Wiener Neustadt. These writings include a description of the hakkafoth, the circular procession around the coffin of the deceased by the persons

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present at the funeral to drive evil spirits away from the soul of the deceased, which reveals undoubted links with the Cabbalah; the collective custom of placing the hand on the casket or the tomb to implore divine mercy in favor of the deceased; and finally, the custom of placing a tuft of grass, a clod of earth, or a stone or pebble on the mound to testify to their own presence at the burial [36].

While Samuele da Nuremberg maintained more or less deliberately vague with regards the origins of the custom of using the blood of the Christian child in the rituals of the Jewish Passover, he was very precise in discussing the persons who had transmitted and taught him these regulations orally. David Sprinz had actually been his rabbi and teacher, with whom Samuele had studied lovingly and with great success thirty years before, in the yeshivah of Bamberg, and later in the yeshivah of Nuremberg. Samuele knew that Sprinz had since moved to Poland, but didn't know whether or not he was still alive [37].

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.

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

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

If he had been able to speak freely, Samuele, from the lofty height of his Hebraic doctrine of Ashkenazi origin, might have replied with ill-concealed scorn that Italian Jews were not authoritative because they were ignorant in terms of rabbinical culture, not very observant, and very careless about the observation of ritual standards [39]. Instead, he restricted himself to admitting that Italian Jews did not possess this custom in their texts, nevertheless adding, immediately afterwards, that "it appeared in the texts of Jews from overseas", an intentionally inexact term, perhaps an allusion to the Judaism of Babylonia and, indirectly, to Ashkenazi ultramontane Judaism [40].

On the other hand, even if we consider the confessions of Samuele and the other defendants to have been sincere and valid, and even accepting the realities of the dissemination of a ritual of this kind among the Jews of Medieval Germany, it appears beyond doubt that – as also emerges from the records of the Trent trials -- in the world of Ashkenazi Judaism, there were people who rejected this ritual, considering it in conflict with Jewish law. The persons responsible for the scandalous plural child murders at Endingen, in Alsace, in 1462, confessed that they had feared that any one of them might have revealed the details of the crime to the elders of the local Jewish community, knowing that the elders would have unhesitatingly reported them to the police authorities [41].

Returning to the facts of the Trent case, [at least] according the confession of Samuele da Nuremberg, in the days preceding the Jewish Passover, the defendants are alleged to have instructed Maestro Tobias to meet two German Jewish travelers passing through Trent in those days to inquire whether they were prepared to agree to abduct a Christian boy and conceal him in Samuele’s house. But the two Ashkenazi Jews, David and Lazzaro "of Germany", decisively rejected the proposal, notwithstanding the fact that it was accompanied by an offer of the considerable sum of one hundred ducats. They had no intention of getting mixed up in matters of this kind.

The words of the two travelers clearly reveal their capacity as emissaries from the Jewish communities of Germany, who were, as usual, invited to Italy every year, in the spring, to arrange for the purchase of cedars for the autumnal feast of the "Capanne" or "Frascate" ["little sheds" and "covered market stalls"; the Jewish Feast of the Autumn Harvest] (Sukkot). In general, the objective of these specialist wholesale

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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. 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.

"They (Lazzaro and David) prudently responded that they did not wish to commit similar follies and that they (with Moshè) wished them ill, because God did not command such things; on the contrary, He says, ‘Thou shalt not kill’, and that child murder was a new ceremony and against the law, which did not wish God’s followers to shed innocent blood, such as that of a child, just because the child was a Christian. And if they thought about these things properly, they would discover that they were entirely invented, because there was no basis for them in the texts. Apart from that, they said that it was not right for a Jew to eat blood, as these men wished to do, by kneading the unleavened bread with a certain amount of blood" [43].

This same Giovanni da Feltre, the converted son of Shochat da Landshut, a person far from inclined to find anything justifiable in Jews and Judaism, had no difficulty in admitting that, in Germany, the ritual of blood of using the blood of Christian children in the ceremonies of the Jewish Passover was only practiced by fundamentalist orthodox Ashkenazi sects. The same Summary of the Life and Martyrdom of Saint Simon briefly reports the ex-Jew’s explicit notes in this regard. "The convert Giovanni said that not all the Jews do this; but that sometimes, out of contempt for Christ and in revenge for the tribulations which they suffer because of that same Christ, our Lord" [44]. It goes without saying that the problem did not even exist among Italian Jews, the Sephardim, or oriental Jews, who made up the overwhelming majority

p. 187]

of the medieval Jewish world. But this majority was not always the most self-assertive, experiencing a serious inferiority complex compared to an Ashkenazi Judaism which considered itself the inimitable prototype of true religious orthodoxy (which was, moreover, created in its own image and resemblance) [45]. Medieval Ashkenazi Judaism made up a hermetically sealed orthodoxy, which fed upon itself, confined by a myriad of minute ritualistic regulations, which they considered binding on all, the mere memorization of which constituted an arduous and almost impossible task.

According to Samuele da Nuremberg, the blood ritual was a secret rite, the rules of which were only transmitted with due prudence and circumspection [46]. The convert Giovanni da Feltre confirmed this [47]. Entering into increasingly greater detail, Mosè da Würzburg recalled a presumed rabbinical recommendation to keep the rite a secret from women and girls not having yet reached their religious majority, i.e., any age less than thirteen, "because they are fatuous and incapable of keeping a secret" [48]. The inferiority of women and minors on a religious level, in addition to idiots and lunatics, was contemplated by Jewish ritual law (halakhah), which discriminated between these categories while largely or completely exonerating them from compliance with the positive precepts of Jewish law.

It is advisable at this point to mention the most significant text of anti-Christian polemics, the Toledot Yeshu (literally, "The Stories of Jesus"), or "The Jewish Counter-Gospel". This was a virulently defamatory biography of Jesus dating back to between the 4th and 8th century, disseminated first in Aramaic and later in Hebrew, in slightly different, or grossly divergent versions of the same text, written with the obvious intention of distorting the Christian religious identity by demolishing and ridiculing its memory. Systematic contempt for the figure of Christ and the Virgin Mary, described as a woman of easy virtue, formed the basis of a satirical and mocking tale, presented as a sort of side-show rivaling the Gospels themselves [49].

It is not surprising that this classic of anti-Christian polemical writing found an attentive and highly satisfied readership among Jews all over the world, from the Islamic countries to Spain and Italy. It is even less surprising that the Jews of Germany adopted this text both enthusiastically and devoutly, as attested by the fact that almost all manuscripts of the Toledot Yeshu appear to have been written by Ashkenazi copyists, and that all of the translations of this text into Judeo-Hebraic dialect are in Yiddish.

p. 188]

In one Yiddish manuscript of the Toledot Yeshu, the scribe admonishes the reader to be cautious and practice the necessary circumspection.

Hidden dangers lurking unexpectedly as a result of excessive trust, as well as of unjustifiable complacency. Women, children and the feeble-minded were to be kept at a safe distance, as well as overly curious and intriguing Christians. "This treatise should be transmitted orally, and should not be read in public; nor should it be read to women or children, all the less so to feeble-minded persons. Its reading in the presence of Christians who understand German should certainly be avoided [50].

In another manuscript, also of German origin, containing the Toledot Yeshu together with other anti-Christian scripts, which I recently held in my hands personally, the warnings are even more explicit. The oral transmission of secret texts was energetically enjoined upon all readers to avoid serious hazards and to ward off the serious problems which might possibly originate in surrounding Christian society.

""Ask thy elders, and they will tell thee’" (Deut. 32:7). This booklet contains a tradition transmitted orally, by one person to another; it may be put in writing but not printed, for reasons due to our bitter exile. Beware of reading this text before children and persons of scanty understanding, or all the more so before the uncircumcised who understand German. For this reason, he who is wise shall know how to understand and maintain silence, because these are unpropitious times. If he is able to keep silent, he shall receive mercy (from God); God’s just reward shall be upon him, and his work shall be before him. Publicizing this text is an extremely serious matter, and it cannot be revealed to all, because we can never know what tomorrow has in store for us and we can trust no one. I have written the text in intentionally allegorical and obscure language, because we have been selected the Chosen People and we are permitted (by God) to use mysterious imagery" [51].

Mosè da Würzburg certainly know which precedents to mention in describing the recommendation to avoid discussion of the counter-ritual of the Passion of Christ and the use of the blood of Christian children in the Passover celebrations among women, children and the feeble-minded, "who are unable to keep a secret". Among the Jews of Germany, these precautions were quite understandable. Their violent anti-Christian feelings and expressions, both ideological and ritualistic, in which these feelings found an outlet and a reflection necessarily had to be surrounded by a protective aura of secrecy and omertà [fatalistic manliness] because any indiscretion in this regard, either deliberately or through naiveté, could be the precursor of struggle and tragedy.


[1] "In vigilia Pasce sui, dum pinsatur pasta de qua postea faciant azimas, paterfamilias accipit de sanguine dicti pueri Cristiani et de illo sanguine ponit paterfamilias in pasta dum pinsatur, et sic ponitur et plus et minus prout paterfamilias habeat multum de sanguine predicto; et quod si poneret tantum quantum est unum granum lentis, sufficit; et quod sic paterfamilias ponit dictum sanguinem in pasta, aliquando videntibus illis qui pinsant panem (sc. pastam) et aliquando non; et quod si illi qui pinsant panem (sc. pastam) sunt persone fide, paterfamilias ponit sanguinem videntibus illis qui pinsant, et si non sunt fide ponit secrete"

[Approximately: "On the eve of their Passover, when they are kneading the dough for the unleavened bread, the head of the family takes the blood of a Christian child and places some of it in the dough which they are kneading, in greater or lesser quantities according to whether the head of the family had a lot of it or not; and that if he adds as much a single lentil, it is enough; and that thus the head of the family places the said blood in the dough, sometimes those kneading the dough see him do it and sometimes he does it in secrecy"]

(cfr. A. Esposito and D. Quaglioni, Processi contro gli ebrei di Trento, 1475-1478. I: I processi del 1475, Padova, 1990, pp. 251-252).

[2] "Et dicit quod (Iudei) accipiunt sanguinem pueri Cristiani et illum faciunt coagulare et deinde illum exiccant et de eo faciunt pulverem, quem pulverem postea ponunt singulis annis in pasta azimarum, quas faciunt in vigilia Paschae sui, quas azimas postea comedunt in die solemni, videlicet in die Paschae eorum"

["And he said that (the Jews) take the blood of Christian boys and allow it to coagulate and they dry it and make a powder of it, and place it in the dough of the unleavened bread every year, on the eve of their Passover, and eat it on the solemn day, namely, during their Passover"]

(cfr. ibidem, p. 318).

[3] "(Iudei) ponunt (sanguinem) in azimis suis seu fugatiis, quas comedunt in festo Pasce sui" ["(The Jews) place (blood) in their unleavened bread, which they eat during their Passover feast"] (cfr. ibidem, pp. 378-379).

[4] "Pater ipsius [...] de dicto sanguine ponebat in pasta, de qua pasta faciebat fugatias, et hoc ante festum Pasce eorum; quas fugatias ipsi Iudei postea comedebant in dicta die Pasce"

["The father [...] placed some of the blood in the dough, from which they make the unleavened bread, and does so before the Passover feast; which these Jews ate on Passover day"]

(cfr. ibidem, p. 125).

[5] Cfr. G. Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, Trent, 1902, voI. II, pp. 1-32.

[6] Wien, Österr. Nationalbibl., Ms. 5360, cc. 186r-189v. Information and translation by D. Quaglioni.

[7] "(Iudei) de dicto sanguine accipiunt aliquam particulam et ponunt in pasta, de qua pasta postea faciunt fugatias azimas, et de quibus fugatiis açimis postea comedunt inter se in die solemni, videlicet in die Pasce"

["(The Jews) take a few particles of the blood and place it in the dough, from which they make their unleavened bread, and later they eat it amongst themselves on the solemn day, namely, on Passover"]

(cfr. Esposito and Quaglioni, Processi, cit., voI. I, p. 287).

[8] "(Iudei) ponunt illum sanguinem in eorum azimis et illum postea comedunt [...] in contemptum Iesu Cristi, quem Cristiani dicunt esse Deum suum; et quod ideo ponunt in eorum azimas sanguinem, quia posteaquam positus est sanguis in pasta, illam pastam pinsant et graminant, et deinde faciunt fugatias, quas fugatias postea punetant dicendo ista verba: Chen icheressù chol hoyveha. Que verba sonant in lingua Latina: "Così sya consumadi li nostri inimizi". Et postea dictas fugatias commedunt, que commestio fagatiarum cum sanguine significat quod ita corpus et virtus Iesu Cristi Dei Cristianorum ita penitus morte consumptum est et consumpta, sicut iste sanguis qui est in fugatiis ex commestione penitus consumitur"

[Approximately: "(The Jews) place the blood in their unleavened bread and afterwards they eat it [...] in contempt of Jesus Christ, whom the Christians say is their God, and that the reason they put the blood in their unleavened bread, is because after the blood is placed in the dough, they knead the dough and shape it, and make their unleavened bread out of it, and they eat it, saying these words: Chen icheressù chol hoyveha, which means in Latin: ‘Thus may all our enemies be consumed’. And then they eat the unleavened bread, and in eating it with the blood in it, it means that the body and virtue of Jesus Christ the God of the Christians was thus punished by death and consumed, thus, the blood in the unleavened bread is thus consumed is consumed at a common meal"]

(cfr. ibidem, p. 293).

For the Hebrew words which appear in the text, see [Benedetto Bonelli], Dissertazione apologetica sul martirio del beato Simone da Trento nell'anno MCCCCLXXV dagli ebrei ucciso, Trent, Gianbattista Parone, 1747, p. 145.

[9] Machazor le-Rosh Ha-Shanah ("Liturgical Form for the Jewish New Year"), Yehì razon shel Rosh Ha-Shanah ("New Year’s Wishes"), s.v. cartì ("porro"). On the so-called "Haggadah del Capodanno ebraico" and its content, see A. Toaff, Mangiare alla giudia. La cucina ebraica in Italia dal Rinascimento all'età moderna, Bologna, 2000, pp. 134-135.

[10] The depositions from Mosè da Ansbach, "a young person nineteen years old", on this matter are reported in detail in Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., vol. lI, pp. 20-21.

[11] "In die Pasce ipsorum Iudeorum, ante cenam, unusquisque Iudeus paterfamilias accipit modicum de sanguine pueri Cristiani et illum ponit in uno ciato pieno vino, quem ciatum postea ponit super mensa, circa quem mensam omnes de dicta familia circumstant; et paterfamilias ponit digitum in ciato suo, in quo est commixtus sanguis pueri Cristiani, et deinde curo eodem digito balneato in vino aspergit totam mensam et ea omnia que super mensa sunt, dicendo certa verba Hebraica, per que in effectu commemorantur decem maledictiones quas Deus dedit Pharaoni et Egiptiis, quia nolebant dimittere populum Iudaicum; dicens quod posteaquam dictus paterfamilias dixit suprascripta verba, idem paterfamilias iungit hec alia verba: "lta imprecamur Deum quod similiter immittat predictas .X. maledictiones contra gentes, que sunt inimice fidei Iudeorum", intelligendo maxime contra Cristianos"

["On the Jewish Passover, before dinner, each Jewish head of a family takes a small quantity of the blood of a Christian child and places it in a glassful of wine, and they put the glassful of wine on the table, around which all members of the family are sitting; and the head of the family places his finger in his glass, containing the wine mixed with the blood of a Christian child, and then, after bathing his finger in it, he sprinkles the entire table around which the people are sitting, saying certain words in Hebre, by means of which they commemorate the ten curses which God inflicted on the Egyptians, who didn’t wish to release the Jewish people, after which each Jewish head of a family says the above words, after which he adds these words: 'Thus we pray God that he may inflict ten similar curses against the peoples who are enemies of the Jewish people’, meaning, most of all, the Christians"]

(cfr. Esposito and Quaglioni, Processi, cit., vol. I, p. 356).

[12] "Pater ipsius [...] in die Pasce Iudeorum, ante cenam et etiam in die sequenti post Pascha ante cenam, accipiebat de dicto sanguine et de illo ponebat in ciato suo, in quo erat vinum, et deinde aspergebat mensam maledicendo fidem Cristianorum" ["Their father [...] on Passover, before dinner as well as before dinner the following day, takes some of the blood and puts it in his glass, containing wine, and sprinkles the table, cursing the Christian fait"] (cfr. ibidem, p. 125).

[13] The brief text of the Haggadah is the following: "Con prodigi, questo è il sangue (zeh ha-dam), come è detto: "Farò prodigi in cielo e in terra" ["With miracles, this is the blood (zeh ha-dam), as it is said: ‘I will do miracles in the Heaven and Earth ’"] (cfr. R. Bonfil, Haggadah di Pesach, Milan, 1962, pp. 62-63).

[14] "Hoc fecerunt in memoriam unius ex .x. maledictiones quas dedit Deus Egyptiatiis quando retinebant populum Hebraicum in servitute et quod inter ceteras maledictiones Deus convertit omnem aquam terre Egypti in sanguinem"

["This they do in memory of the ten curses inflicted by God on the Egyptians when they held the Hebrews captive and that, among these multiple curses, God changed all the water of Egypt into blood"]

(cfr. Esposito and Quaglioni, Processi, cit., voI. I, p. 287).

[15] Israel Wolfgang's long and detailed report by is reproduced in Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., vol. II, pp. 16-19.

[16] Israele di Lazzaro managed the principal lending bank at Piacenza from 1449 until at least 1472 and was the treasurer of the Jewish community of the Duchy of Milan in the years 1453-1454. In 1479, he was still alive and represented the heirs of Benedetto da Como in the negotiations for renewal of the money lending permit in the city of Como (cfr. Sh. Simonsohn, The Jews in the Duchy of Milan, Jerusalem, 1982, voI. I, pp. 126, 131-133 etc.).

[17] On Lazzaro's deposition, cfr. Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., voI. II, pp. 23-25.

[18] Cfr. ibidem, pp. 25-32, who presents an exhaustive exposition of the details of Mosè Bamberg's long deposition.

[19] In this regard, see E. Carlebach, The Anti-Christian Element in Early Modern Yiddish Culture, in "Braun Lectures in the History of the Jews in Prussia", Ramat Gan, Bar-ilan University, X (2003), 2003, p. 17.

[20] For the introduction of the term shegez, shekez ( "cosa abominevole") [something abominable] to indicate the Christian children in Judeo-Italian dialect, see, among others, G. Cammeo, Studi dialettali, in "il Vessillo Israelitico", LVII (1909), p.214; A. Milano, Glossario dei vocaboli e delle espressioni di origine ebraica in uso nel dialetto giudaico-romanesco, Florence, 1927, p. 254; V. Colorni, La parlata degli ebrei mantovani, in Id., Judaica Minora. Saggi sulla storia dell'ebraismo italiano dall'antichità all'età moderna, Milan, 1983, p. 614 (the author attempts to provide a less problematical and embarrassing connotation of the term, proposing that it be translated as "street urchin" or "little rascal, scamp").

[21] Cfr. Giulio Morosini, Derekh Emunah. Via della fede mostrata agli ebrei, Roma, Propaganda Fide, 1683, p. 157.

[22] "Iudei patresfamilie in festo Pasce ante cenam, accipiunt modicum de sanguine pueri Cristiani et de illo ponunt in suo ciato pieno vino, et cum eo aspergunt mensam" [ "The head of the Jewish family, before the Passover dinner, takes a small quantity of the blood of a Christian child and places it in his glassful of wine, and sprinkles the table with it"] (cfr. Esposito and Quaglioni, Processi, cit., voI. I, p. 192).

[23] "Ita est de more, ut patresfamilias ponunt pulverem sanguinis Cristiani in dictis altimis in dicto tempore"

["It is their custom to place the blood of a Christian child in their unleavened bread at that time"]

(cfr. ibidem, p. 295).

[24] "Ipse non curavit habere sanguinem, quia non erat paterfamilias, quia soli patresfamilias sunt illi qui debent habere (sanguinem) et qui utuntur"

["He was not worried about obtaining any blood, because he was not the head of a family, because only the heads of families had to obtain it (blood) and possess it"]

(cfr. ibidem, p.358).

[25] Cfr. Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., voI. II, pp. 25-30.

[26] On this argument and on the preeminent role of the head of the family in the celebration of the rites of Pesach in the Ashkenazi environment, see, in particular, Sh. Safrai and Z. Safrai, Haggadah of the Sages. The Passover Haggadah , Jerusalem, 1998, p. 106 (in Hebrew).

[27] "Sanguis pueri Cristiani est summe necessarius ipsis Iudeis, videlicet patribusfamilias ipsorum Iudeorum.Et si esset aliquis pauper Iudeus, qui non possit haberi de sanguine, excusaretur"

["The blood of a Christian boy is absolutely necessary for these Jews, namely, the heads of Jewish families; anyone who cannot obtain blood, is excused"]

(cfr. Esposito and Quaglioni, Processi, cit., voI. I, p.356).

[28] Cfr. Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., voI. II, pp. 22-23. La biografia di Shimon Katz, rabbino a Francoforte sul Meno dal 1462 al 1478, is found in I.J. Yuval, Scholars in Their Time. The Religious Leadership of German Jewry in the Late Middle Ages, Jerusalem, 1984, pp. 135-148 (in Hebrew).

[29] Cfr. Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., vol. II, pp. 26-27.

[30] "Secundum legem Moisi, precipiebatur ipsis Iudeis quod in die Pasce unusquisque paterfamilias acciperet de sanguine agni masculi sine macula, et de illo sanguine poneret super liminaribus hostiorum domorum suarum; et quod inter ipsos Iudeos est sublata illa consuetudo de accipiendo sanguinem dicti agni masculi sine macula, ut supra dixit, et in eius locum modo utuntur sanguine pueri Cristiani [...] et hoc faciunt et ita dicunt esse necessarium in pessimam commemorationem Iesu, Dei Cristianorum, qui fuit suspensus et qui fuit masculus et non femina, et qui vituperose et turpiter in cruce et in tormentis mortuus est"

["According to the laws of Moses, the Jews were commanded that each head of the family should take the blood of male sheep without fault and pain the lintels of their doorways with it, and that these Jews, having neglected this custom, of taking the blood of a male sheep without fault, as set forth above, instead, they use the blood of Christian boys [...] and they do this and say that this is necessary in bad memory of Jesus, the God of the Christians, who was hanged and who was a male and not a female, and who was shamefully and vilely hanged on the cross and died in torment"]

(cfr. Esposito and Quaglioni, Processi, cit., voI. I, p. 357).

[31] "Illa esio sanguinis Cristiani et quare ita illum comedunt in fugatiis [...] est commemoratio sanguinis quem Dominus dixit ad Moisem ut deberet spargere super liminaria hostiorum domorum Iudeorum, quando ipsi Iudei erant in servitute Pharaonis"

(cfr. ibidem, p. 186).

[32] "(Iudei) haberent sanguinem [...] in (malam) memoriam Iesu [...] in contemptum et vilipendium Iesu, Dei Cristianorum, dicens quod omni anno faciut memoriam dicte passionis [...]; ipsi Iudei faciunt memoriam diete passionis lesu omni anno, quia ponunt de sanguine pueri Cristiani omni anno in eorum azimis sive fugatiis"

[Approximately: "(The Jews) obtain blood [...] in bad memory of Jesus [...] in contempt and outrage of Jesus, the God of the Christians, saying that every year, they perform a memorial of the said Passion [...]; these Jews perform a memorial of Jesus, because they place the blood of a Christian boy in their unleavened bread every year"]

(cfr. ibidem, p. 220).

[33] "Quod iam multis et multis annis (et aliter nescit dicere quot anni sint, nisi quod credere suo fuit antequam fides Cristiana esset in tanta potentia), quod Iudei sapientiores in partibus Babiloniae seu locis vicinis, ut dicitur, fecerunt consilium inter se, et ibi deliberatum fuit, quod saluti animarum ipsorum Iudeorum; et quod talis sanguis non poterat prodesse nisi extraheretur de puero Cristiano; et qui puer Cristianus, dum sic extraheretur sanguis, interficeretur ea forma qua fuit interfectus Iesus, quem Cristiani colunt pro Deo; et qui puer Cristianus debeat esse etatis annorum septem vel infra et quod non sit maioris etatis .VII. annis, sed potius sit minoris etatis; dicens quod si esset femina Cristiana non esset bona ad sacrificium suum, videlicet ad extrahendum sanguinem, et talis sanguis mulieris, licet minoris etatis .VII. annis, non esset bonus. Et ratio quia curo Iesus, quem nos Cristiani colimus pro Deo, fuerit crucifixus et in eius contemptum et vilipendium hoc faciant, conveniens putant ipsi Iudei quod ille a quo extrahant sanguinem debet esse masculus et non femina"

[Approximately: "He said that many, many years ago (he didn’t know how many, but he believed that it was before the Christian faith became so powerful), the Jewish wise men in parts of Babylon or nearby, it is said, held a council and decided that the blood of Christian boys killed in this manner was good for the souls of the Jews, and that this blood could only be extracted from a Christian boy; and that the Christian boy, when his blood was extracted, had to be killed in the same manner as Jesus, whom the Christians claim is their God, and that the Christian boy must be seven years of age or less, and that he could not be older than seven, but that he could be younger, saying that if it was a woman it was no good for their sacrifice, i.e., to extract the blood, and that the blood of such a woman, even if she was less than seven years of age, was no good. And the reason for this is, that Jesus, whom the Christians claim is their God, was crucified and they do this in contempt and outrage against them, since these Jews think that the person from whom one extracts the blood").

[34] "Quod apud ipsos Iudeos non reperitur scriptum, sed inter ipsos ita dicitur apud doctos et peritos in lege, et istud habetur ex successione memorie, et tenetur pro secreto inter ipsos Iudeos [...] et quod necesse est quod talis sanguis sit sanguis pueri Cristiani masculi et non femine, et qui non sit maioris etatis 7 annorum"

["That no text will be found among those Jews, but that it was said among those same Jews and experts in the law, and that they handed it down from generation to generation in memory, and it was kept secret among those Jews [...] and that it was necessary for this blood to be the blood of a Christian boy and not a girl, and that he could not be more than 7 years old"]

(cfr. ibidem, p. 357).

[35] "Quod omnes praedicti astantes posuerunt manum ad suffucandum illum, ponendo modo unus, modo alius manum, et quod omnes praedicti Judaei adjuverunt ad interficiensum, quia existimant omnes Hebraei quod ille multum promereatur apud Deum, qui adjuverat ad interficiendum aliquem puerum christianum" ["That all those present placed their hands on him to suffocate him, some of them placing one hand, some of them both hands, and that all the above mentioned Jews helped kill him, because they thought that all those Hebrews would be promoted before God who helped kill that Christian boy in any way"].

Deposition of Isacco da Gridel del 28 Novembre 1475. Cfr. [BonelIi], Dissertazione apologetica, cit., p. 144. On this argument, see also Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., voI. II, pp. 34-36. It should be noted that, according to the trial records, the defendants accused of the ritual murder at Valréas in 1247 claimed that they had performed the rite of crucifixion out of revenge against Jesus, responsible for the tragic exile of the Jewish people ("debebant eam crucifigere per illum prophetam, qui vocatur Jesus, per quem sunt in captivitate et in deffectu ipsius hec fecerunt")

["they must crucify him for the prophet whom they call Jesus, for whom they are in captivity and they did it because of that"] and that the participants had placed their hands on the child ("quod omnes tetigerunt puellam causa venie") ["and they all touched the child to obtain indulgence"]. Cfr. M. Stern, Urkundliche Beiträge über die Stellung der Päpste zu den Juden, Kiel, 1895, voI. II, p. 51.

[36] On these funeral rites, proper to German Judaism, see Hilkhot w-minhage' R. Shalom mi-Neustadt ("Rules and Customs of rabbi Shalom of Wiener Neustadt"), by Sh. Spitzer, Jerusalem, 1997, p. 188; A. Unna, Miminhage' yahadut Ashkenaz ("Among the Customs of the Jews of Germany"), in A. Wassertil, Yalkut minhagim, Jerusalem, 1976, voI. II, p. 34.

[37] "Et dicit ipse Samuel se scire predicta et ea didicisse non quod legerit in scripturis suis, sed quia dici audivit et didicit a quodam preceptore Iudeo qui vocabatur magister David Sprinç, qui regebat scolas in Bamberg et in Nurremberg, sed quo preceptore ipse Samuel didicit iam .XXX. annis preteritis. Et dicit interrogatus, quod dictus magister David ivit postea in Poloniam et nescit an vivit vel sit mortuus" (cfr. Esposito and Quaglioni, Processi, cit., voI. I, p. 253).

[38] On the life and rabbinical activity of David Tebel Sprinz at Bamberg, Nuremberg and Poznán, see Germania Judaica, Tübingen, 1987, vol. III: 1350-1519, t. I, p. 76; vol. III, t. II, pp. 1014-1015; Yoseph b. Moshè, Leqet yosher, by J. Freimann, Berlin, 1904, p. XXV, par. 30; Yuval, Scholars in Their Time, cit., pp. 369-377.

[39] Samuele in fact is said to have claimed that ignorant Ashkenazi were not aware of this custom either. Maestro Tobia da Magdeburg, as we have seen, although he was a physician, was not very well versed in Hebraic culture, seeking to persuade the inquisitors that he had become aware of the blood ritual only having come into contact, at Trent, with the same Samuele, with Mosè "the Old Man" da Würzburg and with Angelo da Verona. "Tobias [...] se numquam usum fuisse dicto sanguine nec unquam dici audivisse de dicto sanguine, nisi hiis diebus quibus Samuel, Moises et Angelus sibi dixerunt" (cfr. Esposito and Quaglioni, Processi, cit., voI. I, p. 318).

[40] "Et dicit quod ipsi Iudei Italici non habent istud in scripturis suis, sed bene dicitur quod de hoc est scriptura inter Iudeos qui sunt ultra mare" (cfr. ibidem, p. 251).

[41] On this argument, see K. von Amira, Das Endinger Judenspiel , Halle, 1883; R. Po-Chia Hsia, The Myth of Ritual Murder. Jews and Magic in Reformation Germany, New Haven (Conn.) - London, 1988, pp. 18-22.

[42] "(Lazarus et David de Alemania) responderunt se nolle intromittere in illa re, quia dicebant se esse impeditos ad faciendum alia, quia volebant ire in Riperiam territorii Brixiensis ad emendum de citronis, causa portandi illos in Alemaniam"

["(Lazarus and David of Germany) said they didn’t want to get mixed up in this business, because they said they were prevented from doing otherwise, because they wanted to go to Riva in the Brescian region and buy citrus fruit, to take it to Germany"]

(cfr. Esposito and Quaglioni, Processi, cit., vol. I; p. 242).

Many Central European Jewish communities provided themselves with the palm (tulavim) and cedar (etroghim ) leaves necessary for the celebration of the festivities of the Capanne (Sukkot), purchasing them at San Remo and on the Italian Riviera. The 1435 statutes of San Remo provided for the sale of cedar and palm leaves to Jews, who were granted the option of choosing cedars in compliance with the ritual requirements, when the leaves were still attached to the trees (cfr. R. Urbani and G. Zazzu, Ebrei a Genova, Genoa, 1984, p. 22). Other destinations favored by these emissaries of the Ashkenazi Jewish communities responsible for purchasing the ritual cedar leaves, were Lago di Garda region, celebrated in the responses of rabbi Mordekhai Jaffe in the mid-16 century, followed by Puglia and the Florentine countryside (cfr. A. Toaff, Il vino e la carne. Una comunità ebraica nel Medioevo, Bologna, 1989, pp. 124,127, and soprattutto Sh. Schwarzfuchs, De Gênes à Trieste. Le commerce millénaire des cédrats, in G. Todeschini and P.C. Ioly Zorattini, Il mondo ebraico. Gli ebrei tra Italia nord-orientale e Impero asburgico dal Medioevo all'Età contemporanea, Pordenone, 1991, pp. 259-286).

[43] Ristretto della vita e martirio di S. Simone fanciullo della città di Trento, Rome, Filippo Neri alle Muratte, 1594, pp. 9-10.

[44] Ibidem, pp. 26-27.

[45] In an important essay, Isadore Twersky (The Contribution of Italian Sages to Rabbinic Literature, in "Italia Judaica", I, 1983, p. 390) stresses "the sturdy, sometimes aggressive, Ashkenazi sentiment of allegiance which characterizes central and Eastern Europe at this time, where Ashkenazi origins are flaunted and the scrupulous rigidity of Ashkenazi precedent is held aloft".

[46] "(Iudei) habent istud pro secreto, et unus narrat alteri ex successione, et aliter non reperitur scriptura inter ipsos Iudeos"

[Approximately: "(The Jews) keep this a secret, and tell it from generation to generation, and that otherwise it was not written down among these Jews"]

(cfr. Esposito and Quaglioni, Processi, cit., voI. I, p. 251).

[47] "Et dicit quod alii Iudei similiter ita faciunt, prout ipse vidit fieri et audivit, dicens quod predicta fiunt secretissime inter ipsos"

["And he said that the other Jews did the same, just as he saw and heard it being done, saying that it was a big secret among them"]

(cfr. ibidem, p. 125).

[48] "Secundum consilium doctorum Iudeorum dicitur quod mulieres nec masculi minores .XIII. annis non debent interesse quandodicti pueri interficiuntur, nec etiam illud debent scire, quia mulieres et minores tredecim annis sunt faciles et leves et nesciunt tenere secreta"

(cfr. ibidem, pp. 357-358).

[49] In the vast bibliography relating to the Toledot Yeshu , see, in particular, S. Krauss, Das Leben Jesu nach judischen Quellen, Berlin, 1902; Hugh Schonfield, Toledot Yeshu According to the Hebrews, London, 1937; R.Di Segni, Il Vangelo del Ghetto. Le "storie di Gesù": leggende e documenti della tradizione medievale ebraica, Roma, 1985; D. Biale, Counter-History and Jewish Polemics against Christianity. The "Sefer Toldot Jeshu" and the "Sefer Zerubavel", in "Jewish Social Studies", VI (1999), pp. 130 ss.; Carlebach, The Anti-Christian Element in Early Modern Yiddish Culture, cit., pp. 8-17.

[50] Cfr. Krauss, Das Leben Jesu nach judischen Quellen, cit., pp. 10-11.

[51] The manuscript, a late copy of the Toledot Yeshu and other anti-Christian polemic writings, is in Hebrew and appears under the name of Ma'asè ha-Nozrì ("The Truth About the Nazarene"). It appears to have been copied in Germany around 1740 on a somewhat older copy of the text. It was put up for sale at Jerusalem by the Judaica Jerusalem auction house on 5 January 2005. For a summary description of the text in English, see the auction catalogue (p. 58, n. 122).


Revised by the original translators, Feb. 2011


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