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Israel of Brandenburg, the young Saxon painter and miniaturist who arrived at Trent on the occasion of the fateful Passover of 1475 on one of his frequent trips to the cities of the Triveneto region in search of clients, Jews and Christians, was the first to opt for a rapid conversion to Christianity. He had already successfully braved the baptismal waters by the time the interrogations of the principal persons implicated in the child murder of Simon began in late 1475. Wolfgang was given a new name selected for him by Hinderbach, in honor of a saint for whom the prince bishop of Trent showed particular affection [1]. As Wolfgang was to confess at a later time, he had decided to abjure the faith of his fathers simply in the hope of saving his skin [2]. And the circumstances proved him right. Or at least, they proved him right, at first.

Two months later, by the end of June, upon conclusion of the first phase of the trials, the principle defendants, nine in total, including Samuele da Nuremberg, Angelo da Verona and the physician Tobias of Magdeburg, were condemned to death and executed. The old man Mosè da Würzburg had died in prison before being sentenced to execution. The trials were then all temporarily suspended by order of the Archduke of Austria, Sigismund. A few of the minor defendants, all of them from among the servants to the two principal money lenders and the physician Tobias, were in prison waiting to learn their fate. By contrast, the women of the small community were confined under house arrests in Samuele’s house, kept under surveillance by the bishop’s gendarmes.

Giovanni Hinderbach had taken a liking to the young convert, Israel Wolfgang, and had demonstrated his trust in him by admitting him freely to the castle and allowing him to sit at table among his servants and courtiers. But his trust was not entirely disinterested.

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In the summer of 1475, Wolfgang, the convert painter, was in fact the only Christian in Trent who could read and understand Hebrew. This knowledge was indispensable to the young bishop, who, having confiscated the goods of the condemned, found himself in need of someone capable of deciphering the bank ledgers of the Jews, drawn up, as was normally the case, in Hebrew. The value of the pledges and the ownership by the citizens of Trent or foreigners could only be determined by means of a correct interpretation of the entries appearing in those books. In early June, Hinderbach decided officially to entrust Israel Wolfgang with the paid task of supervising the restitution and redemption of the collateral amassed in the vaults of the Jewish banks [3]. The Saxon painter's new workplace was now the money lending shop formerly owned by the deceased Samuele da Nuremberg. Here, the young Wolfgang spent a great part of his time, working diligently and capably.

But at the same time, Israel Wolfgang had simultaneously decided to use his conversion as a disguise, permitting him more easily to help the Jewish women confined under house arrest, facilitating their escape and expatriation [4]. Of these his intentions he secretly informed his influential and powerful protector of these intentions: Salomone da Piove di Sacco, who had allowed Wolfgang to stay in his home as a guest, allowing him to meet his family and learn their secrets. The nearby city of Rovereto, located in the high valley of Lagarina, which belonged to the Republic of Venice and was therefore outside bishop Hinderbach’s jurisdiction, had been selected as the general headquarters of the representatives of the Ashkenazi community of the Veneto region for the task of making every effort to obtain the release of those defendants still in prison in Trent, and to invalidate the trials. Salomone Cusi, sent to Rovereto by Salomone da Piove, informed anyone who needed to know of Israel Wolfgang’s full preparedness to bring about the prisoners’ release, particularly the women, quickly, and without attracting attention [5]. Jacob of Brescia, Jacob di Bonaventura da Riva, and Cressone da Nuremberg, some of the more prominent exponents of the "lobby” gathered at Rovereto, were perfectly well aware of the dangerous mission which the bold young Saxon, camouflaged as a Christian, had voluntarily assumed.

Jacob da Brescia was the brother of Rizzardo, accused of being one of the principal recipients of the blood originating from

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the Regensburg child murder. The money lender did business at Gavardo, in the Bresciano region, and, in testimony of his authority, in 1467, Milanese officials referred to him as "the Jew who is the head of the other Jews" [6]. For more than a decade, from 1475 to 1488, Jacob di Bonaventura da Riva was generally considered the most influential banker at Riva del Garda [7]. Cressone (Gherson) was another highly prominent Ashkenazi Jew. A native of Nuremberg, he had reached Rovereto around 1460, but he had only received authorization from the Doge Nicolò Tron to bring his daughter and the family’s moveable capital from his native city in 1471 [8]. Starting in 1465, a patrician from Rovereto, Delfino Frizzi, had permitted him to live in his palace and to become associated with the Adige river navigation business [9]. In his spare time, Cressone da Nuremberg also worked successfully in the money trade, an activity which often took him to the principal centers of the zone, between Riva del Garda [10].

In the summer of 1475, the air at Trent was charged with tension. The minds of both Jews and Christians were filled with uncertainty about the fate of the defendants still in prison, as well as concern for the executed defendants’ wives and children. Israel Wolfgang and his diligent collaborators were concerned with the total confiscation of all the defendants’ property, the redemption of the collateral deposited in their shops, the reimbursement of all sums borrowed -- promptly convoyed in Hinderbach’s strongboxes. In the meantime, as we have seen, the Dominican Battista de' Giudici, bishop of Ventimiglia, the Pope’s delegate commissioner, moved from Rome to Trent to shed light on Simon’s murder and to search for errors by the prince bishop, suspected of having deliberately manipulating the trials towards the resulting conclusion. Before Pope Sixtus IV, Salomone da Piove insistently supported the sending of this commissioner to save those defendants still in prison and to muffle the undesirable scandal threatening to overwhelm the other German Jewish communities of northern Italy, jeopardizing delicate interests and laboriously captured positions while irremediably upsetting the political hinterland which had made these interests possible.

In August 1475, on the road to Trent, the commissioner of the Judges was crossing the Veneto with a small retinue of functionaries and collaborators. It seems that they were accompanied by three Jews, who joined them traveling from the region of Padua [11]. Two of these are easily identifiable as Salomone da Piove and Salomone Fürstungar.

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Perhaps the third was Rizzardo da Regensburg’s brother, Jacob da Brescia, returning from Rovereto. Fürstungar, the unscrupulous wheeler-dealer and expert intriguer with a thousand resources and influential and multifarious contacts, was probably identical with one of the most prominent figures in German Jewry, transplanted to the Veneto region. This person was Salomone da Camposampiere, who, together with Salomone da Piove, a friend and colleague, maintained despotic control over the money trade at Padua and the district [12].

Battista de’ Giudici entered Trent in the early part of the month of September, taking up quarters at the Albergo Alla Rosa, in the Via delle Osterie Grandi, from which the Wharf of Buonconsiglio was quit visible. He courteously declined bishop Hinderbach’s invitation to be his guest at the castle, probably intended to control his meetings and movements in this way, on the grounds that the inn, although German owned, was well-known for its appetizing Italian cuisine, a quality particularly appreciated by the Dominican inquisitor, who considered himself a man of good taste, not one disposed to compromise in culinary matters [13]. De' Giudici was escorted by a small retinue, including his assistant Raffaele, a one-eyed notary, blind in one eye, who knew German and could act as an interpreter, and a mysterious priest, old and hunchbacked, who always wore a torn black frock-coat. The Albergo alla Rosa also hosted Salomone Fürstungar, the influential wheeler-dealer who accompanied the apostolic commissioner with prudence and circumspection, meeting him frequently and speaking Italian, without need for an intermediary of any kind [14].

Israel Wolfgang was now required to respect the delicate and dangerous commitments which he had voluntarily assumed. The young Saxon had been duly warned of de' Giudidi’s arrival by Salomone da Piove, and knew that Fürstungar would contact him [Wolfgang] immediately.

They met at night, in the stalls of the Albergo alla Rosa, far from prying eyes. Fürstungar informed Wolfgang that Gasparo, assistant to Sigismondo’s steward, had procured a safe conduct for him [Wolfgang] to travel to Innsbruck and confer with the Archduke of Austria in order to obtain a definitive suspension of the trials and the release of the imprisoned women. He also asked Wolfgang to make himself available to the apostolic commissioner through the one-eyed notary, who knew German, and to deliver secret messages to the women, confined in Samuele da Nuremberg’s house,

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messages to be transmitted to Wolfgang from the general headquarters of the Ashkenazi Jews, set up in Rovereto. The women were reassured, and informed of the good prospects of Wolfgang’s mission before Sigismundo and the commissioner’s full readiness to do everything possible to obtain their release. Fürstungar entrusted Israel Wolfgang with money for his expenses and trouble [15].

The next day, it was the one-eyed notary’s turn to take the initiative of meeting Israel Wolfgang. The location of the appointment was the "stube” near the fountain behind the Chiesa di San Pietro, a public bath in a discreet area of Trent where the streets were usually empty. The notary informed the young painter that he would soon be called upon to talk with the commissioner and, knowing that Wolfgang could freely enter the rooms of the castle of Buonconsiglio, he asked Wolfgang to spy on Hinderbach’s movements and to inform him, the notary, Raffaele, of any rumors going around at the castle relating to the Jews still held in jail as well as on the eventuality of a resumption of the trials.

For his part, Israel Wolfgang warned the one-eyed notary that he intended to continue to avoid the Jews so as not to awaken suspicion, informing him, in the meantime, of what he had succeeded in gleaning from the information floating around. There was a current rumor at Trent that the apostolic commissioner was in cahoots with the Jews and proposed to exonerate all those condemned for Simon’s murder, and bringing about the release of anyone still in prison, including the women. In this regard, Israel Wolfgang knew that Hinderbach was not at all prepared to permit Battista de' Giudici to meet the women for the purpose of interrogating them, and therefore expressed his intention to remove them from house arrest in Samuele’s dwelling and throw them in prison, in separate cells [16].

With his usual circumspection, Salomone Fürstungar, before leaving for Trent on his way back from Innsbruck, had contacted another person, considered a certain friend of the Jewish families. This was Roper, known as Schneider Jud, a German known as the "tailor to the Jews”, who had for years frequented their houses and was linked to them through strong ties of solidarity. For these reasons, he was arrested during the first phase of the trials and subjected to torture. But he confessed nothing, obviously because he knew nothing. He had finally been released and remained a friend to the Jews, although with justifiable caution.

We must not, therefore, be surprised that Schneider decided to go to Rovereto to meet the representatives of the Ashkenazi Jews, offering them his assistance. During the meeting, he

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was informed by Salomone Cusi, Salomonoe da Piove’s delegate, and Cressone da Rovereto of Fürstungar’s planned mission before the Archduke Sigismondo. Now Fürstungar now assigned Schneider, directly, with the same tasks as Israel Wolfgang, i.e., first of all, that of keeping contact with the women, and bringing them letters and information [17].

Israel Wolfgang and Roper Schneider had become the Jewish women’s messenger boys, their only precious source of information, the only chink onto external reality. But they had to be careful to avoid discovery. The bishop’s solders, in fact, occupied Samuele’s house, in which the women were confined, guarding the external door. The Saxon painter could easily enter the house, since it contained some of the late banker’s collateral, but if he was caught talking to the women he would arouse the gendarmes’ justifiable suspicions. The solution was to communicate orally, in the courtyard located at the rear of the house, where the women faced a small balcony overlooking the stall. Any letters sent to them, as well as any letters written in response, by contrast, were exchanged through a chink dug in the surrounding wall [18].

Sara, Maestro Tobias’s widow, and with her, Bella and Anna, were informed by Israel Wolfgang of the commissioner’s favorable attitude towards them, as well as his plans to liberate them and the hopes linked to Fürstungar’s ambassadorship at Innsbruck. In the letters sent from Rovereto and written in Hebrew, Fürstungar himself, with Jacob of Arco and Cressone, asked the women for detailed information about the conditions of their imprisonment and any coercive methods employed by Hinderbach to make them confess. For his part, Israel Wolfgang was now fully committed, working diligently and enthusiastically in the desperate attempt to free Sara and the other prisoners. The intrepid Saxon painter was thus compelled, despite himself, to neglect the graces of his mistress, Ursula Oberdorfer, a prosperous local beauty with whom he was accustomed to entertain himself concealed at Angelo's tavern, in the San Pietro district. To seal his love, Israel had recently given the young lady, who was, of course, a Christian, a precious silver ring with a valuable stone, obviously taken from Samuele’s pledges, which he was supposed to safeguard [19].

The same apostolic commissioner convened Israel Wolfgang to his room in the inn, in the wee small hours of the morning, under maximum secrecy. All of de' Giudici’s collaborators were there: Raffaele, the secretary responsible for drawing up the

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minutes; the one-eyed notary, who knew German and who acted as a translator, and the hunchbacked priest in a black cassock. Invited under oath to set forth his version of the facts, the young Jew, now nominally a Christian, told of the horrible tortures to which the accused, all innocent, had been subjected during trial, for the purpose of extorting their confessions. Hinderbach and his jailers were accused of orchestrating a colossal injustice accompanied by ignoble machinations, all for profit. The Jews of Trent were said to be the mere victims of a pitiless theorem [theorem = an indicative conditional: if A, then B], intended to demonstrate their guilt at all costs [20].

Israel Wolfgang was later to admit that he lied to the commissioner, in his effort to be of some assistance to the poor women who were still in prison [21]. Interrupting the painter’s "domesticated” report, the one-eyed notary asked him whether he could so something to help the women escape from their involuntary abode.

The response was in the negative. Gendarmes were everywhere and were determined to be effective guards, subjecting Sara and her companions in misfortune to strict supervision.

As early as late September, Salomone Fürstungar returned to Trent, disillusioned by his meeting with Sigismundo at Innsbruck. The archduke had in fact refused to intervene to free the prisoners and was persuaded that the trials should resume to make a final determination of the defendants’ guilt or innocence. The path was now free for Hinderbach, who had probably exerted pressure on Sigismundo to obtain a decision of this kind. For his part, Fürstungar, angered by the unexpected failure of his mission, was now resolutely determined to avenge himself upon the implacable bishop of Trent by dispatching him to his Creator, perhaps in the company of his collaborators. And he knew he had a bold assassin at hand, prepared to do the job.

Israel Wolfgang was urgently summoned to the usual meeting place, at night. In the stalls of the "alla Rosa” inn, Fürstungar informed Wolfgang of the negative outcome of the appointment with Sigismundo and asked him to carry out an immediate plan to terminate Hinderbach’s existence by poisoning [22]. The poison was to be put in his food while circumventing the many precautions with which the prudent bishop had thought fit to protect his life. The young painter, eager to carry out the new mission entrusted to him, carefully examined Hinderbach’s habits at table. All dishes and wine placed on the table were tasted by various persons on three occasions, i.e., by the cook,

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in the kitchen, by the steward, in putting the dish on the sideboard, and by the waiter, in placing it on table. The poison therefore had to be placed in the food after the last servant had tasted it. Israel Wolfgang said he was capable of choosing the right time, but needed to find the raw material, an effective and lethal poison. Upon his return to the castle at Buonconsiglio, he quickly set to work [23].

Among the stationary materials in the office, Israel Wolfgang knew there was a box containing materials belonging to a friend and colleague who had recently died, Friar Pietro, a German who had earned his living as a painter, miniaturist, and occasionally as an alchemist. The ingredients used by the monk in preparing his colors were bound to include some solid arsenic. Israel Wolfgang was not mistaken: a respectable chunk of red arsenic, or cinnabar-colored arsenic sulfide, soon found its way into his pockets.

The next night, the Saxon painter hasted to meet Fürstungar again; with justifiable satisfaction, Wolfgang showed him the poison he had obtained. But the astute and expert German go-getter only needed a glance to realize that that Wolfgang’s lump of bi-sulfide of arsenic was almost harmless, and would never have troubled the bishop of Trent with anything more serious than a passing belly-ache. At any rate, he offered to supply his young assassin as quickly as possible with good arsenic, capable of poisoning the bishop effectively [24]. But for a variety of reasons, the project, although never formally abandoned, was to take another course, and Israel Wolfgang is not thought to have seen Salomone Fürstungar again.

Battista de' Giudici wasn’t discouraged either. Unable to meet the women and other defendants due to Hinderbach’s refusal, he concluded that he could do little by remaining at Trent. The hostile and intimidating climate -- as he saw it -- in which he was compelled to work, actually prevented him from making the desired progress in his inquiry [25]. The failure of Salomone Fürstungar’s mission to Sigismundo, of which de’ Giudici had been duly informed, was only an obvious prelude to the imminent resumption of the trials, leaving him with very little time in which to work, carrying the dossiers to Rome with only moderate hope that the appeal process might be approved and that the defendants might be released before they suffered the anticipated punishment.

In very late September 1475, less than one month after de’ Giudici’s arrival in the city, the pontifical commissioner decided to leave Trent and move to Rivereto, outside Hinderbach's jurisdiction. The choice of city seemed a rather delicate one,

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since Rovereto was known as the established general headquarters of the Ashkenazi Jewish community of northern Italy, actively mobilized some time before, in their efforts to exonerate the accused from any responsibility in Simonino’s murder. It was also foreseeable that the bishop would spare no pains in representing the apostolic functionary as being under the thumb of the Jews. And Hinderbach lost no time in stressing the unsuitability of de' Giudici’s decision. In a letter to the humanist friend Raffaele Zovenzoni, the bishop of Trent [Hinderbach] noted that the reasons for the commissioner’s [de’ Giudici’s] move to Rovereto were just phony excuses and that the presence of the Jews gathered in the city at that time was highly suspicious [26].

Before leaving Trent, commissioner de’ Giudici sent his one-eyed notary to Israel Wolfgang to inform him, Wolfgang, of his, de’ Giudici’s intentions and later availability. De' Giudici, who intended to leave for Rome as quickly as possible to confer with the Pope and try to get him to stop the trials, is said to have warned the Saxon convert just in time for Wolfgang to reach Rovereto. In fact, the commissioner wished to take Wolfgang with him to see Sixtus IV, considering Wolfgang’s testimony of fundamental importance. At Rome, Israel Wolfgang is also thought to have been assisted financially, as usual, by Fürstungar. In the meantime, Wolfgang was to maintain his contacts with the commissioner and keep him informed of everything going on at Buonconsiglio, sending regular epistolary reports to his protector, Salomone da Piove, who was well able to make best use of them. But the most important recommendation was that Salomone should do everything in his power to enable the women to escape from their enforced confinement in Samuele’s home [27].

With the departure from Trent of Fürstungar, who continued, cautiously and with circumspection, to watch de' Giudici and his retinue in their every move, Israel Wolfgang became the only Jew, although formally converted, left in the city, able to render any assistance to the women and other detainees. He was perfectly aware of the delicate nature of this role. Although he was able to leave Trent without impediment, reaching liberty on other, safer shores, the young painter from Brandenburg was not prepared to abandon the dangerous mission which he had voluntarily assumed. He was certainly not lacking in either courage or recklessness. He is believed to have remained at Trent, engaged in his desperate attempt to save the women defendants, at the risk of his life, to the bitter end.

Immediately upon his arrived at Rovereto, the apostolic commissioner ordered the bishop of Trent to free the prisoners without delay, particularly, the women and children, and he prohibited subjecting them to torture. At the same time, the Jews presented Battista de' Giudice

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with an appeal disputing the validity of the trials, signed by Jacob da Riva and Jacob da Brescia [28]. They were ready to accept it, instructing Hinderbach to respond to thirteen counts in an indictment accusing him, among other things, of bringing the trials solely to misappropriate the property of the condemned, estimated at twenty thousand florins.

The efforts expended to cause problems for the inquisitorial machinery set up at Trent enjoyed an initial success on 12 October 1475, when Sixtus IV himself, at the request of the Jews gathered at Rovereto, instructed Hinderbach to release the incarcerated women and children, said to be confined in precariously unhealthy conditions, and whom Sixtus believed to be innocent [29]. De' Giudici, for his part, invited Giovanni da Fondo, the notary at the Trent trials, to appear before him to testify as a witness. The notary’s refusal was clear and immediate. Giovanni in fact maintained that he feared for his life: the Jews at Rovereto would not hesitate to have him murdered [30].

In the meantime, Fürstungar, alias Salomone da Composampiero, reaching Val Lagarina together with the apostolic commissioner, abandoned Rovereto immediately to travel to Verona in an attempt to procure the services of Gianmarco Raimondi, one of the best lawyers in the city. Having obtained an appointment, Fürstungar explained to the Veronese jurist, Raimondi, that, in the cause of the Jews of Trent, he could count on the support of illustrious Roman prelates, and that even the apostolic commissioner himself had only arrived in the area thanks to the considerable financial commitments assumed by the German-origin Jewish community to ensure the commissioner’s very appointment before the Pope. Raimondi was offered a fee at the rate of three florins a day to overcome his foreseeable hesitation, but to no avail: Raimondi had no intention at all of taking the case [31].

At Trent, Israel Wolfgang had an unexpected meeting. Waiting for him one morning under the portico of Samuele’s bank, was a German Jew whom Wolfgang had met some time back, in his uncle’s house at Erlangen, near Nuremberg. The German Jew told him that he, too, had converted to Christianity, taking the Christian name of Giovanni Pietro in baptismal deed, registered at Mantua, but that he had remained faithful in one way or another to the faith of his fathers. To allay suspicion, he told people that he had been moved to visit Trent by the miracles of little Simon, but had, in reality, been sent by the general headquarters of the German Jews at Rovereto to make contact with

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Israel Wolfgang. In particular, he had been instructed on his mission in Trent by no less a personage than the usual Salomone da Piove, and with him, Aronn da Castelnoveto [32]. The latter was to be tried and condemned in 1488 for contempt for the Christian religion, together with the other heads of the Ashkenzi community of the Duchy of Milan [33].

The Mantuan convert known as "Giovanni Pietro” asked Israel Wolfgang to place him in contact with the women detainees and to obtain useful information from them; he moreover wished to obtain first-hand news about the goings-on at Buonconsiglio. Promptly satisfied, he [Giovanni Pietro] was successful in meeting secretly with Brunetta, Samuele of Nuremberg’s obstinate widow, and asked her whether she and the other prisoners had been subjected to torture, despite the intimations of the commissioner and the Pope [34]. But there was not much time left. Not even to organize one last desperate attempt to arrange for the women’s escape and conveyance to safety. The meeting between Israel Wolfgang and Giovanni Pietro da Mantova, the German Jew from Erlangen, was on 18 October. Two days later, the Trent trials were officially re-opened, on Hinderbach’s initiative, with the explicit consent of the court at Innsbruck.

One week after that, Israel Wolfgang was already in trouble, betrayed by Lazzaro da Serravalle and Isacco da Gridel di Vedera, Angelo da Verona’s servants, as well as by Mosè da Franconia, teacher of Tobias’s children, and Joav da Ansbach, the ignorant scullery boy in Tobias’s kitchen, who, tortured and confessing, out of envy or spite, had accused the young Saxon painter of responsibility for little Simon’s murder [35].

Israel Wolfgang was arrested on 26 October while dining at the castle, calmly and with a good appetite, with the bishop’s officials and courtiers. Immediately transferred to the prisons of the Buonconsiglio, he was subjected to an exuberant dose of torture to induce him to say whatever he knew or imagined.

The other defendants were condemned and publicly executed between 1 December 1475 and 15 January of the following year. At the foot of the scaffold, Mosè of Franconia and the coarse Joav both converted to the faith in Christ, in the hope of alleviating their own suffering [36].

Wolfgang was, deliberately, the last to be executed, condemned by Giovanni Hinderbach’s tribunal on 19 January 1476.

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Offended and feeling betrayed, Hinderbach made no exception of any kind for Wolfgang, and punished him much more harshly than even the principal defendants on trial; his body, cruelly broken on the wheel, was devoured by animals. The young Saxon painter and miniaturist, "who said that he was less than twenty five years old, although he looked at least twenty nine", faced martyrdom without batting an eye, dying a death which, both in his eyes and from the point of view of that German Judaism to which he belonged, he had been taught to court to sanctify the name of God ('al qiddush ha-Shem).

His death was accompanied by unflaggingly indecorous anti-Christian grimaces and a scornful profession of polemical faith. The voluntary sacrifice of Israel Wolfgang, the boy from Brandenburg, counter-balanced, or, more exactly, flanked, the involuntary sacrifice of little Simon, in a holy tragedy in which the basic elements of the plot, cruel and bloody, had been composed centuries before, in Hebrew and Yiddish, in German and in Latin, in the valleys washed by the muddy waters of the Rhine and the Main, the Rhône and the Danube, the Adige and the Ticino, where it was said that the god of the rivers claimed their innocent victims every year.

"Yes, I am perfectly persuaded and convinced that killing Christian children and consuming their blood and swallowing it was a good thing [...] If I could obtain the blood of a Christian boy for our Passover feast, of course I would drink it and eat it, if I could do so without attracting too much attention. Know ye that, although I have been baptized, I, Israel, son of Meir, may he rest in peace, a Jew of Brandenburg, intend, and have established in my soul, that I wish to die a true Jew. I had myself baptized when I saw that I had gotten caught, and in doubt that I might be condemned to death, believing that I could avoid it, as actually happened. Know ye, therefore, that I, Israel of Brandenburg, Jew, do no consider anything believed and observed by the Christian religion to be true at all. I believe with an unshakeable faith that the religion of Israel is correct and holy" [37].

But not everything had gone wrong, at least from Israel of Brandenburg’s point of view. Not a single week had passed since his arrest before the young Saxon Jew, in his cell, was informed that Hinderbach had finally given in, perhaps in part to counterbalance foreseeable criticism of his decision to reopen the trials, and had consented to release the incarcerated women’s children. These were Mosè and Salomone, the children of

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of Verona and of Dolcetta; Seligman, Meir of Würzburg’s young boy; Samuele da Nuremberg’s daughter-in-law Anna’s young boy, still in diapers; and the numerous offspring of the late Tobias, whose four children were named Joske, Mosè, Chaim and David. An envoy from the apostolic commissioner appeared at the castle of Buonconsiglio on 2 November and took delivery of the children, who were later taken to Rovereto and entrusted to the Jews [38].

Little is known of their fate. Many of them were probably taken back to Germany and adopted by relatives or persons known by them, and seem to have disappeared from the pages of history. Only Mosè and Salomone, Angelo da Verona’s children, remained safely in Italy, entrusted to the Ashkenazi community which had worked so actively to obtain their release [39]. Following the confessions of Brunetta, Samuele da Nuremberg’s widow, and the other women, followed by their conversion to Christianity, which occurred in January 1477, attempts to return the children to their mothers proved fruitless [40].

Bella, Anna and Sara, who had, at the time, voluntarily entrusted their children to the Jews of Rovereto -- now that they were converted and baptized under the names of Elisabetta, Susanna, and Chiara -- wanted them back urgently, ceding to the pressures of those who wished them to have the children baptized. Pope Sixtus IV himself, by a bull of 20 June 1478, addressed to Hinderbach, exhorted him to take all steps to ensure that they might be returned to the recently converted women, together with their dowries; the children were to be baptized. But his attempts in this direction were too late; it was like closing the barn door when the horse has already been stolen.

"We still wish, and we enjoin you to it with the same authority, that you shall use all diligence to ensure that the children of the condemned Jews be returned to their baptized mothers, together with their dowry, wherever that might be found, compelling any opponent or rebel by means of ecclesiastical censure and other means granted by law" [41].

But the last scene of the drama was yet to be enacted. The drama finally concluded with the solemn appearance at the baptismal font of Salomone, the physician Tobias’s feeble-minded servant. The poor imbecile, deemed incapable of understanding or consenting, had survived the trial for little Simon’s murder because he gave no indication of knowing or remembering anything about it.

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Now, to mark the occasion of the feeble-minded Salamone’s baptism, under the name of Giovanni; in a crowded ceremony in the Chiesa di San Pietro at Trent, it was the common desire of all that he might also recover the light of the intellect [42]. The body of the sainted little martyr Simon was invoked aloud to perform this one last appropriate miracle.



[1] Cfr. D. Rando, Dai margini la memoria. Johannes Hinderbach (1418-1486), Bologna, 2003, p. 398.

[2] The podestà of Trent stated with some uncertainty "quod Wolfgangus asseruit se minorem 25 annis et licet ex aspectu videatur major annorum 28 vel circa". ["that Wolfgang said he was less then 25 years old, but you could see from his face that he was at least 28”] At an earlier date, on 21 April 1475, a record was made in the trial documents "quod Israel Hebreus, qui ad praesens in carceribus detinetur, occasione q. Simonis interfecti, desiderat effici Christianus et Baptisma suscipere; idcirco praelibatus Reverendissimus Dominus mandavit dictum Israelem de carceribus relaxari pro nunc, ita quod de Castro non exeat, ad hoc ut in fide instrui possit et deinde si visum fuerit Baptizari"[Approximately: "that Israel the Jew, who is presently being held in jail in relation to the killing of Simon, wishes to become a Christian and undergo baptism; for this reason, the Prince Bishop commands him to be released for now, as long as he doesn’t leave the castle, so that he might be instructed in the faith, and we therefore consent to his baptism”]. Israel Wolfgang later admitted that he had been baptized to escape condemnation to death, "quare ipse Wolfgangus fecit se baptizare, quia vidit se captum et dubitavit ne condemnaretur ad mortem, credens se illam evadere, ut evasit" (cfr. [Benedetto Bonelli], ["because this Wolfgang caused himself to be baptized because he saw that he had gotten caught and feared he might be sentenced to death, believing he could escape death, which in fact he did”] Dissertazione apologetica sul martirio del beato Simone da Trento nell'anno MCCCCLXXV dagli ebrei ucciso, Trent, Gianbattista Parone, 1747, pp. 138, 140, 147). In this regard, see also G. Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, Trent, 1902, voI. II, pp. 78 ss.; R. Po-Chia Hsia, Trent 1475. A Ritual Murder Trial, New Haven (Conn.), 1992, pp. 95-96.

[3] On 8 June 1475 it was announced that Hinderbach "praelibatus Reverendissimus Dominus, attento quod non sit aliquis, qui libros Hebraicos dictorum Judaeorum legere sciat, cum supradictis libris nomina omnium qui habent pignora apud Judaeos scripta sint in Hebraicis litteris, nec alius sit qui dictos libros legere valeat, de quo verosimilius confidi possit, quam de suprascripto Israele, nun facto Christiano et nominato Wolfgango, eidem Wolfgango licentiam dedit quod possit exire de Castro etc."] [Approximately: "since His Most Rerevend Lordship saw that there was nobody else who could read what was written in the books of the Jews, said books containing notations as to all the pledges held by the Jews, written in Hebrew, and that nobody else who can be trusted is any good at reading them, except for the above mentioned Israel, who has now become a Christian and is called Wolfgang, he gave the said Wolfgang permission to leave the castle, etc.”] (cfr. [Bonelli], Dissertazione apologetica, cit., p. 140).

[4] Israel Wolfgang confessed to the Trent judges that, taking advantage of his new condition as a Christian, "volebat adjuvare judaeos, si potuisset" ["that he wanted to help the Jews, if possible”] (cfr. ibidem, p. 147).

[5] Cfr. Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., voI. II, pp. 87 -90.

[6] On Jacob da Brescia, see, in particular, F. Glissenti, Gli ebrei nel Bresciano al tempo della Dominazione Veneta. Nuove ricerche e studi, Brescia, 1891, pp. 714; A. Gamba, Gli ebrei a Brescia nei secoli XV-XVI, Brescia, 1938, p. 31; F. Chiappa, Una colonia ebraica in Palazzolo a metà del 1400, Brescia, 1964, p. 37; Sh. Simonsohn, The Jews in the Duchy of Milan, Jerusalem, 1982, vol. I, pp. 433, n. 1013 e 677, n. 1632.

[7] "Iacob Ebreus et socii habitator Ripae", ["Jacob the Jew, and associates, residents of Riva”], or "Iacob Ebreus et socii dantes ad usuram in Rippa"

["Jacob the Jew and his money-lending associates in Riva ”], are very often recalled in the advisory orders of Riva del Garda and in the notarial documentation for the years 1475-1488

(cfr. M. Grazioli, L'arte della lana e dei panni nella Riva veneziana del sec. XV in due documenti dell'Archivio Rivano e Riva veneziano. Le uscite ordinarie , in "Il Sommolago", III, 1986, n. 1, pp. 109-120; IV, 1987, n. 3, pp. 5-54; M.L. Crosina, La comunità ebraica di Riva del Garda, sec. XV-XVIII, Riva del Garda, 1991, pp. 29-35).

It is not entirely impossible that Jacob da Arco, of whom we know nothing, may be identical with this Jacob da Riva.

[8] The privilege of the Doge Nicolò Tron, relating to the transfer in 1471 of the daughter of Cressone da Nuremberg to Rovereto, is recalled by R. Po-Chia Hsia, The Myth of Ritual Murder. Jews and Magic in Reformation Germany, New Haven (Conn.) - London, 1988, p. 44.

[9] Cfr. G. Boldi, Gli estimi della città di Rovereto (1449, 1460, 1475, 1490, 1502), Rovereto, 1988, pp. XXV, 92,180, 343. Cressone, who at Rovereto lived in the Frizzi palace "under the Rock", possessed real property in the district.

[10] On Cressone’s banking activity, which included patrician families among his clients, such as the Counts of Lodron, see C. Andreolli, Una ricognizione delle comunità ebraiche nel Trentino tra XVI e XVII secolo, in "Materiali di lavoro", 1988, n. 1-4, pp. 157-158. On his involvement in the Riva del Garda affairs, see Crosina, La comunità ebraica di Riva del Garda, cit., p. 29.

[11] Cfr. Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., vol. II, pp. 69-70.

[12] The reasons leading me to accept the proposed identification of Salomone Fürstungar with Salomone da Camposampiero, already advanced by Daniele Nissim (La risposta di Isacco Vita Cantarini all' accusa di omicidio rituale di Trento, Padova 1670-1685, in "Studi Trentini di Scienze Storiche", LXXIX, 2000, p. 830), are many, of considerable weight:

1) it seems implausible that a personality of major importance in the panorama of Ashkenazi leadership in the Veneto, like Salomone da Camposampiero, should be quite absent from the documentation relating to the efforts of the Jewish community to save the Trent defendants, in contrast to what happened with his friend and colleague Salomone da Piove;

2) Salomone Fürstungar, whose name does not appear in the documentation on the Jews of Padua having come to light so far, is described in the trial records as a recognized leader of the Paduan Jews, among whom he had been living for some time, so much so as to have a perfect knowledge of Italian, in addition to German (which fits Salomone da Camposampiero perfectly);

3) Fürstungar was able to dress "like a Christian", a privilege enjoyed only by Jewish physicians and bankers, including Salamone da Camposampiero. On Salomone da Camposampiero and his family, cfr. D. Jacoby, New Evidence on Jewish Bankers in Venice and the Venetian Terraferma (c. 1450-1550), in A. Toaff and Sh. Schwarzfuchs, The Mediterranean and the Jews. Banking, Finance and International Trade (XIII-XVIII Centuries), Ramat Gan, 1989, pp. 160-177; D. Carpi, L’individuo e la collettività. Saggi di storia degli ebrei a Padova e nel Veneto nel!' età del Rinascimento, Florence, 2002, pp. 61-110.

[13] The inn alla Rosa, "a good inn", among the most popular of Trent, was located in the district of the German inns beyond the northern gate of San Martino, was managed by the Bavarian family of Michael di Konrad and his son Michael (cfr. E. Fox, Storia delle osterie trentine , Trent, 1975, pp. 84-87; S. Luzzi, Stranieri in città. Presenza tedesca e società urbana a Trento, secoli XV-XVIII , Bologna, 2003, pp. 229-236).

[14] Cfr. Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., voI. II, pp. 73, 86.

[15] Ibidem, pp. 78-79; Po-Chia Hsia, Trent 1475, cit., pp. 98-100.

[16] Cfr. Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., voI. II, pp. 79-80.

[17] Cfr. ibidem, pp. 87-90. On the interrogation and tortures to which Roper Schneider was subjected, see A. Esposito and D. Quaglioni, Processi contro gli ebrei di Trento, 1475-1478 . I: I processi del 1475, Padua, 1990, pp. 38-40.

[18] Cfr. Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., voI. II, pp. 84-85.

[19] Cfr. [Bonelli], Dissertazione apologetica, cit., p. 148; Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., vol. II, p. 95.

[20] Cfr. Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., voI. II, pp. 81-83.

[21] "Wolfgangus interrogatus a dicto Monoculo (the one-eyed notary), illo Notario interprete D. Commissarii, respondit quod delato sibi juramento [...] nec ipsi, nec alii Judaei interfecerunt dictum puerum [...] et ideo dixit et testificatus est quia ipse Wolfgangus volebat adjuvare Judaeos si potuisset" ]

(cfr. [Bonelli], Dissertazione apologetica, cit., p. 147).

[22] "(Salomon) rogabat ipsum Wolfgangum quod debebat cogitare modum aliquem, per quem posset ulcisci. Et cum ipse Wolfgangus respondisset quod erat contentus quod ulcisceretur, si modo posset, praedictus Salomon dixit sibi Wolfgango quod deberet bene advertere et diligenter considerare castrum, videlicet bene advertere quem modum servabat Reverendissimus Dominus in bibendo; et si aliquo modo idem Reverendissimus Dominus posset venenari et quod bene debeat considerare ista et in reditu ejusdem Salomonis postea referre sibi Salomoni. Cui Salomoni ipse Wolfgangus ita promisit facere"

[Approximately: "(Salamone) told Wolfgang that he should think of some way to get revenge. And when Wolfgang told him he would be happy to get revenge, Salamone told him that he should take great care and study the castle carefully, and see who served His Most Reverend Lordship his drink, and see if there was any way that that he might be poisoned, and that he should think about this, and report back to Salamone later. Which Wolfgang promised to do"]

(cfr. ibidem, p. 145). In this regard, see Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., voI. II, pp. 127-145; Po-Chia Hsia, Trent 1475, cit., pp. 101-102.

[23] "Salomon dixit sibi Wolfgango an posset venenare Reverendissimum D. Episcopum Tridentinum, cui Salomoni ipse Wolfgangus respondit quod praefatus Reverendissimus Dominus faciebat sibi fieri magnas custodias, faciendo sibi facere credentias, et quod ipse Wolfgangus tamen tentaret et videret si posset illum venenare. [...] Wolfgangus cogitaverat de venenando ipsum Reverendissimum Dominum et alios hoc modo, quia volebat conterere dictum venenum et postea se approximare credentiae, super qua deferentur fercula, quae postea deferuntur in mensam Reverendissimi Domini et tentare, si illud venenum poterat proijcere vel in vinum vel in fercula, et hoc interim dum dicta fercula starent super credentieria, pincerna aut aliis ibi existentibus non advertentibus"

(cfr. [Bonelli], Dissertazione apologetica, cit., p. 146).

[24] "Wolfgangus vidit dictum frustum veneni super disco in Cancellaria et accepit tantum de dicto veneno, quantum esset una avellana, et illud portavit ad dictum Salomonem, qui Salomon respondit quod illud non erat de bono veneno ad interficiendum et quod idem Salomon bene portaret de bono veneno pro interficiendo" (cfr. ibidem, p. 146).

[25] The apostolic commissioner also lamented the true and proper climate of Trent, humid and rainy, which is said to have reduced him to a state of infirmity for three weeks (see Battista de' Giudici, Apologia Iudaeorum. Invectiva contra Platinam, by D. Quaglioni, Roma, 1987, pp. 49-59).

[26] In the missive, Hinderbach stressed that "Iudei et quidam doctores qui apud Rovredum, oppidum nobis vicinum, sunt, ubi etiam legatus ille seu commissarius se pretextu adverse valitudinis que illum et suos hic invasit pridem se reduxit" (Esposito e Quaglioni, Processi, cit., voI. I, p. 17).

[27] In this regard, see Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., voI. II, pp. 93-94.

[28] Cfr. ibidem, pp. 101-104; Esposito e Quaglioni, Processi , cit., voI. I, pp. 19-21.

[29] "Verum, exponitur nobis pro parte ludeorum, quod illic adhuc nonnulli pueri et femine, de quorum innocentia nullum dubium esse dicitur, detineantur infirmi, non absque vite, propter infirmitatem huiusmodi, periculo, carcerati. Hortamur in Domino fraternitatem tuam, ut, si carcerati predicti circa eiusdem pegni negocium culpa carent, eosdem relaxare, et operam suam etiam apud ducem ipsum, si necessarium fuerit, in hoc efficaciter impartiri velit, ut pro iustitie debito relaxentur" (cfr. Sh. Simonsohn, The Apostolic See and the Jews. III: Documents, 1464-1521, Toronto, 1990, p. 1232). See also W.P. Eckert, Aus den Akten des Trienter Judenprozesses , in P. Wilpert, Judentum im Mittelalter, Berlin, 1966, p. 300.

[30] Cfr. Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., voI. II, pp. 112 -113, n. 6.

[31] The lawyer, Raimondi, hastened to write to Hinderbach a few days later, on 12 October 1475, informing him of Salomone Fürstungar’s report during the meeting. "Nonnulli Judeorum hic commorantium, oblato non parvo pondere auri, patrocinium meum habere quaesierunt et dietim sedulo aureos tres pollicebantur, subjungentes quod apud Summum Pontificem favores plurimos Praelatorum consequebantur et Delegatum Apostolicum impetrasse magna exposita pecunia. Haec et alia verba, quae mihi somnia videbantur, percepi a Salomone, hic commorante". The letter was published by Bonelli ( Dissertazione apologetica, cit., p. 145) and is reproduced by Divina (Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., voI. II, p. 105).

[32] In this regard, see Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., voI. II, pp. 114-117; Po-Chia Hsia, Trent 1475, cit., pp. 99-100.

[33] On the 1488 trial of Samuele, a resident of Castelnoveto, and the other German Jews living in the Duchy of Milan, see Simonsohn, The Jews in the Duchy of Milan, cit., voI. II, p. 897; A. Antoniazzi Villa, Un processo contro gli ebrei nella Milano del 1488, Milan, 1986, pp. 107-108.

[34] Cfr. Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., voI. II, pp. 116-117.

[35] Cfr. ibidem, p. 135.

[36] Cfr. ibidem, pp. 57-60.

[37] "Quod ipse Wolfgangus tenet et firmiter credit quod sit bene factum interficere pueros christianos et comedere et bibere sanguinem [...] et quod si ipse Wolfgangus posset habere de sanguine pueri christiani in festo Paschae ipsorum Judaeorum, etiam de illo biberet et comederet, dummodo posset illum secrete comedere et bibere; et quod, licet sit baptizatus, tamen intendit et in animo suo statuit velle mori ut realis Judaeus, et ipse Wolfgangus fecit se baptizare, quia vidit se captum et dubitavit ne condamnaretur ad mortem, credens se illam evadere, ut evasit [...] et ipse Wolfgangus nihil credit de his quae fides Christiana tenet et observat et quod tenet pro firmo quod fides Judaeorum sit justa et sancta"

[Approximately: "That Wolfgang held and firmly believed that it was a good thing to kill Christian boys and eat and drink their blood [...] and that if he could obtain the blood of Christian boys during the Jewish Passover feast, he would eat and drink of it, as long as he could eat and drink of it in secrecy; and that it was lawful to be baptized, but that he intended and wished in his soul to die a real Jew, and that he had himself baptized because he saw he had gotten caught and was afraid he’d be condemned to death, and thinking he could get off, which he did [...] and that he didn’ t believe there was any truth in the Christian faith and that he firmly held that the faith of the Jews was holy and just. "]

(cfr. [Bonelli], Dissertazione apologetica, cit., pp. 147-148).

[38] In this regard, see Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., voI. II, p. 110. Battista de' Giudici is said to have been later accused of having delivered the children to the Jews of Rovereto instead of having them baptized ("in quantum tradidit sanguinem innocentem perfidis Iudeis, videlicet infantes illos, qui modo essent Christiani, quorum animae plus valerent quam totus mundus"). Vedi [Bonelli], Dissertazione apologetica, cit., p. 132.

[39] The ritual decisions of the well-known rabbi Israel Isserlein da Wiener Neustadt refer to a compromise relating to the sharing of the inheritance of Angelo da Verona (who here appears under the name of Engel mi-Trient) among the orphan children, in a dispute before a rabbinical tribunal, the judges of which were from Treviso, Verona and Padua (Israel Isserlein, Pesaqim w-ketavim, Fürth, 1738, c. 17b, par. 102-103).

Since Isserlein died in around 1460, it is not possible that the response, obviously linked to a situation later than 1475, can be attributable to him; the response was probably erroneously included among his writings. In this regard, see I.J. Yuval, Scholars in Their Time. The Religious Leadership of German Jewry in the Late Middle Ages , Jerusalem, 1984, p. 261. In August of 1498, the brothers, Mosè and Salomone, Angelo’s sons, appointed as their procurator Manuele da Rovigo to recover the loans forming part of their father’s inheritance (cfr. Simonsohn, The Jews in the Duchy of Milan, cit., voI. IV, pp. 2847-2848). It should be noted that Mosè, son of the late Angelo da Verona, was still alive and presumably rather old by the mid-Sixteenth century. He lived at Cremona (cfr. Simonsohn, The Jews in the Duchy of Milan, cit., vol. II, pp. 1335, 1357).

[40] On the conversion of the women detained at Trent, see, in particular, [Bonelli], Dissertazione apologetica, cit., pp. 158-160; Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., voI. II, pp. 204-206.

[41] "Preterea volumus, et eadem tibi auctoritate iniungimus, quod omnem adhibeas diligentiam, ut infantes Iudeorum damnatorum filii, eorum baptizatis matribus, una cum dotibus matrum eorundem, apud quoscumque reperiantur deposite, omnino restituantur; contradictores quoslibet et rebelles per censuram ecclesiasticam, et alia iuris remedia compescendo" (cfr. Simonsohn, The Apostolic See and the Jews, cit., pp. 1246-1247). In this regard, see also Eckert, Trienter Judenprozesses, cit., p. 300. My text includes Divina ’s translation of the passage from the Papal bull, Divina (Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., vol. II, p. 212).

[42] "(Comparuit) Joannes Neophytus, alias Salmon in Judaismo denominatus, genua sua humiliter et devote flectens, et manus suas versus eandem capsam, in qua corpus praefati Beati Simonis et Martyris conservatur, tendens [...] in signum contritionis ac votorum suorum Omnipotenti Deo ac Beato Simoni"

["Johann the convert, alias Salamon, his Jewish name, humbly and devoutly (appeared) on bended knee, with his hands extended towards the vault in which the body of the Holy Saint Simon is kept, as a sign of contrition and prayer to the Omnipotent God and Saint Simon"]

(cfr. [Bonelli], Dissertazione apologetica, cit., pp. 159-160). See also Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, cit., vol. II, p. 60.



p. 225]

Revised by the original translators, Feb. 2011

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