Massacres During the Crusades - The first well documented riots or pogroms took place during the Crusades. Though violence was forbidden officially by the various popes, the bands of knights who set out on the crusades were essentially lawless marauders. Rather than protecting the Eastern Christians, which was one of the official goals of the Crusades, they often as not destroyed and plundered their communities. The conquest of Jerusalem itself was accompanied by a horrific pogrom, in which all the Jews who were not expelled were murdered.
Not surprisingly, the Crusaders turned on the Jews closest to hand. The first Crusade began in 1095. Guibert of Nogent (1053-1124) reported that the Crusaders of Rouen said: "we desire to combat the enemies of God in the East; but we have under our eyes the Jews, a race more inimical to God than all the others... The crusaders in Rouen and elsewhere in Lorraine massacred Jews who refused baptism. This was not the first instance of forced conversions. German Jews largely ignored warnings of their French coreligionists. The crusaders, egged on by preachers like Peter the Hermit and others, began to murder and pillage throughout the Rhine valley. In Speyer, "only" 10 Jews were reportedly murdered, thanks to the intervention of Bishop John. At Wurms, the majority of the Jews were killed, despite the protection and shelter granted them by Bishop Adalbert. Several hundred were massacred at Mainz with the approval of Achbishop Ruthard, and some committed suicide. In Koln (Cologne) Jews were hidden by order of Archbishop Adalbert, but they were soon discovered and murdered. In Ratisbon, the entire Jewish community was forcibly baptized in the Danube, to the accompaniment of a massacre. The massacres spread to Treves, Neuss, and Prague and many other other towns in Germany and Bohemia. In Jerusalem, Godfrey de Bouillon found all all the Jews conveniently assembled in a synagogue. He burnt it down and burned the Jews to death.
It is estimated that upwards of 10,000 Jews were murdered in Europe during the first Crusade, constituting a third to a quarter of the Jewish population. (Flannery, Edward, The Anguish of the Jews, Paulist Press, 2004 pp 93-94). This is likely to be an underestimate, since genetic studies indicate a "bottleneck" in the Jewish population of Europe at this time.
In Wurms, the massacre was preceded by a concocted blood libel:
It was the tenth of Iyar, Monday, that they connived against the Jews. They took a corpse of theirs, a trodden one that had been buried thrity days previously, and carried it through the city, saying "See what the Jews did to our neighbor! They took a Gentile, boiled him in water, and poured the water in our wells, in order kill us." When the Crusaders and burghers heard this, they shouted; anyone capable of wearing and unsheathing a sword gathered -- young and old -- and said, "Lo, the time and season have now arrived to avenge the one nailed into wood, whom their ancestors killed. Now let not one of them escape as a refugee -- even the young, the suckling in its crib!" They came and smote those remaining in their homes -- fine bachelors, fine and pleasant maidens, and the elderly, all stretched out their necks [to be slaughtered]; even freedmen and maids were killed among them, to honor the name of Gos">od - (Anonymous Chronicle of Mainz)
The remaining Jews were given shelter by the Bishop, but the mob murdered them too thirteen days later.
In Mainz, between 1014 and 1,200 Jews were murdered. (Ahituv, Shmuel, The Jewish People: An Illustrated History, Continuum, 2006, p. 251) The slaughter was conducted by armed knights under Emmicho (or Emich), rather than by an unruly mob. The chronicler of Mainz recorded:
When the enemies came to the rooms, they broke the doors and found the Jews still twitching and rolling in their own blood. They took the Jews' money, stripped them naked, and smote the remaining ones, not leaving any remnant. This they did in all the rooms that had members of the holy covenant. But there was one room that was strongly [fortified]; the enemies fought until evening to [enter] it. When the holy ones saw that the enemies were stronger than they, they stood up, men and women, and slaughtered the children, and then one another; some fell on their swords and died, some were killed by their own swords or knives. The righteous women would toss rocks to the enemies outside the windows, so the enemies could stone them, and they accepted all the stones [thrown back], until their entire flesh and face had become strips. They were abusing and insulting the Crusaders regarding the name of the hung one, the disgraced, disgusting son of adultery: "In whom do you trust, a trodden corpse?" And the Crusaders approached the door to break it...
The Crusaders killed everyone in that room and stripped them naked; the corpses were still twitching and becoming stained in their own blood as they were stripping them.
-- See, God! Look how I have become despicable! --
They then tossed them, naked, from the room through the windows; hills upon hills, mounds upon mounds, until they became like a tall mountain. Many members of the holy covenant, when they were being tossed, still had a bit of life left in them, and gestured with their fingers , "Give us water, that we may drink." When the Crusaders saw this, they asked them, "Do you want to sully (baptize) yourselves?" But they shook their heads and looked to their Father in heaven, to say, No, and they pointed to God; the Crusaders killed them.( Anonymous Chronicle of Mainz)
Following the first Crusade, many of the forcibly converted Jews were allowed to take up their faith again, against the objections of the anti-Pope Clement III. Some time during this period, the cry of "HEP, HEP" may have originated. It is variously thought to be a derisive call to livestock or the abbreviation of the Latin phrase, Heirosolyma Est Perdita (Jerusalem is lost).
The Second Crusade (1145-47) was accompanied by the preaching of an itinerant friar, Radulph, who called for slaying the Jews. Jews were expelled from Magdeburg and Halle. At Wurzburg, Crusaders slew the Rabbi and about 21 men women and children. But the strenuous intervention of St Bernard of Clairvaux attenuated the massacres. Bernard preached the crusade, but he opposed and debated Radulph. He set forth, once again and in detail, the doctrine of Jews as witnesses of the correctness of Christianity. Jews are not to be disturbed or destroyed, as they are living symbols of the Passion; they are punished mainly by dispersion, so that they shall be witnesses. They must not be murdered, as they must be saved for ultimate conversion.
The Third Crusade was marked by pogroms primarily in England. A riot took place at the coronation of Richard the Lion Hearted on September 3, 1189. Following his departure, crusaders who were preparing to follow him attacked the Jews at Lynn, Stamford, Bury St. Edmunds, Colchester, Thetford and Ospringe. At York, on March 18, 1190, 150 Jews immolated themselves to escape immolation or baptism.
The Crusades and the slaughter of the Jews during the Crusades weakened their economic and social position. Christians presently took up trade and competed with Jews. This became a motive for anti-Semitic agitation. It also made the Jews less valuable, as they no longer had a monopoly on trade, and therefore they were more vulnerable. (Sources: Jewish Encylopedia, Encyclopedia Judaica)
March 29, 2009