Jews and the Crusades
By Ibn Warraq
Danish translation: Jøder og korstogene
Source: Jihad Watch, January 27, 2013 - February 6, 2013 in 10 parts
Published on April 12, 2013

PART ONE: Islamic antisemitism before 1096

Sir Steven Runciman, in the conclusion to his highly influential, elegantly written The History of the Crusades, [1] seems to imply that it was the Christian Crusaders who alone were responsible not only for the “growing intolerance amongst the Moslems”, but somehow also for the fading away of Muslim intellectual life, and the subsequent stagnation of Islamic culture: “…an intolerant faith is incapable of progress”. Runciman’s analysis is no different from so many others that write of Islamic history and culture: what are seen as positive aspects of Islamic Civilization are ecstatically praised, even exaggerated, and all the negative aspects are imputed to the arrival of pestilential Westerners, and where the Arabs, Persians and Muslims in general are seen as passive victims, and they are certainly not allowed any autonomy.

But pace Runciman, this will not do as history. Even a cursory glance at the plight of Jews under Muslims before the Crusades would be enough to refute Sir Steven’s rosy picture of an earlier interfaith utopia. All the persecutions of both Christians and Jews stem directly from the precepts and principles enshrined in the canonical texts of Islam: the Koran; the Sira, that is, Ibn Ishaq’s biography of Muhammad; the Hadith, that is, the Traditions, the record of the deeds and sayings of Muhammad and his companions; and the classical Muslim Koranic commentaries. In other words, “Muslim Jew hatred… dates back to the origins of Islam”. [2]

It is there in the Koran:

V.51: O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for friends. They are friends one to another. He among you who takes them for friends is one of them.

VIII.67: It is not for any Prophet to have captives until he has made slaughter in the land

II.61: Wretchedness and baseness were stamped upon them (that is, the Jews), and they were visited with wrath from Allah. That was because they disbelieved in Allah’s revelations and slew the prophets wrongfully. That was for their disobedience and transgression.

IV.44-46: Have you not seen those who have received a portion of the Scripture? They purchase error, and they want you to go astray from the path. But Allah knows best who your enemies are, and it is sufficient to have Allah as a friend. It is sufficient to have Allah as a helper. Some of the Jews pervert words from their meanings, and say, “We hear and we disobey,” and “Hear without hearing,” and “Heed us!” twisting with their tongues and slandering religion. If they had said, “We have heard and obey,” or “Hear and observe us” it would have been better for them and more upright. But Allah had cursed them for their disbelief, so they believe not, except for a few.

IV.160-61: And for the evildoing of the Jews, We have forbidden them some good things that were previously permitted them, and because of their barring many from Allah’s way. And for their taking usury which was prohibited for them, and because of their consuming people’s wealth under false pretense. We have prepared for the unbelievers among them a painful punishment.

IX.29–31: Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture [Jews and Christians] as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah has forbidden by His Messenger, and follow not the religion of truth, until they pay the tribute [poll tax] readily, and are utterly subdued. The Jews say, “Ezra is the son of Allah,” and the Christians say, “The Messiah is the son of Allah.” Those are the words of their mouths, conforming to the words of the unbelievers before them. Allah attack them! How perverse they are! They have taken their rabbis and their monks as lords besides Allah, and so too the Messiah son of Mary, though they were commanded to serve but one God. There is no God but He. Allah is exalted above that which they deify beside Him.

IX.34: O you who believe! Lo! many of the (Jewish) rabbis and the (Christian) monks devour the wealth of mankind wantonly and debar (men) from the way of Allah. They who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah, unto them give tidings of a painful doom.

V.63–64: Why do not the rabbis and the priests forbid their evil-speaking and devouring of illicit gain? Verily evil is their handiwork. The Jews say, “Allah’s hands are fettered.” Their hands are fettered, and they are cursed for what they have said! On the contrary, His hands are spread open. He bestows as He wills. That which has been revealed to you from your Lord will surely increase the arrogance and unbelief of many among them. We have cast enmity and hatred among them until the Day of Resurrection. Every time they light the fire of war, Allah extinguishes it. They hasten to spread corruption throughout the earth, but Allah does not love corrupters!

V.70–71: We made a covenant with the Israelites and sent forth apostles among them. But whenever an apostle came to them with a message that did not suit their fancies, some they accused of lying and others they put to death. They thought no harm would follow: they were blind and deaf. God is ever watching their actions.

V.82: Indeed, you will surely find that the most vehement of men in enmity to those who believe are the Jews and the polytheists.

V.51: O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for friends. They are friends one to another. He among you who takes them for friends is one of them.

V.57: O you who believe! Choose not for friends such of those who received the Scripture [Jews and Christians] before you, and of the disbelievers, as make jest and sport of your religion. But keep your duty to Allah of you are true believers.

V.59: Say: O, People of the Scripture [Jews and Christians]! Do you blame us for aught else than that we believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed aforetime, and because most of you are evil-doers?

V.66: Among them [Jews and Christians] there are people who are moderate, but many of them are of evil conduct.

XXXIII.26: He brought down from their strongholds those who had supported them from among the People of the Book [Jews of Bani Qurayza] and cast terror into their hearts, so that some you killed and others you took captive.

V.60: Say: “Shall I tell you who will receive a worse reward from God? Those whom [i.e., Jews] God has cursed and with whom He has been angry, transforming them into apes and swine, and those who serve the devil. Worse is the plight of these, and they have strayed farther from the right path.”

It is there in the Sira: [3]

“Kill any Jew that falls into your power,” said the Prophet. (p. 369)

The killing of Ibn Sunayna, and its admiration leading someone to convert to Islam. (ibid.)

The killing of Sallam ibn Abu’l-Huqayq. (pp. 482-483)

The assassination of Ka‘b b. al-Ashraf, who wrote verses against Muhammad. (pp. 364–69)

The raid against the Jewish tribe of the Banu‘l-Nadir and their banishment. (pp. 437–45)

The extermination of the Banu Qurayza, between six hundred and eight hundred men. (pp. 461–69)

The killing of al-Yusayr. (pp. 665–66)

It is there in the other Muslim historians: [4]

“Then occurred the sariyyah (raid) of Salim Ibn Umayr al-Amri against Abu Afak, the Jew, in (the month of) Shawwal in the beginning of the twentieth month from the hijrah (immigration from Mecca to Medina in 622 C.E.) of the Apostle of Allah. Abu Afak, was from Banu Amr Ibn Awf, and was an old man who had attained the age of 120. He was a Jew, and used to instigate the people against the Apostle of Allah, and composed (satirical) verses (about Muhammad). Salim Ibn Umayr, who was one of the great weepers and who had participated in Badr, said, 'I take a vow that I shall either kill Abu Afak or die before him.' He waited for an opportunity until a hot night came, and Abu Afak slept in an open place. Salim Ibn Umayr knew it, so he placed the sword on his liver and pressed it till it reached his bed. The enemy of Allah screamed and the people who were his followers, rushed to him, took him to his house and interred him."

It is there in the Hadith: [5]

"Bani An-Nadir and Bani Quraiza fought, so the Prophet (Muhammad) exiled Bani An-Nadir and allowed Bani Quraiza to remain at their places. He then killed their men and distributed their women, children and property among the Muslims, but some of them came to the Prophet and he granted them safety, and they embraced Islam. He exiled all the Jews from Medina. They were the Jews of Bani Qainuqa, the tribe of Abdullah bin Salam and the Jews of Bani Haritha and all the other Jews of Medina."

Before 1096

Since Sir Steven argues that Islamic intolerance began after the Crusades, here are examples of the persecution of Jews in Islamic lands before 1096:

- The massacre of more than 6000 Jews in Fez (Morocco) in 1033.
- The hundreds of Jews killed between 1010 and 1013 near Cordoba, and other parts of Muslim Spain.
- The massacre of the entire Jewish community of roughly 4000 in Granada during the Muslim riots of 1066.
- Referring to the latter massacre, Robert Wistrich writes: “This was a disaster, as serious as that which overtook the Rhineland Jews thirty years later during the First Crusade, yet it has rarely received much scholarly attention.” Wistrich continues: “In Kairouan [Tunisia] the Jews were persecuted and forced to leave in 1016, returning later only to be expelled again.” [6]

What of the putative “culture of conviviencia,” that is, the Golden Age of Tolerance in Spain before, it is claimed, it was destroyed by the intolerance of the Almohads. Unfortunately, “The Golden Age” also turns out to be a myth, invented, ironically, by the Jews themselves. The myth may well have originated as early as the twelfth century, when Abraham Ibn Daud in his Sefer ha-Qabbalah contrasted an idealised period of tolerance of the salons of Toledo in contrast to the contemporary barbarism of the Berber dynasty.

But the myth took a firm grip on the imagination of the Jews in the nineteenth century thanks to the bibliographer Moritz Steinschneider and historian Heinrich Graetz, and perhaps the influence of Benjamin Disraeli's novel Coningsby, published in 1844. Here is a passage from the latter novel giving a romantic picture of Muslim Spain,

“...that fair and unrivalled civilization in which the children of Ishmael rewarded the children of Israel with equal rights and privileges with themselves. During these halcyon centuries, it is difficult to distinguish the followers of Moses from the votary of Mohammed. Both alike built palaces, gardens and fountains; filled equally the highest offices of state, competed in an extensive and enlightened commerce, rivalled each other in renowned universities.” [7]

Against a background of a rise in the pseudo-scientific racism of the nineteenth century, Jane Gerber has observed that Jewish historians looked to Islam “...for support, seeking real or imagined allies and models of tolerance in the East. The cult of a powerful, dazzling and brilliant Andalusia in the midst of an ignorant and intolerant Europe formed an important component in these contemporary intellectual currents.” [8] But Gerber concludes her sober assessment of the Golden Age Myth with these reflections,

“The aristocratic bearing of a select class of courtiers and poets, however, should not blind us to the reality that this tightly knit circle of leaders and aspirants to power was neither the whole of Spanish Jewish history nor of Spanish Jewish society. Their gilded moments of the tenth and eleventh century are but a brief chapter in a longer saga. No doubt, Ibn Daud's polemic provided consolation and inspiration to a crisis-ridden twelfth century elite, just as the golden age imagery could comfort dejected exiles after 1492. It suited the needs of nineteenth century advocates of Jewish emancipation in Europe or the twentieth century contestants in the ongoing debate over Palestine....The history of the Jews in Muslim lands, especially Muslim Spain, needs to be studied on its own terms, without myth or counter myth.” [9]

Some scholars, such as the great historian Shlomo Dov Goitein (d. 1985), taking into account the discoveries of the Cairo Geniza, revised their ideas about the situation of Jews in Islamic lands. [10] Another example of a scholar who changed his mind was Léon Poliakov, author of the monumental work The History of Antisemitism, which appeared in four volumes in French between 1955 and 1978. In Volume Two, [11] Poliakov paints, on the whole, a very favourable picture of the treatment of the Jews under Islam. He finds Muhammad, a man of genius, “simple, humane, and wise” (23) and Islam, “a religion of tolerance above all.” (28) Astonishingly, Poliakov devotes a meagre two lines to the persecution of the Jews. Two lines in which he downplays all the acts of intolerance such as the massacre of Banu Qurayza, or the expulsion of the Banu Qaynuqa and Banu Nadir, while the political assassinations or torture of Jewish leaders and writers are not mentioned at all! Poliakov goes out of his way to contrast what he believes is the essentially benign attitude of the Muslims to the intolerance of the Christians who were, according to him, far more “inclined to plunge…into bloodbaths” (28). He really seems to have convinced himself that the Jews and Christians lived, on the whole, “peacefully and prosperously in all parts of the Islamic Empire until our time” (37). However, when he was in his eighties, he came into contact with the work of Bat Ye’or on the dhimmis, or the plight, persecution and periodic massacres of non-Muslims under Islam, and changed his mind completely. [12] Just a few weeks before his death in 1997, Poliakov agreed to write a preface [13] to the French edition of my book, Why I am Not a Muslim, [Pourquoi je ne suis pas musulman]. Unfortunately, before he had finished his preface, Poliakov tripped on the stairs when coming down from his library, banged his head severely, and later died in hospital at the age of 87.

PART TWO: The massacres of 1096

2.1 The Sources

Our knowledge of the events of 1096 is derived from both Christian and Hebrew sources. However the Christian material on the persecution of the Jews is slight. “The only crusade chroniclers who mention the bands that devastated a number of northern European Jewish communities were Ekkehard of Aura and Albert of Aix”. [14] Ekkehard gives a brief description of the attacks of 1096, Albert gives a little more detail, and they corroborate to some extent the Jewish sources, but in all their accounts do not add up to much.

The Jewish sources, three in all, describe more fully the assaults on Jews and their responses. Robert Chazan, [15] a Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University who has devoted some twenty years to this subject conveniently refers to them, in his European Jewry and the First Crusade, as L, the lengthy narrative, often attributed to Solomon bar Samson, and S, the shortest of the three, sometimes called the Mainz Anonymous. The third text, P, perhaps the least interesting, contains original elegiac poetry with the name-acrostic Eliezer bar Nathan and is ascribed to that twelfth-century Mainz rabbinic authority.

However, there is considerable debate as to the reliability of the Hebrew Chronicles of the First Crusade. While Robert Chazan is convinced of their reliability, Ivan Marcus, [16] Professor at Yale University, heeding the advice of Salo Baron thinks far more basic work needs to be done before one can decide. Marcus writes,

“Many scholars have dealt with the subjects treated here. The texts, are very problematic, and Chazan has not heeded Salo Baron's call over thirty years ago: ‘a renewed scrutiny of all the available sources might justify a new truly critical edition of these chronicles’ (A Social and Religious History of the Jews, 2nd rev. ed., 4 [1957], 286). It is still a desideratum. Although they are relatively short - L is only twelve and a half folio pages - they are complex. Parallel passages are sometimes found in two or more of the texts, and some contain blank spaces due to omissions or erasures. Ultraviolet inspection might recover some of these, but that requires examining the manuscripts, not just the microfilms. Not only should the erasures be examined but several scholars' corrections and emendations must also be systematically evaluated. Thus, M. Brann published a detailed review of the Neubauer and Stern edition (Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums 37 [1893], 285-88), in which he noted several errors of transcription and unnecessary emendations. Dozens of additional corrections are in Nathan Porges's lengthy articles (Revue des études juives 25 [1892], 181-201; 26 [1893], 183-97). The corrections in these studies have been ignored here. Another scholar, also not mentioned, studied the way the three texts are related. Isaiah Sonne (Revue des études juives 96 [1933], 123-24) concluded that the editor of L made use of P and S. He observed that when the blocks of text common to L and P refer to Christianity, the term tsahan ("stench") is used; when blocks common to L and S appear, the term tinnuf ("filth") is found, and when blocks parallel to all three texts occur, both terms appear. Chazan's contrary view that P is derived from L and that S and L are older does not account for Sonne's evidence, which is not discussed. And since P is just as important as L and S, a translation of it should have been included in a book basing itself on these three short texts…. Before a reasonably accurate translation can be made, we first need a new critical edition of the Hebrew texts that is based on a thorough consideration of the manuscripts themselves, all previous scholarly literature on them, and a careful appreciation for the characteristic features of Ashkenazic Hebrew. The Latin sources should also be translated and appended.”

There are further problems that are not addressed by Chazan. These so-called chronicles are not documentary records that can be taken at face value, rather ...

“[t]hey are highly edited, rhetorically colored, and liturgically motivated literary reworkings of circular letters and oral reports, written for definite purposes. The narrators were concerned with praising and exonerating local pious Jew who felt compelled to kill their own families and then commit suicide. To make their case, they insisted on using a Temple typology: Jews are pictured as pure sacrifices who may not be touched by polluting, impure Christians. The martyrs acted justifiably as both Temple priests and as holy sacrifices. The narrators quantified only the martyrs and ignored or downplayed the Jews who did convert, as Baron noted. That these sources are literary texts, even though of a special type, is also clear from their obvious differences of style. In L, lengthy prayers frame the accounts of attacks on several towns, their Jews' defensive political reactions, and subsequent acts of martyrdom. In P, very brief descriptions of a limited number of episodes introduce liturgical poems. And in S, an attention to the Christian townsmen and other human factors also serves to interpret the events portrayed.” [17]

2.2 Explanations of the Massacres of 1096

Nonetheless, even if we discount the details to be found in these chronicles, “general corroboration exists in the contemporary Latin and later Hebrew sources that riots occurred and that some Jews killed their families and themselves”. [18]

The Jews were the first people to suffer as the first band of crusaders wound their way to the East through the Rhineland, which was the center of intellectual life of Ashkenazic [Northern European] Jewry, with its two great, vibrant communities of Mainz and Worms. In general, the Jewish communities in Northern Europe had seen great growth during the tenth and eleventh century but Jews were never considered the equals of Christians, and were constantly reminded of the official dogma of the Roman Catholic Church that they were in error though they had once “possessed the truth of revelation, misread it, and thereby forfeited their covenantal relationship with the Deity”. [19] And of course, the Jews were held responsible for the Crucifixion of Christ, the Savior they should have accepted. These negative attitudes were embodied in the central rituals of the Church, and were passed onto large parts of the Christian populace. The Church did call for the toleration of Jews in their midst, where they were allowed to practice their religion, as long the Christians authorities assessed and ruled that the Jews were not a threat to Christians and Christianity.

There seem to also have been political, social and economic reasons for the persecution of the Jews in Europe. However, reading historians’ accounts of the “reasons” for, and “causes” of, Christian antisemitism leaves one with an uneasy feeling that somehow Christians were being excused since there were “good reasons” for their antipathies towards Jews, and that the Jews somehow “had it coming to them”. Though I should emphasize that no respectable Western historian ever explicitly states anything like this, and has never used terms like “had it coming to them”, or that there were “good reasons” for the Christians’ hatred. However, all rationalizing explanations of antisemitism engender such misgivings. Here are two rationalizing explanations of the rise of Christian antisemitism at the time of the First Crusade. Sir Steven Runciman wrote,

“The prohibition of usury in western Christian countries and its strict control in Byzantium left them [the Jews] an open field for the establishment of money-lending houses throughout Christendom. Their technical skill and long traditions made them pre-eminent also in the practice of medicine. Except long ago in Visigothic Spain they had never undergone serious persecution in the West. They had no civic rights; but both lay and ecclesiastical authorities were pleased to give special protection to such useful members of the community. The kings of France and Germany had always befriended them; and they were shown particular favour by the archbishops of the great cities of the Rhineland. But the peasants and poorer townsmen increasingly in need of money as a cash economy replaced the older economy of services, fell more and more into their debt and in consequence felt more and more resentment against them; while the Jews, lacking legal security, charged high rates of interest and extracted exorbitant profits wherever the benevolence of the local ruler supported them."
“Their unpopularity grew throughout the eleventh century, as more classes of the community began to borrow money from them; and the beginnings of the Crusading movement added to it. It was expensive for a knight to equip himself for a Crusade; if he had no land and no possessions to pledge, he must borrow money from the Jews. But was it right that in order to go and fight for Christendom he must fall into the clutches of members of the race that crucified Christ? The poorer Crusader was often already in debt to the Jews. Was it right that he should be hampered in his Christian duty by obligations to one of the impious race? The evangelical preaching of the Crusade laid stress on Jerusalem, the scene of the Crucifixion. It inevitably drew attention to the people at whose hands Christ had suffered. The Moslems were the present enemy; they were persecuting Christ’s followers. But the Jews were surely worse; they had persecuted Christ Himself.” [20]

Jean Richard, Emeritus Professor at the University of Dijon, France, gives a similar rationalizing account:

“The motives for these outbursts [of violence] may, of course, be connected to the envy aroused by the wealth of the Jews, and the resentment provoked by their practice of usury. The widespread recourse to credit which began during the course of the eleventh century, and the seemingly brazen prosperity of Jewish moneylenders, no doubt encouraged such explosions, which were not confined to the Christian West; the first great wave of hatred of which the Jews were victims in the eleventh century took place around 1066 in Muslim Spain, at Grenada”. [21]

Antisemitism is clearly, in part, a result of social and economic tensions, but it is only half the truth. Maurice Samuel in his The Great Hatred [22] [1940] pointed out the inadequacy of the materialist interpretation of antisemitism. Three years later Joshua Trachtenberg, in his classic study, The Devil and the Jews, [23] brought the discussions back to the real source of antisemitism, rumour, superstition, crass credulity, and fanaticism, in other words human irrationality in all its forms:

“Hatred of the Jew is not the result of a rational process….No, hatred of the Jew rests upon no rational base. When everything possible has been said about the psychological xenophobia that rejects ‘difference’ and resents minority cultures, about economic and social frictions that exacerbate social relations, about the astute and persuasive propaganda techniques of anarchical demagogues, about the need for a “scapegoat” for release of social tension, about the imperfections of the Jews themselves, and their abnormal economic status -- and all these are potent immediate stimuli of active Jew hatred--the ultimate source, buried deep in the mass subconscious, is still untouched. Underneath the present stimuli, and contributing to them their explosive potentiality, lies the powder keg of emotional predisposition, of a conception of the Jew which has nothing to do with facts or logic”. [24]

Ironically, while Sir Steven argues that Christianity was responsible for Islamic intolerance, Trachtenberg suggests that one of the contributing factors to the rise of Christian antisemitism in the later Middle Ages was “the rising menace of Islam”. [25] Christian antisemitism reached its apogee in the post-Crusade period, but it was the result of centuries of demonisation of the Jew as devil, sorcerer, and ritual murderer.

2.3 Narrative of the Massacres of 1096

We now need to get to the narrative of the actual massacres. After the preaching of the First Crusade in 1095, various bands of undisciplined crusaders descended on the towns of the Rhineland, led by individuals about whom, for the most part, we know little. One leader was Duke Emicho von Leiringen, a petty lord of the Rhineland, who was well aware of the possibilities of exploiting the religious fervor of the masses for his own profit. “He persuaded his followers to begin their Crusade on 3 May with an attack on the Jewish community at Spier [Speyer], close to his home. It was not a very impressive attack. The Bishop of Spier, whose sympathies were won by a handsome present, placed the Jews under his protection. Only twelve were taken by the Crusaders and slain after their refusal to embrace Christianity; and one Jewess committed suicide to preserve her virtue. The bishop saved the rest and even managed to capture several of the murderers, whose hands were cut off in punishment.” [26]

Emich and his troops arrived in Worms on 18 May. A rumour went round that the Jews had captured and drowned a Christian and then had used the water where his corpse was kept to poison the city wells. Emich and his men attacked the Jewish quarter and killed every Jew they captured. The bishop opened his palace to the fleeing Jews but Emich’s men broke in and slaughtered, on May 20, all the Jews, about five hundred. Our primary source, the Hebrew Chronicle of Solomon bar Simson, which dates from about 1140, calculates eight hundred as the total number slain over the two days. Here is Solomon bar Simson’s vivid, but horrific account: [27]

“On the twenty-third of Iyar [28] they attacked the community of Worms. The community was then divided into two groups; some remained in their homes and others fled to the local bishop seeking refuge. Those who remained in their homes were set upon by the steppe-wolves who pillaged men, women, and infants, children and old people. They pulled down the stairways and destroyed the houses, looting and plundering; and they took the Torah Scroll, trampled it in the mud, and tore and burned it. They enemy devoured the children of Israel with open maw."
“Seven days later, on the New Moon of Sivan -- the very day on which the Children of Israel arrived at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah -- those Jews who were still in the court of the bishop were subjected to great anguish. The enemy dealt them the same cruelty as the first group and put them to the sword. The Jews, inspired by the valor of their brethren, similarly chose to be slain in order to sanctify the Name before the eyes of all, and exposed their throats for their heads to be severed for the glory of the Creator. There were also those who took their own lives, thus fulfilling the verse: ‘The mother was dashed in pieces with her children’. [Hosea 10:14]"
"...Fathers fell upon their sons, being slaughtered upon one another, and they slew one another- each man his kin, his wife and children; bridegrooms slew their betrothed and merciful women their only children. They all accepted the divine decree wholeheartedly and, as they yielded up their soul to the Creator, cried out: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.’ The enemy stripped them naked, dragged them along, and then cast them off, sparing only a small number whom they forcibly baptized in their profane waters. The number of those slain during the two days was approximately eight hundred-and they were all buried naked. It is of these that the Prophet Jeremiah lamented: ‘They that were brought up in scarlet embrace dunghills’. [Lamentations 4:5] ….May God remember them for good”.

On May 25, Emich and his men entered the city of Mainz. Despite the efforts of Archbishop Rothard to save the Jews, once again Emich’s men broke in and began two days of pillaging and murdering of Jews. Some Jews accepted conversion to Christianity and were spared, but they later regretted their moment of weakness and committed suicide. About a thousand Jews were killed in Mainz. Here we can cite a Christian primary source, Albert of Aix, [29] who gives an account strikingly similar to the Hebrew Chronicle:

“But Emico and the rest of his band held a council and, after sunrise, attacked the Jews in the hall with arrows and lances. Breaking the bolts and doors, they killed the Jews, about seven hundred in number, who in vain resisted the force and attack of so many thousands. They killed the women, also, and with their swords pierced tender children of whatever age and sex. The Jews, seeing that their Christian enemies were attacking them and their children, and that they were sparing no age, likewise fell upon one another, brother, children, wives, and sisters, and thus they perished at each other's hands. Horrible to say, mothers cut the throats of nursing children with knives and stabbed others, preferring them to perish thus by their own hands rather than to be killed by the weapons of the uncircumcised. From this cruel slaughter of the Jews a few escaped; and a few because of fear, rather than because of love of the Christian faith, were baptized.” [30]

Emich and his men now headed for Cologne, but the Jews, having heard of the massacre in Mainz, hid among their Christian friends and acquaintances in the neighbouring villages. The synagogue was burnt and a Jew and a Jewess who refused to apostatize were killed. The archbishop was able to prevent further excesses.

After Cologne, Emich decided his work in the Rhineland had been successfully accomplished, and now headed for Hungary. But some of his unruly followers wanted to rid the entire Moselle valley of all Jews, and therefore broke off from the main party and made for Trier. Again the Archbishop was able to shelter the Jews in his palace. However, some Jews were very nervous and began fighting among themselves, while others jumped into the Moselle and drowned.

The Crusaders “moved onto Metz, where twenty-two Jews perished”. [31] This roving band of Crusaders then returned to Cologne where they discovered that Emich had left, and so “proceeded down the Rhine, spending from 24 to 27 June in massacring the Jews at Neuss, Wevelinghofen, Eller and Xanten. They then dispersed, some returning home, others probably merging with the army of Godfrey of Bouillon”. [32]

A certain Volkmar, about whom we know very little, also set out for the Rhineland with a band of over ten thousand men to join Peter the Hermit, in April 1096. They arrived in Prague at the end of May, and on June 30 began massacring the Jews in the city despite the protests of Bishop Cosmas. The victims numbered several thousand. [33] They proceeded to Hungary but the Hungarians did not approve of their behaviour and attacked Volkmar and his men, many of whom were killed. We have no knowledge of what happened to Volkmar himself. [34]

The third of the murderous triumvirate, Gottschalk, left with a large company of crusaders for the Rhineland and Bavaria soon after Volkmar’s departure in April. On the way they paused at Ratisbon to massacre the Jews there. But on Gottschalk and his men’s arrival in Hungary the tables were turned as the Hungarians did not appreciate the Crusaders’ pillaging and looting. King Coloman of Hungary did not trust them, and eventually had his army massacre them to a man. The Hungarians dealt in similar fashion with Emich and his army which was utterly routed in a fierce battle at Wiesselburg.

It is worth remarking at this point that several noblemen and bishops tried to protect the Jews, occasionally risking their own lives, though many may have been bribed, and others were hoping to save the Jews so as to see them eventually baptised. The common people also showed, on occasion, some compassion and pity for the plight of the Jews and gave them shelter as in Cologne. Some Christian chroniclers condemned the massacres in no uncertain terms, as for example this anonymous Saxon writer, [35]

“…the enemy of mankind lost no time sowing tares among the wheat, raising up false prophets, mingling untrue brothers and licentious women with the army of Christ. By their hypocrisy, by their lies, by their impious corruptions, they caused dissension in the army of the Lord…. They decided to avenge Christ upon the pagans and the Jews. This is why they killed 900 Jews in the city of Mainz without sparing the women and children…. Indeed, it was pitiful to see the great and many heaps of bodies that were carried out of the city of Mainz on carts…”.

But then again we find many Christian accounts of the massacres that clearly approve of what befell “the impious Jews” who were “truly enemies of the Church”, as in those written by the monk Bernhold and the chronicler Fruitolf. [36]

2.4 Further Crusades

Pope Eugenius III and St. Bernard of Clairvaux preached a new crusade in 1146, and its preaching was again followed by the pillaging, looting and killing of the Jews. As Poliakov says, “And what had been only a popular and spontaneous outbreak fifty years before was this time doctrinally exploited by fiery monk-preachers. Thus Abbé Pierre of Cluny in France: ‘What is the good of going to the end of the world, at great loss of men and money, to fight the Saracens, when we permit among us other infidels who are a thousand times more guilty toward Christ than the Mohammedans?’ [37] Thus the monk Rudolf in Germany: ‘…First avenge the Crucified upon His enemies living here among us, and then go off to fight the Turks!’ [38]

There were incidents and massacres in Cologne, Speyer, Mainz, and Würzburg in Germany, and in Carentan, Ramerupt, and Sully in France; the number of victims reaching several hundred. Poliakov claims that what was even more significant was the emergence for the first time of “the accusation of ritual murder, followed by the accusation of the profanation of the Host”. [39] However, perhaps he meant “re-emergence” since the accusation of ritual murder goes back to Classical Antiquity; it is to be found in the writings of Apion [died c. 45-48 C.E.], Posidonius [died c. 51 BCE], Apollonius Molon [Ist Century BCE], and Socrates Scholasticus [died c. 450 CE.].

Léon Poliakov summarizes the fate of the Jews each time a crusade was embarked upon:

“Thus, each time medieval Europe was swept by a great movement of faith, each time the Christians set out to face the unknown in the name of the love of God, hatred of the Jews was fanned into flame virtually everywhere. And the more the pious impulses of the heart sought satisfaction in action, the worse became the Jews’ lot."
“Virtually every time a Crusade was preached, the same consequences could be anticipated. In 1183 (The Third Crusade), there were great massacres in England - in London, York, Norwich, Stamford, and Lynn; twenty years later, at the time of the Albigensian Crusade, there were persecutions in the Midi. When a Crusade was ineffectually preached in 1236, massacres also occurred in western France, in England, and in Spain….” [40]

The Crusades showed the vulnerability of the Jews, who in these moments of crises were forced to turn to noblemen and kings for protection. These secular powers protected the Jews since they derived some benefit from them. The Crusades generally, in the words of the Encyclopaedia Judaica, “were firmly imprinted on the historic consciousness of the Jews. This period became singled out in the popular mind as the start of and explanation for the misfortunes of the Jews, although in fact the excesses were only symptomatic of a process which had already been set in motion earlier.” But henceforth the history of the Jews that unfolded was a tragic one since “there now began a period of intermittently recurring massacre and persecution which colored European Jewish experience for centuries to come.” [41]


[1] Steven Runciman. A History of the Crusades, Vol. III, The Kingdom of Acre and the Later Crusades, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1951, p. 474

[2] Andrew Bostom. The Legacy of Islamic Anti-semitism, Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2008, p. 33

[3] Ibn Ishaq. The Life of Muhammad, trans. Alfred Guillaume 1955: reprint, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.

[4] Ibn Sa‘d, Kitab Al-tabaqat Al-kabir, trans. S. M. Haq (New Delhi: Kitab Bhavan, 1972), vol. 1, p. 32.

[5] al-Bukhari, The Book of al-Maghazi (Raids), trans. M. Muhsin Khan, vol. 5, book 59 of Sahih (New Delhi: Kitab Bhavan, 1987), Hadith no. 362, p. 241.

[6] Robert Wistrich. Antisemitism -- The Longest Hatred. Schocken Books, New York, 1991, p. 196.

[7] Benjamin Disraeli. Coningsby, Book IV, Ch. X, quoted in Bernard Lewis, Islam in History, New York, 1973, p. 317 n. 15.

[8] Jane Gerber. Towards an Understanding of the Term: 'The Golden Age' as an Historical Reality in ed. Aviva Doron, The Heritage of the Jews of Spain, Tel Aviv: Levinsky College of Education Publishing House, 1994, p. 16.

[9] Ibid., pp. 21-22.

[10] Shlomo Dov Goitein, “Evidence on the Muslim Poll Tax from Non-Muslim Sources: A Geniza Study,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient (JESHO) 6 (1963): 278-95, repinted in Andrew Bostom, The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2008, pp. 481-488.

[11] Léon Poliakov, The History of Antisemitism. Vol. II From Mohammed to the Marranos, Trans. by Natalie Gerardi [Original French Edn., Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1961] Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 19-81.

[12] Personal communication from Bat Ye’or.

[13] Personal communication from Léon Poliakov.

[14] Robert Chazan. European Jewry and the First Crusade. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987, p. 39.

[15] Ibid., pp. 38-50.

[16] Ivan G. Marcus. Review of European Jewry and the First Crusade by Robert Chazan in Speculum, Vol. 64, No. 3 (Jul., 1989), pp. 685-688.

[17] Ivan Marcus op. cit., p. 686.

[18] Idem.

[19] Robert Chazan, op. cit., p. 28.

[20] Steven Runciman. A History of the Crusades, Vol. I, The First Crusade and the Foundation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1951, pp. 134-35.

[21] Jean Richard. The Crusades c. 1071-c.1291, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999, p.39.

[22] Maurice Samuel [died 1972], The Great Hatred. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1940.

[23] Joshua Trachtenberg, died 1959], The Devil and the Jews. The Medieval Conception of the Jew and Its Relation to Modern Antisemitism. [Original Edn. 1943, Yale University Press], New York: Harper Torchbook, 1966.

[24] Joshua Trachtenberg, op. cit., pp. 2-3.

[25] Ibid., p. 11.

[26] Steven Runciman, op. cit., p. 139.

[27] Shlomo Eidelberg, (editor and translator). The Jews and the Crusades. The Hebrew Chronicles of the First and Second Crusades, New Jersey: KTAV Publishing house, Inc., 1996, p. 23.

[28] Iyar (Hebrew: אִייָר or אִיָּר, Standard Iyyar Tiberian ʾIyyār; from Akkadian ayyaru, meaning "Rosette; blossom") is the eighth month of the civil year (which starts on 1 Tishrei) and the second month of the ecclesiastical year (which starts on 1 Nisan) on the Hebrew calendar. The name is Babylonian in origin. It is a spring month of 29 days. Iyar usually falls in April–June on the Gregorian calendar. [From Wikipedia]

[29] “Albert of Aix (or Aachen) wrote a history of the Crusades down to c. 1120. He is the most important source for the history of the popular crusade. He wrote in the mid twelfth century and never visited the East. His History is based on eyewitness accounts and written sources.”

[30] August C. Krey, The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants, (Princeton: 1921), pp. 54-56.

[31] Runciman, op. cit., p. 139.

[32] Ibid., p. 140.

[33] Léon Poliakov. The History of Anti-Semitism. Vol. I, From the Time of Christ to the Court Jews. Trans. Richard Howard. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003 [Original Edn. in French Calmann-Lévy, Paris, 1955], p. 45.

[34] Runciman., p. 140.

[35] Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores, [MGH, SS.] edd. G.H.Pertz, T.Mommsen et al, (Hanover: Reichsinstitut für ältere deutsche Geschichteskunde, 1826- ) Vol. 6, Annales sax. p. 729.

[36] See MGH, SS Vol. 5, p. 464; Vol. 6, p. 208; quoted in Léon Poliakov. The History of Anti-Semitism. Vol.I, From the Time of Christ to the Court Jews. Trans. Richard Howard. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003 [Original Edn. in French Calmann-Lévy, Paris, 1955], p. 51.

[37] Dom Martin Bouquet, Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France, Paris 1752, [also 1865] Vol. 14, p. 642, quoted by Poliakov The History of Anti-Semitism. Vol. I, From the Time of Christ to the Court Jews. Trans. Richard Howard. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003 [Original Edn. in French Calmann-Lévy, Paris, 1955], p. 48.

[38] Account of Rabbi Ephraim bar Jacob of Bonn in Adolf Neubauer and Moritz Stern, Hebräische Berichte über die Judenverfolgungen während der Kreuzzüge, Berlin, 1892, p. 188, quoted by Poliakov, op. cit., p. 48.

[39] Poliakov, Vol. I, p. 49.

[40] Poliakov, Vol. I, p. 49.

[41] Article, “Crusades”, in Encyclopaedia Judaica, 2nd Edn, 2008.