Part 4 of a 5-Part Series.
Be Sure to Read the First Three Parts Before This One
WHY SO MUCH ANTI-SEMITISM IN EUROPE FOR 900 YEARS SINCE 1095 C.E.
1) CRUSADERS AS HAPPY KILLERS:
Keeping in mind what we've said in the earlier 3rd post about Jews and Jew-baiters and Jew-haters --- the Jews expulsions from Iberia in the 1490s, the Jewish-Conversos, the steamrolling take-to-the-stake Spanish Inquisition, and the fanatical dark-age Islam of the Berbers who conquered the Arab Kingdoms of Southern Spain (1086-1284 (and, you'll see, killed off the glittering Golden Age of Moorish Spain) --- yes, keeping all this in mind, shift your attention now and ponder the much wider and longer history of European Jew-baiting, Jew-expulsions, and gory mass-massacres of Jewish communities, AKA Pogroms.
Our start is the year 1095 and the next 8 centuries or so . . . right to and through the Holocaust in WWII Europe.
Why 1095 C.E. As the Starting Point of Today's Cogitations?
That date, you see, was the year of the First Crusade aimed ostensibly at freeing the Holy Land under Muslim control (courtesy of Muslim conquests of the Byzantine Empire's rule in the Levant 450 years earlier) and --- more telling for our purposes --- leaving overworked prof bug with the need to explain the Crusaders' various aims and motives and how they affected the small Jewish communities in both Europe and the Holy Land itself. A trio of those aims and motives rear up instantly here
The latter motive --- or gore-galore --- needs to be carefully explained.
Over the four centuries by 1095, a continuously growing number of carefully trained, tournament-honed aristocratic Knights --- all well-armored and excellent horsemen and sword-wielders [with weapons practices requiring the use of two-handed sword, mace, battle axe, dagger, and lances] --- lived as did all Europeans in the Middle Ages: to wit, in especially violent surroundings. Yes, very violent. Meaning, mainly, constant wars with one another's kingdoms and principalities or with foreign countries (think of the 100 years war between France and Britain) or with Viking raiders or Muslim conquerors or between different family clans or among brothers and other kin over who should take control of dead daddies' castle and money. Or maybe, just for the hell of it, attacks on neighboring villages or the neighbors next-door, or hobgoblin witches and lots of physical and sexual assaults on one another.
Even the monasteries were full of weapons-carrying priests who had to fight off murderous groups of invading thugs and rivals. And, as a capper, travel by anyone without armed guards was almost always dangerous.
An excellent analysis of the rampant violence, fear, and superstition in Medieval Europe can be found here.
Enter the Pope's Special Motive
For the Knights, tournaments were nifty ways to test their skills in mock-battle, but --- to put it bluntly --- only blood-soaked battles were what the Knights really lived for. Otherwise, why train and train all your life and sharpen your skills in order to joust around in some silly Tournament and maybe a moment or two's fun hacking off your opponents' arm or leg? I mean, where was glory in that?
Glory for the fun-to -kill Knights and their ragtag followers could only be held in one way: join the endemic violence that existed almost everywhere. And in the process, of course, add to it.
So when Pope Urban II ordered in 1095 that all good Catholics should sign up for a Crusade to free the Holy Land from its ghastly pagan-infidels, he had in mind, you need to grasp, more than just religious aims. Along with much of the Catholic hierarchy by then, he was growing increasingly alarmed at the slaughterhouse butchery at work in European life. It wasn't getting better, it was getting worse. And so . . . well, with you get down to it, what could be the best way to limit the soaring blood-spilling in Catholic Europe than direct it unto others?
You guessed it --- order a Crusade! With glory galore and salvation on earth and in heaven for the followers of Christ, whether alive to return home or dead in combat against the infidels and so soar upward to eternal bliss . . . with a guaranteed entry into heaven, so the priesthood said, no matter what their sins had been on earth.
Note that there's an excellent film, despite taking some dramatic liberties of the historical record, of the fall of Christian-held Jerusalem in 1187. It's called Kingdom of Jerusalem --- directed by one of the greatest directors of all time, Ridley Scott, and with a remarkable cast, script, and actors, not to forget strikingly absorbing battle scenes and the conflicts for rule among the Christian leaders. The film came out in 2005. The DVD is particularly useful in the second disk because of Scott's and others efforts to explain what was historically going on and their struggles to capture it all.
As for the date 1187, the First Crusade, observe, had succeeded in 1099 to capture Muslim-held Jerusalem and the put Christian rulers in place in the city and surrounding areas of the Holy Land until 1187.
In that year, new Muslim armies led by the fabled Saladin recaptured the city and surrounding lands. The to-ing and fro-ing of which religion would capture and hold Jerusalem and the Holy land went on through a total of 8 crusades, the last 4 of which fizzled away and are hardly dealt with by Middle Age historians. No matter. Lots of gory carnage on both sides, what say! until the Christians gave up and Muslim Arabs ruled the Holy Land, the rest of the Levant (modern day Lebanon, Syria, Israel, West Bank, and parts of Jordan and Iraq), and for that matter ruled as well the rest of the Middle East and North Africa until the 1517.
Remember 1517, ladies and gentlemen.
In that year, the Muslim Ottoman Turks --- ruling a vast Empire from Istanbul --- overwhelmed the Arabs everywhere in their increasingly rickety empire and ruled over the entire Arab Peninsula (the Middle East) for the next 4 centuries, while ruling through proxy Muslims in North Africa. For those 400 years, no Arab government ruled anywhere in the Middle East until the mid-19th century and the entire Arab Peninsula to 1918.
By 1918, the Ottomans --- who ruled over not just the vast Arab lands but much of Eastern and Southern Europe until the 19th century --- had lost all of the Arab Peninsula at the end of WWI that year.
How did the Ottomans lost rule there?
Remember, they had been on the losing side along with the Germans and Austrian Empire in that bloodspilling war. The British --- the most famous of whom was Lawrence of Arabia --- were essential to the victory of the Arabs over the hated Ottomans. In particular, they armed the Arabs in the war and encouraged and supported a successful rebellion. The British mainly and the French then carved out the boundaries of the new Arab states and created Kings from the Saudis and placed them all over the Peninsula. (It was in that war, recall as well, that the British --- who eventually from 1921-22 had a League of Nations-created Mandate to rule modern-day Israel and the West Bank --- promised to create a Jewish state in all of Palestine and for that matter Jordan.)
2) BACK NOW TO THE 1ST CRUSADE: OH!OH! WATCH OUT JEWISH BOYS AND GIRLS OF ALL AGES!
Because, you see --- the Holy Land was really far off, the journey could take weeks or months (depending on where you started from in Europe), the lengthy travel was expensive, and so how could the Knights be sure --- no matter how good the killing skills of their aristocratic ranks happened to be---that their life-long sharp-edged skills would still be honed to perfection by the time they reached the Middle East. That worry bothered them. It was even more worrying to the mainly peasant rank-and-file soldiers, most of them illiterate and without money at all --- and, no need to explain, just as avaricious as the rest of the Medieval masses.
Oh, what to do? What to do?
You Guessed It! Kill Lots of Jews.
Enter the most immediate and vulnerable non-Catholic adversaries, the small Jewish communities in Europe, the most successful of them in France and in the Rhineland areas of the various German kingdoms and principalities.
Until the First Crusade, Jews had generally been left alone by the surrounding Christian majority in most (not all) European lands outside of Iberia. Even limited attacks on whole Jewish communities were usually criticized by Popes and the higher clergy, along with most of the Kings and Princes in Europe. Jews were even allowed to carry weapons (like swords). Alas, all that changed after 1095. Soon, officially in 1103 --- but a few years earlier unofficially---Jews were totally prohibited to carry swords or any other weapons. That left them and their communities totally defenseless.
(Eventually, in another century, they had to wear special badges that identified them as Jews --- the aim here, obviously, to limit or prevent mingling with Christians. A little later, Jews were forced to live in ghettos, walled in to prevent them from sneaking out at night to carry out their horrendous black-magic on the poor pious Christians. Never mind. No need to deal with these later restrictions --- most of which, in Southern, Central, and East Europe, were in place way into the 19th century. By which time, there had been so many pogroms and other vile attacks on Jews in those regions ---- and down to the 18th century similar attacks in much of West Europe --- it's hard to keep track of the fluctuating numbers of the Jewish populations on that Continent.
Back to the defenseless Jews and what happened to them in 1095 and throughout the First and later Crusades.
There they were, small prosperous Jewish communities in the paths of the marching Crusaders headed for Mediterranean port-cities --- or maybe nearby, but surely worth a diversion ---faced with large armies of aristocratic Knights, some carefully trained servants of the Knights, and all the ragtag illiterate ranks of peasants and dumbbell urbanites. Yep, their hard-working communities just strung out in plain sight of the Crusader-armies, as if the vulnerable inhabitants were hand-picked by Heavenly Angles for slaughter. Could there be a more ripe prey? What with piles upon piles of fantasized Jewish wealth to pillage and then to seize all the uncovered silver and gold and coins and heaps after heaps of jewels and what have you. Was that surprising? Didn't all Christians assume most Jews were wealthy --- anyway far more prosperous than most Christians --- all of which riches were gained, obviously, in ill-begotten manner full of chicanery and demonic black-magic tricks and fraud.
There were other motives, too, to pillage and kill Jews.
In particular, with the Crusade underway full-tilt in late 1095, Christians everywhere became more and more pious. Needless to add, then, that the more pious the aristocratic Knights and the illiterate peasants and dummy city dweller became, the more Jews were regarded as under Satan's control. Be gone witches, hobgoblins, the walking dead, and little and big fallen angels serving Satan! We know now who in our midst caused the most woes, misery, and endless suffering and violence, it's those heinous Jews . . . all in the service of Satan himself. As a capper to these credulous superstitions, full of ludicrous fears and forebodings, the eruptive growth of pogroms and other murderous assaults on the Jews were really not murder at all. How could they be?
All the slaughter now unleashed against Jews, accordingly, was assumed to be just-revenge against the heinous "let blood be on them forever" killers of the Crusader's Savior. The more devout and righteous the Christian Crusaders and others felt, the more they came to hate the Jews. All this hatred followed in the next few centuries by ever greater legal restrictions on Jewish communities. No carrying weapons; Ghettos to wall them in; Ever more prohibitions against Jews in the professions and other skilled work that took labor, it was said, from good Christians; And badges to be worn on all Jewish clothing to limit contact with the true believers. (More on this in a few moments, to clarify these claims.)
The First Crusaders Take Jerusalem and Most of the Surrounding Areas in 1099
There were, to repeat, Jews in the Holy Land --- yes, several thousand had moved back over the centuries since they were sent scattering out of it by the Roman Imperial militaries in the mid-2nd century, And generally they were treated fairly decently by the Muslim rulers in place. When the Crusaders reached Haifa (a port city), it was almost single-handedly defended by Jewish fighters (to no avail). Jews and Muslims fought side-by-side in Jerusalem when it was attacked and overrun. So when the Crusaders broke into Jerusalem (and elsewhere), they didn't just slaughter the Muslims, they even had equal fun doing it to the Jews.
(A study that came out in 1990 claimed this happened: As the Jews, knowing what would happen to them once the walls of Jerusalem were breached, took refuge in the city's Synagogue, found the roof set on fire by the Crusaders and couldn't open the doors to the outside. One modern-day source even claims the Crusaders "[circled] the screaming, flame-tortured humanity singing 'Christ We Adore Thee!' with their Crusader crosses held high."
The Later Crusades and Jewish Carnage Briefly Sketched
In the Second Crusade (1147) it was now the turn of the French Jews to be slaughtered. The Third Crusade (1188) found the King of France (Philip Augustus) especially anxious to kill off even more Jews on his way to join Frederick I, the Holy Roman Emperor, and King Richard 1 (the Lionhearted), to save Christendom from the Muslims. The surviving Jews had something of a respite in those same countries until they were attacked by the so-called Shepherd's Crusades of 1251 and 1320.
For an outstanding book on the Crusades --- well written and a good easy read --- try this one: Thomas F. Madden, The Concise History of the Crusades (2013). Click here for Amazon's very favorable reviews
3.) EXPULSION TIME FOR THE JEWS IN EUROPE FOLLOWED
Between the end of the 11th to the end of the 16th century, Jews --- now the European peoples' chief Hobgoblin and doormat Scapegoat --- were repeatedly expelled from large numbers of European countries: Britain, France (4 times), German states (repeatedly), Austria, Hungary, Lithuania, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Silesia, Crimea. (See map here: Click on the map, it will open in enlarged ways that are easy to read.)
By the 12th century, Jews were now not just ghettoized, but demonized and accused of practically every evil that befell the Europeans for centuries afterwards. Remember too: Christians everywhere were largely illiterate, superstitious, believers in Satan and in magic and miracles and the good Christian aim to ferret out and burn witches to death.
And It Gets Worse
European life in Medieval Europe encountered endless natural and human-made catastrophes --- plagues, diseases, fires, destructive storms, floods, volcanoes, and earthquakes, regarding which very little could be done in those centuries to deal with them effectively Add to all this all the constant violence in peoples' lives, and it was easy to believe that evil forces beyond the control of good Christians were at work. The upshot? A sort of mass paranoia about the world pervaded European life . . . including mounting anger and resentments toward tiny minorities who differed from them and their shared Catholic beliefs and rituals.
Sure, religious rites and confessions helped buffer peoples' anguish and the forebodings in their lives.
But, simultaneously, Catholic rites and services also stressed that God was not just an all-powerful, all-knowing Father-in-Heaven ---He was also vengeful and full of wrath when He detected bad-Catholic sinners who didn't repent, with the result that, sooner or later, the chronic sinners would die and thrown downward toward the earth's center where a fiery eternal Hell awaited them. Oh me, oh my! Too horrid to make sense of rationally.
Not that rationality influenced Medieval Life much, if at all.
The exception, starting in the 13th century, with little influence on others, was a handful of scholastic philosophers like Thomas Aquinas out to reconcile Catholicism with what they discovered about Greek science and philosophy. For 99% of the Medieval peoples in Western Europe or farther East, all they had intellectually were their massive superstitions, fears, forebodings, and astonishingly crude beliefs in witchery and black-magic --- plus, of course, Catholic rituals and what the Priests told them about the Bible and either divine rewards or punishments upon death.
Another result, more to the point for us: it was easy for the superstitious to believe that Satan --- once beloved by God as a cherub, the perfect angel to sit next to him, but who was then cast out of Heaven for his arrogance and envy of God along with a third of all angels who followed Satan (AKA, Lucifer in Christian Medieval Times) --- was the real cause of peoples' violent, fearful, and catastrophic woes that haunted them throughout life. Maybe even sinners couldn't help what they did, what say if you were a chronic sinner! Naturally, of course, Satan himself didn't expose himself directly (though Martin Luther often felt Satan breathing right behind his back in his study). Satan was too clever to do that. He worked his demonic evils through proxy followers, whether diabolical Lower Angle Forces (demons and the like), or operated through anti-Christ demons disguised as humans like witches or other diabolical two-legged creatures who refused to recognize the 1-in-3 3-in-1 God as their redeemer.
Or, to be more exact, what the Priests informed them about the Trinity and God's wrath and salvation. Hardly any Medieval peoples, remember on this count, were literate, leaving only the priesthood, monks, and some educated Aristocrats and scholars to read and write. And, of course, all Jewish boys and men.
Guess Who Were Considered The Worst Demonic Creatures Disguised As Humans?
You're right! Heretics were bad enough, sure. With the witches, though, they could be burned at the stake quickly enough. But the diabolical Jews---those endless trouble-makers and servants of Satan? Why were they still around 1200 years or more after they crucified their Savior? And worse, they liked to appear in public as if they were harmless, yes?
And so, by the 12th century, Jews became openly the big bugaboo scapegoats in European life. Who, it was increasingly taken for granted by Christians at all levels in European life, practiced all sorts of loathsome manipulations and hellish conspiracies against their the true-believers, the outcome of which was the vast number of evils pervading Medieval Life. Specifically, the evils could be reduced to these well-known diabolical practices of Satan's two-legged demons:
Jews worked directly with the Devil and practiced horrid black-magic against the Christians in every possible way;
Jews would kill Christian children for their Passover Matzo (that blood-libel accusation now accepted widely all over Islam these days);
Jews would torture Jesus by creating images of him on the Cross and then use knives and hatchets to re-enact his Crucifixion;
Jews were all arrogant and greedy usurers and would do anything (however horrendous) to become rich --- never mind that most Jews lived as moderately rewarded tailors and self-trained craftsmen with low wages (Christians were forbidden to buy anything from the Jews). And never mind that for the economic-dummy Catholics in the Middle Ages, any lending of money for interest was sinful;
Jews were so hated that not only did most of them be forced to live in ghettos and be attacked there in pogroms, but were forbidden to own land or practice most professions that competed with Christian guilds etc.
Jews were responsible for the Black-Death Plague that killed off nearly half of Europe's population in the 1346 to 1353 --- never mind that the Plague had started in China and moved across most of Central Asia and later the Middle East (where few or no Jews lived at all);
Jewish Expulsions As a Game of Musical Chairs
To Be Continued in the 5th and Last Post in This Series