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Erfurt Massacre, 1349

On This Day in Jewish History: March 21, 1948


On this day, 1349, 3,000 Jews were killed in the Erfurt massacre in Erfurt, Germany. The massacre was one of the many Black Death persecutions of the Jews, in which Jews were burnt alive, lynched, and their properties looted. Many Jews committed suicide to avoid persecution. These deaths were endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church and justified by White European locals, believing that killing all the Jews in European towns would prevent the further spread of the Black Plague. The first appearance of Jews in the town of Erfurt was in the 12th century. While Jewish life was rich and vibrant, the town's Jewish population encountered turbulence since their arrival. In 1221, anti-Jewish riots broke out: Synagogues were burnt down, Jews were murdered, and many of them threw themselves into the flames of the burning synagogues. Despite the severe damage caused by this anti-Jewish riot, the western wall of the Old Synagogue of Erfurt, the oldest synagogue in Central Europe, remained intact. The surviving Jewish members of Erfurt incorporated parts of the west wall into a newly erected, prestigious temple. Jewish life continued to thrive during this short period following the 1221 massacre but quickly came to a halt at the turn of the 14th century. In the mid-14th century, 12 ships arriving from the Black Sea docked at the port of Messina, Sicily. To the town's people's horrors, the sailors aboard were dead, and those surviving sailors were covered from head-to-toe in black boils that oozed pus. Soon, the plague spread to the residents of Messina, and fleeing Messinians spread the deadly disease to mainland Italy, killing one-third of its residents. Within the next two years, the plague spread to all parts of Europe, creating a hysterical frenzy. To eliminate these feelings of panic and find a sense of affirmation during a time of chaos, White Europeans displaced their negative emotions onto the Jews. Townspeople throughout Europe blamed their Jewish neighbors for using "black magic" to poison wells. Of course, the Jews were not to blame for the black plague; for many years later, scientists discovered that the bacterium Yersinia pestis had infected humans via rats on the Messinian ships. But since the bacterium was only found in 1894, sentiments of hostility towards Jews remained. In fact, to this very day, despite the surplus of scientific evidence regarding viruses and bacteria, Jews remain to be scapegoats of disease outbreaks. Anti-Jewish COVID19 theories, such as that COVID was biologically manufactured by Jewish scientists in Israel, prevail. These dangerous conspiracies have led to synagogues' desecration across America and violent attacks on visibly-Jewish communities, such as the ultra-Orthodox in New-York. The scapegoating of Jews during the COVID19 pandemic demonstrates the cyclic, perpetuation of antisemitism in the Diaspora and its threat to Jewish people’s survival.

Sources: https://www.history.com/topics/middle-ages/black-death#:~:text=The%20plague%20arrived%20in%20Europe,that%20oozed%20blood%20and%20pus. https://www.montana.edu/historybug/yersiniaessays/pariera-dinkins.html https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Jews_during_the_Black_Death

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