Listen to an interview with Daniel Goldhagen
Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, discusses his new book, The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Anti-Semitism.
Dr. Goldhagen will deliver CISA's Shindleman Lecture in Winnipeg on Monday, May 12, 2014.
The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words (1000BCE–1492CE) by Simon Schama is published by Bodley Head.
In a gripping extract from his new book, Simon Schama relates the terrible events of 1096, one of the bloodiest chapters in the story of the Jews – and the moment that placed their religion firmly in the heart of catastrophe.
Such beautiful names, such terrible ends. Doulcea, the sweet one, cut to pieces on the streets of Worms in 1196, trying to summon help while her daughters Hannah and Bellette lay dying inside the house; Licoricia, tough as nails, twice-widowed, moneybags loaded, who survived three spells in the Tower of London, only to be murdered in her Winchester house along with her Christian maidservant in 1277; Zipporah of Worms, the bird caught in a suicide trap, in the spring of 1096, Crusader bands shouting for the blood of the Christ-killers, imploring her husband to kill her first so she might be spared the sight of her son slaughtered by his father’s knife; Sarit of Cologne, the comely bride, sliced up the middle, groin to throat, by her father-in-law Judah the Levite, her nuptials turned into a blood wedding; the women on the bridge, two from Cologne, two from Trier, watching their sisters dragged mercilessly to the baptismal font, resolving on a defiant counter-baptism, jumping to a drowning death in the dark waters of the Mosel; the nameless convert who had married Rabbi David Todros of Narbonne, pursued by her outraged family, finding sheltering obscurity in Monieux until a crusading gang killed Rabbi David, seized two of their children for captive conversions, leaving the widowed proselyte destitute with her infant boy.
And then there was Poulceline, whom everyone would hear about, fair Poulceline, close – very close, according to Ephraim of Bonn – to Thibaut, Count of Blois, seneschal of France, the king’s brother-in-law, none of which was any help when the Jews of Blois were being burned alive on a pyre in 1171, Poulceline included. What had she done? What had any of the beautiful names done? As usual, nothing except to be born Jews. What they were said to have done, though, was kill children, especially Christian children. No actual body was needed for the accusation to become credible.
No one in Blois ever found a body, nor was any child missing, but in May a serving man happened to be watering his horse by the Loire when he saw something small and pale slip from the grasp of a Jew beside the river. What that Jew had been holding was, in fact, a batch of untanned hides, but when one splashed into the water, the servant reported to his master, his horse shied and refused to drink, a sure sign that something foul had been committed to the river. A skin was a skin.
The incident was reported to Count Thibaut, who judged it serious enough for the man to be subjected to the water ordeal to test if his word was true or false. He survived; and the 30 or so Jews of Blois were arrested and imprisoned, shackled to each other and to the floor in the usual style of the time. Poulceline alone was spared the incarceration, much to the fury of Countess Alix, whose enemy she had become. But such was the power it was feared the Jewish woman might have over the count that Poulceline was prevented from speaking to him. Like so many women in the Ashkenazi world of northern Europe, Poulceline was a woman of substance, a money lender to poor and rich, Jew and Christian alike, and as such she had been useful enough to the count to enjoy his esteem and perhaps more. Every so often she remonstrated with him over the injustices inflicted on her co-religionists.