Email Email   

CRUSADES (1096-1291).

The Crusades were a series of Christian wars designed to free the Holy Land from Moslem rule. They were uniformly tragic in their effects upon the Jews. Crusaders were exempted from the payment of their debts to Jews. Inflamed to hatred against the “unbelievers” by both church and state, the armies of Crusaders, often no more than armed mobs, began their “holy war” by massacring Jewish communities in France, Germany, and England. Some Jews were forcibly baptized, others were killed for refusing baptism, still others were slain without the opportunity of choice. Emperor Henry IV permitted the forced converts to live as Jews again. A few bishops and archbishops tried to protect the Jews of their districts, but their efforts generally failed. In the Holy Land itself, the few surviving Jewish communities were almost entirely destroyed by the Crusaders. What the pagan Romans had left undone, the Christians completed. The afflicted European communities met the attacks in different ways. Jews of Treves submitted to forced baptism, and later renounced it; those of Cologne tried in vain to hide; those of Worms, Speyer, Mayence, and York took their own lives; those of the French city of Carentan died fighting. Rashi, who was in Troyes, France, during the First Crusade, escaped injury. His grandson, Rabbenu Jacob Tam, was badly wounded, almost killed, in the Second Crusade. Many of the kinnot, or poems of lamentation, composed in memory of the victims are still recited on the Fast of the Ninth of Av. As a result of the Crusades, tens of thousands of Jews were massacred, some communities were completely wiped out, and others never recovered their strength. Jewish trade with the Orient was broken, and Jews were gradually forced to earn their living by usury. Above all, suspicion of, prejudice against, and hatred toward them became deep-rooted and lingered on for centuries in the popular mind.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email