Friday, May 11, 2007

23rd Iyar - destruction of Worms

Today is the anniversary of the massacre of the Jewish community of Worms. This was one of the oldest and most famous European Jewish community. It was all but destroyed in 1096 by the crusaders. This event is commemorated on Tisha B'Av in the Kinah "Mi Yitein Roshi Mayim". (This is the time of the famous story of Rashi and Godfrey of Bouillon. Although Rashi lived some of his life in Worms he was not directly affected by this massacre to the best of my knowledge). So much for the 'Robin Hood' stories they tell about Richard the Lionheart (who was also involved in this crusade, which is why his brother, sheriff John was running the show and being mean to Robin and his merry men).

This is what Wikipedia says about Judaism in Worms over the centuries:

The city is known as a former center for Judaism. The cemetery (illustration, right) dating from the 11th century is believed to be the oldest in Europe; an ancient synagogue was built around 1034. Prominent rabbis of Worms include Elazar Rokeach and Yair Bacharach. At the Rabbinical Synod held at Worms in the eleventh century, rabbis for the first time explicitly prohibited polygamy. Much of the Jewish Quarter was destroyed in the events known as Kristallnacht in 1938, and a recognizable Jewish community in Worms no longer exists. However, after renovations in the 1970s and 1980s, many of the buildings of the Quarter can be seen in a close to original state, preserved as an outdoor museum.

And this is their entry about the massacre of the three communities known by the acronym 'Shum' - for Speyer, Worm and Mainz:

The largest of these crusades, and the most involved in attacking Jews, was that led by Count Emicho. Setting off in the early summer of 1096, an army of around 10,000 men, women, and children proceeded through the Rhine valley, towards the Main River and then to the Danube. Emicho was joined by William the Carpenter and Drogo of Nesle, among others from the Rhineland, eastern France, Lorraine, Flanders, and even England.

Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV, absent in southern Italy, ordered the Jews to be protected when he learned of Emicho's intent. After some Jews were killed at Metz in May, Bishop John of Speyer, gave shelter to the Jewish inhabitants. Still at least 12 Jews of Speyer were slain by crusaders on May 3.[2] The Bishop of Worms also attempted to shelter Jews, but the crusaders broke in to his episcopal palace and killed the Jews inside on May 18. At least 800 Jews were massacred in Worms when they refused Christian baptism.[7][2]

News of Emicho's crusade spread quickly, and he was prevented from entering Mainz on May 25 by Bishop Ruthard. Emicho also took an offering of gold raised by the Jews of Mainz in hoped to gain his favor and their safety.[2] Bishop Ruthard tried to protect the Jews by hiding them in his lightly fortified palace. Nevertheless Emicho did not prevent his followers from entering the city[2] on May 27 and a massacre followed. Many among the Christian business class (the burghers) in Mainz, had working ties with Jews and gave them shelter from the mobs (as the burghers in Prague had done).[1] The Mainz burghers joined with the militia of the bishop and the burgrave (the town's military governor) in fighting off the first waves of crusaders. This stand had to be abandoned when crusaders continued to arrive in ever greater numbers.[1] Despite the example of the burghers, many ordinary citizens in Mainz and other the towns were caught up in the frenzy and joined in the persecution and pillaging.[1] Mainz was the site of the greatest violence, with at least 1,100 Jews and (possibly more) being killed by troops under Clarambaud and Thomas.[2] One man, named Isaac, was forcefully converted, but later, wracked with guilt, killed his family and burned himself alive in his house. Another woman, Rachel, killed her four children with her own hands so that they would not be killed by the crusaders.

Eliezer b. Nathan, a Jewish chronicler at the times paraphrased Habakkuk 1:6 and wrote of “cruel foreigners, fierce and swift, Frenchmen and Germans…[who] put crosses on their clothing and were more plentiful than locusts on the face of the earth.”[2]

On May 29 Emicho arrived at Cologne, where most Jews had already left or were hiding in Christian houses. In Cologne, other smaller bands of crusaders met Emicho, and they left with quite a lot of money taken from the Jews there. Emicho continued towards Hungary, soon joined by some Swabians. Coloman of Hungary refused to allow them through Hungary. Count Emicho and his warriors besieged Meseberg, on the Leitha. This led Caloman to prepare to flee into Russia, but the morale of the crusader mob began to fail which inspired the Hungarians and most of the mob was slaughtered or drown in the river. Count Emicho and a few of the leaders escaped into Italy or back to their own homes.[5] William the Carpenter and other survivors eventually joined Hugh of Vermandois and the main body of crusader knights.

May their Souls be Bound in the Bonds of Eternal Life

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