The senseless massacre of Jews during the Crusades

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A terrible stain on the Crusades was the massacre of Jews around Europe.

The First Crusade saw motley bands of peasants, opportunists, criminals and the medieval equivalent of gangsters flock together and go on crusade in search of riches.

On the way to the Holy Land, they often targeted Jews in Europe treating them as if they were de facto Saracens – infidels in their midst.

Massacre of Jews in Mainz

A chronicler called Solomon bar Samson wrote of a massacre in 1096 in the German city of Mainz, which was clearly horrific even by the standards of the time.  It was led by a noble called Emico who forced his way in to the city with armed men and sought out the Jewish population.

Terrified, the Jews of Mainz headed towards the Archbishop’s palace and took refuge, prepared to fight to the last against the thugs approaching them.

The bishop’s men, who had promised to help them, were the very first to flee, thus delivering the Jews into the hands of the enemy. They were indeed a poor support; even the bishop himself fled from his church for it was thought to kill him also because he had spoken good things of the Jews.

In spite of all their efforts, the Jews within the palace could not stop Emico breaking in and men, women and children faced up to the inevitable.  They were going to die.  They would either die at the hands of the crusader gang or at their own hand.

Then all of them, to a man, cried out with a loud voice: ‘Now we must delay no longer for the enemy are already upon us. Let us hasten and offer ourselves as a sacrifice to the Lord. Let him who has a knife examine it that it not be nicked, and let him come and slaughter us for the sanctification of the Only One, the Everlasting and then let him cut his own throat or plunge the knife into his own body.

As Emico and his men stormed the courtyard, the Jewish leader Isaac ben Moses stretched out his neck and one of the gang duly cut his head off.

The others, wrapped by their fringed praying ­shawls, sat by themselves in the courtyard, eager to do the will of their Creator. They did not care to flee into the chamber to save themselves for this temporal life, but out of love they received upon themselves the sentence of God. The enemy showered stones and arrows upon them, but they did not care to flee, and [Esther 9:5] with the stroke of the sword, and with slaughter, and destruction the foe killed all of those whom they found there. When those in the chambers saw the deed of these righteous ones, how the enemy had already come upon them, they then cried out, all of them: There is nothing better than for us to offer our lives as a sacrifice.

Emico had arrived with 12,000 men and the Jews were hopelessly outnumbered and inadequately armed.  The Jewish women killed their own sons and daughters and then themselves.

Many men, too, plucked up courage and killed their wives, their sons, their infants. The tender and delicate mother slaughtered the babe she had played with, all of them, men and women arose and slaughtered one another.

The tales of suicide and murder go on depressingly and unfortunately this kind of pogrom would be repeated several times over the next hundred years in northern Europe.

11 thoughts on “The senseless massacre of Jews during the Crusades

  1. I just found out that I am a jew, from the tribe of Judah. I have been a christian for 8 yrs, but over a yr ago, have realized hebrew roots, and have done away with christian traditions and I now try to keep all the commands. Anyway, I also found out that some of my ancestors were of the templar knights. It’s so sad. My ancestors killed their own people, not knowing they were jews.
    I don’t understand how cold hearted people can be to just murder in cold blood.

    1. If you search the blog – you’ll find some interesting posts I’ve written about the Jews in the Middle Ages. In England, the Templars and the Jews both engaged in financial activities – not sure if they competed as such. But they both lent money to the king. One of the most powerful women in England during the 13th century was Licoricia of Winchester, a very high profile Jewish financier.

    2. I’m sorry Stacey, but if you were really and truly a Christian you would not so easily throw your faith away to convert to Judaism. The Christian God is the Same as the Hebrew God. But He is also Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Three in One.There is no spiritual advantage to converting, but I hope you truly are one of the chosen people of Israel. in that case you too have a chance at everlasting salvation as one of the remnant. I truly hope you are sure. But if you were truly and honestly saved by the Blood of Jesus, I don’t thnk you can unsave yourself.

  2. Something that needs to be realized is that the CATHOLICS were not only killing Jews and Arabs, but also Evangelical Christians. So it’s not Christians who have killed the people, bu the Catholic Church, which is most certainly not Christian.

    1. It’s certainly true that there was Christian versus Christian slaughter during the Crusades – most notably, the fighting against the Orthodox Christians of the East in the Baltic/Russian crusades and the sacking of Constantinople by crusaders in the Fourth Crusade. And of course one could add the Albigensian crusade against the Cathar heresy in southern France. Were these the crusades you were referring to?

  3. This is interesting. Most christians believe jews are god’s chosen people and rally support for them. I wonder if they’d even be able to understand the christians long history of hate for jews. And the murder of muslims to boot!

    If anyone has any more information surrounding Knight’s Templay or christian racial belefs, especially during the period of the Crusades, please email me!

    1. The BBC has just broadcast a documentary – History Cold Case: The Bodies in a Well – about a group of seventeen bodies found in an old medieval well in the English city of Norwich quite recently. It was proved that the skeletal remains dated back to the late 1100s or early 1200s but nobody could figure out why men, women and children with no sign of major injury, disease or plague should have ended up on top of each other in a well. Needless to say that DNA evidence soon identified them as most likely to be Jewish and they either committed suicide en masse or were murdered. This was during a period of pogroms in England and across Europe against the Jews that accompanied the crusades. You can read more about this fascinating BBC programme here – If this interests you – watch this programme!

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