Blood libel

Blood libel

Blood libels are sensationalized allegations that a person or group engages in human sacrifice, often accompanied by the claim that the blood of victims is used in various rituals and/or acts of cannibalism. The alleged victims are often children.

Some of the best documented cases of blood libel focus upon accusations against Jews, but many other groups have been accused throughout history, including Christians, Cathars, Carthaginians, Knights Templar, witches, Wiccans, Christian heretics, Roma, Mormons, neopagans, Native Americans, atheists and communists.

Against Jews

The first recorded instance of a blood libel against Jews was in the writings of Apion, who claimed that certain Jews sacrificed Greek victims in the Temple of Jerusalem. After this, there are no known records of the blood libel brought against Jews until the 12th century legend surrounding William of Norwich, first recorded in the Peterborough Chronicle. The accusation afterward became more common. In some subsequent cases, antisemitic blood libels served as the basis for a blood libel cult, in which the alleged victim of human sacrifice was venerated as a Christian martyr. Many Jews have been killed as a result of blood libels, which continued on into the 20th century, with the Beilis Trial in Russia and the Kielce pogrom in post-World War II Poland.

Against Christians

During the first and second centuries, some Roman commentators had various interpretations of the ritual of the Eucharist and related teachings. While celebrating the Eucharist, Christians drink red wine in response to the words "This is the blood of Christ". Propaganda arguing that the Christians literally drank blood based on their belief in transubstantiation was written and used to persecute Christians. Romans were highly suspicious of Christian adoptions of abandoned Roman babies and this was suggested as a possible source of the blood.

In the Mandaean scripture, the Ginza Rba, a supposed Christian group called the "Minunei" are accused of it by the Jews: "They kill a Jewish child, they take his blood, they cook it in bread and they proffer it to them as food.

Blood libels in the modern world

Accusations of ritual murder have gradually disappeared from mainstream Christianity, and some child martyrs have been removed from the official Catholic calendar of saints. In the modern world, only radical groups and individuals advance accusations of ritual murder and blood libels.

One claim states that physicians in the People's Republic of China who perform abortions consider the fetus a delicacy and eat it. The story, reported from Hong Kong by Bruce Gilley, was investigated by Senator Jesse Helms, and gruesome artwork reminiscent of traditional depictions of blood libel was featured in several pro-life campaigns. The only use for "human fetal tissue" is in the medical research field, particularly stem cell research.

Many Jewish groups were shocked in 2003 by the British newspaper The Independent's publication of a cartoon depicting Ariel Sharon eating a baby. The Israeli government complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the cartoon alluded to the blood libel of Jews eating the children of Christians; Dave Brown, the author, responded that the cartoon was in fact inspired by Francisco de Goya's painting Saturn Devouring His Son and was not anti-Semitic in intent. The PCC accepted Brown's argument, stating "There is nothing inherently anti-semitic about the Goya image or about the myth of Saturn devouring his children, which has been used previously to satirise other politicians accused of sacrificing their own 'children' for political purposes". The cartoon ultimately earned Brown the British Political Cartoon Society's Political Cartoon of the Year award.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, during his March 2006 failed bid for re-election, said communists had a history of boiling babies. "I have been accused many times of saying communists eat babies," said Berlusconi at a rally of his Forza Italia party. "Go and read the Black Book on Communism and you'll find that under Mao's China they didn't eat babies but they boiled them to fertilise the fields." Despite Berlusconi's 2006 denial that he has ever said that 'communists eat babies,' in the 2001 campaign, Berlusconi said "I can organise a conference in which I will prove communists have really eaten babies and done even worse things.

In July 2007, American Michael Yon reported that Lieutenant David Wallach, an Arabic translator, had told him an Iraqi official's allegations that Al-Qaeda in Iraq has baked a young boy and served the boy's body to his family. These claims were later repeated in articles by the conservative American website World Net Daily.

Antisemitic accusations of ritual murder still can be found in Islamist propaganda and state-sponsored media published in a number of Muslim nations.

In the 1990s, a number of publications by Russian Orthodox Church, as well as radio and TV broadcasts in Belarus revived medieval allegations of ritual murder of child saint Gavriil Belostoksky. The revival of the cult was cited as a dangerous expression of antisemitism in international reports on human rights and religious freedoms and were passed to the UNHCR.

In 2002, controversial far-left Indian Christian radical Arundhati Roy, in an attempt to capitalize on anti-Hindu hysteria among Islamic extremists in India, perpetrated a blood libel that Indian Hindus forcibly kill pregnant Muslim women and abort the fetuses. The claim was debunked by Balbir Punj in a detailed article on Outlook India, where he demonstrates how Roy and her extreme left sympathizers capitalized on the hysteria to justify discrimination, bigotry and prejudice against Hindus.

See also


Further reading


  • Susanna Buttaroni, Stanislaw Musial: Ritualmord. Böhlau Verlag 2002, ISBN 3-205-77028-5 (German)
  • Rainer Erb: Die Legende vom Ritualmord. Metropol 1993, ISBN 3-926893-15-X (German)
  • Hannelore Fieg: Ritualmord und Satanskultbeschuldigungen in Spätantike, Mittelalter und früher Neuzeit. Christen und Juden, Ketzer und Hexen, Diploma thesis Universität Innsbruck 2000 (German)
  • Gerhard Muller (Hrsg.): Theologische Realenzyklopädie Band 29, Religionspsychologie - Samaritaner. Walter de Gruyter, 1998, ISBN 3-11-016127-3 (entry Ritualmord, pg. 253–265) (German)


  • Alan Dundes: The Blood Libel Legend: A Casebook in Anti-Semitic Folklore. The University of Wisconsin Press, 1992, ISBN 0-299-13110-6
  • Jules Isaac, Die Genesis des Antisemitismus, Wien: Europa Verlag, 1969 (German)
  • Stefan Rohrbacher, Michael Schmidt: Judenbilder. Kulturgeschichte antijüdischer Mythen und antisemitischer Vorurteile. Rowohlt, Reinbek 1991, ISBN 3-499-55498-4 (pg. 269–291: Ritualmord und Hostienfrevel; pg. 304–368: Die Barbarei längst verflossener Jahrhunderte)
  • Johannes T. Groß: Ritualmordbeschuldigungen gegen Juden im Deutschen Kaiserreich (1871–1914) Berlin: Metropol, 2002. ISBN 3-932482-84-0
  • Alexander Baron: Jewish Ritual Murder: Anti-semitic Fabrication or Urban Legend? Anglo-Hebrew Publishing. 1994, ISBN 1898318360
  • John M. McCulloh: Jewish Ritual Murder: William of Norwich, Thomas of Monmouth, and the Early Dissemination of the Myth In: Speculum, Vol. 72, No. 3 (Juli 1997), S. 698–740
  • Ronnie Po-Chia Hsia: The Myth of Ritual Murder: Jews and Magic in Reformation Germany. Yale University Press, 1990, ISBN 0-300-04746-0 (English)

Case studies

  • Schmoger, Karl (1974) The Life of Anna Katherina Emmerich: Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishing: 1974: Volume 1: ISBN 0-89555-059-8

External links

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