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FRANTISEK CERVINKA The Hilsner Affair Nowhere were there more famous or infamous cases of blood libel than those which occurred in Eastern Europe. Among the better known of these instances were the ones reportedin Tisza-Eszlar, Hungary, in 1882, in Polna, Czechoslovakia , in 1899, and in Kiev in 1911. In the following essay by Frantisek Cervinka, Lecturer at the Faculty of Philosophy , Charles University, Prague, the incident at Polna is examined with special attention to its continuing effect on Czech political consciousness. One reason for the case's ongoing role stems from the fact that the accused Leopold Hilsner was defended ultimately by none other than Thomas G. Masaryk, who was later to become the first president of the Czech Republic. For further details of the trial and of Masaryk's courageous role in the case, see Ernst Rychnovsky, "The Struggle against the Ritual Murder Superstition ," in Thomas G. Masaryk and the Jews: A Collection of Essays (New York: B. Pollak, 1949), pp. 154-243. See also Arthur Nussbaum, "The 'Ritual-Murder' Trial of Polna," Historia Judaica 9 (1947): 57-74, and Steven Beller, "The Hilsner Affair: Nationalism, Anti-Semitism and the Individual in the Hapsburg Monarchy at the Turn of the Century," in T. G. Masaryk (1850-1937), vo1. 2, Thinker and Critic, ed. Robert B. Pynsent, (London: Macmillan, 1989), pp. 52-76. Some of the earlier monographs devoted to the TiszaEszlar case were ably surveyed by Charles H. H. Wright in "The Jews and the Malicious Charge of Human Sacrifice , " Nineteenth Century 14 (1883): 753-78, itself a nearcontemporary account of the tria1. The second portion of Reprinted from Year Book XIII of the Leo Baeck Institute, London, 1968, pp. 142-57, by courtesy of the Editor, Dr. Arnold Paucker. 135 Frantisek Cervinka Wright's essay recounts the efforts of "expert" witnesses who sought to influence the trial's outcome through their testimony. In particular, the astonishing machinations of August Rohling (1839-1931), a Roman Catholic theologian and professor at the University of Prague, are reviewed. Rohling claimed he could prove that ritual murder by Jews was part of their secretly held doctrine. The purported aspect of secrecy was intended to explain why there were no overt textual references to the practice. Rohling volunteered to swear to all this under oath at the trial. Fortunately, Rohling's absurd and unsubstantiated contentions didnotgo unchallenged. Hermann L. Strack (18481922 ), a distinguished Protestant theologian at Berlin University , refuted Rohling and even devoted a chapter of his important book The Jew and Human Sacrifice {Human Blood and Jewish Ritual], to "the Austrian Professor and Canon Aug. Rohling." In the fourth edition of his book (1892), Strack wrote: "I publicly accuse herewith the Imperial Royal Austrian Professor and Canon August Rohling of Perjury and Gross Forgeries." Rohling never responded. Jewish scholars also leaped into the fray to attack Rohling 's blatantly anti-Semitic "evidence," most of which was plagiarized from Johann Andreas Eisenmenger (16541704 ), a professor of Oriental languages at Heidelberg who wrote a vicious tract, Entdecktes Judenthum {Judaism Discovered ], in 1700. One of the most notable was Josef Samuel Bloch (1850-1923), who painstakingly disputed Rohling 's statements one by one. Bloch accused Rohling of fabricating data and cast serious doubts as to Rohling's self-proclaimed competence in Hebrew. Rohling, stung by Bloch's allegations, brought suit against Bloch for libel. However, at the verylast minute, Rohling withdrewhislibel accusation thereby tacitly admitting the truth of Bloch's charges. For Bloch's own account of the struggle, see his Israel and the Nations (Berlin-Vienna, 1927) and especially his book My Reminiscences (Vienna and Berlin, 1923; rpt., AIno, 1973). For Strack's discussion, see The Jew and Human Sacrifice (New York: Bloch Publishing, 1909), pp. 155-67. It is interesting that although Strack's clear purpose in this 136 The Hilsner Affair classic book was to call into question the alleged historicity of the blood libel legend, a reviewer in the prestigious Zeitschrift fiir Volkskunde, Germany's leading folklore journal , began his review: "The fact that annually around Easter time Jews are reproached for seeking Christian blood for their ritual purposes . .. ," andlater stated baldly, "We have no fondness for Jews especially for those profit-seeking and arrogant ones who . .. dance around the golden calf," a gratuitous anti-Semitic remark which led folklorist Friedrich S. Krauss in Vienna to write a letter of protest to the editor of the journal (see Zeitschrift fiir Volkskunde 5 [1895J:22325 , 353). For a more objective scholarly...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780299131135
Related ISBN
9780299131142
MARC Record
OCLC
835455593
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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