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ERN EST A. RAP PAP 0 R T The Ritual Murder Accusation: The Persistence of Doubt and the Repetition Compulsion Among those few psychoanalysts who have tried to decipher the meaning of the blood libel legend is Ernest A. Rappaport, an alumnus of the University of Vienna Medical School and a survivor of the Buchenwald concentration camp. In his posthumously published book Anti-Judaism: A Psychohistciry (1975), he devotes a chapter to the blood libel legend. A practitioner of psychoanalysis in Chicago, Rappaport, despite a somewhat rambling discursive style of writing, manages to apply several tenets of psychoanalytic theory to the legend. For example, he borrows the Freudian concept of "repetition compulsion," which refers essentially to a neurotic obsessive wish to repeatedly reenact some particular form of behavior. Rappaport tries to see the repeated instances of the ritual murder accusation as a type of repetition compulsion related, he suggests, to the Christians need to reenact the crucifixion of Christ. The reader may judge for himself or herselfhow successful Rappaport's idiosyncratic version of psychoanalytic theory is with respect to illuminating the blood libel legend. For an alternative psychoanalytic reading of the legend, see Stanley Rosenman, "Psychoanalytic Reflections on Anti-Semitism," Journal of Psychology and Judaism 1, no. 2 (1977): 3-23 (see esp. p. 19), and the same author's "Psychoanalytic Knowledge, Jewish Identity and Germanic AntiSemitic Legends," American Journal of Psychoanalysis 42 (1982): 239-48. Reprinted from Ernest A. Rappaport, Anti-Judaism: A Psychohistory (Chicago : Perspective Press, 1975), pp. 94-115. 304 The Ritual Murder Accusation The anxiety-provoking reality from which the doubter tries to escape is the reality of death. He turns the fear of death into a phobia because a phobia leaves open the possibility of doubt whether the inhibitions and restrictions which he has voluntarily imposed upon himself need to be kept. These restrictions are applied to logical thinking which is replaced by miraculous thinking. The original anxiety is so overwhelming that every loosening of the phobic restriction of rationality, every upsurge of doubt in miracles is followed by an immediate increase in anxiety. The next maneuver is the conversion of anxiety itself into a phobia, the Christophobia , which however again is associated with doubt, not in regard to the lurking reality of death, but in the belief in Christ and the crucifixion as the precondition for the resurrection and the promise of survival. But the crucifixion and resurrection took place only once, what if this was the last time and there will be no more of it? Christ died so that those who believe in him should live, but if He is not dying any more how could His believers go on living? The anxiety grows into a panic, especially since it now also leads into doubting the career of Christ, a doubting which is blasphemy for which the penalty would be death and damnation to hell. But here, just in time, comes the redemption . It was the Jews who crucified Christ because they did not accept him. They still refuse to accept Him, thus they are compelled to repeat crucifying Him. Of all the bizarre charges against the Jewish people the one that has enjoyed the hardiest tenacity and the utmost notoriety , and has produced the direst consequences, is the so-called ritual murder accusation.' Medieval Christians (and some modern ones, too) believed that Christian children were seized and tortured to death by the Jews during the Passover season. This myth appears in a complete form for the first time in The Life and Miracles of St. William of Norwich, a Latin work written about 1173 by Thomas of Monmouth, a contemporary of the events which 305 Ernest A. Rappaport he relates. The story of the ritual murder of the boy William in 1144 is virtually the first of a long series of such accusations, a series that has not yet come to an end.' At the beginning of Lent in 1144, William, a twelve-yearold boy who had been boarded out to a master furrier at the early age of eight and supposedly was known to the Jewish fur traders as a skillful apprentice, had disappeared in Norwich , England. A monk by the name of Theobald, who was a Jewish convert and probably as a child had been abducted by Christians, baptized, and put into a monastery, swore that the Jews of Norwich had seduced the Christian boy William into the home of one of their elders and had killed him in...


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