Bernard Lazare.

Antisemitism, its history and causes online

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rels which divided the Arab tribes, they at the same time



82

founded schools at Yathrib, built temples and propagated
their religion as far as the Himyarites with whom their
traders were in regular intercourse. In the sixth cen-
tury, under the reign of Zorah-Dhu-Nowas, all Yemen
was Jewish. With the conversion of one Arab tribe of
Nedjran to Christianity, difficulties began; they were,
however, of short duration, for Christian propaganda
was cut short in Arabia by Mohammed. Mohammed
was nursed by the Jewish spirit; fleeing from Mecca,
where his preaching had aroused against him the Arabs
who were true to old traditions, he sought refuge at
Medina, the Jewish city, and as the apostles found their
first adherents among the Hellenic proselytes, so he
found his first disciples among the Judaizing Arabs.
Likewise, the same religious causes embittered Moham-
med and Paul to hatred. The Jews rebelled against the
preaching of the prophet, they heaped ridicule upon him,
and Mohammed who had until then been inclined to
compromise with them, violently repudiated them and
wrote the celebrated Sura of the Cow, in which he un-
mercifully inveigled against them. When the prophet
had assembled an army of followers he no longer con-
fined himself to abuse, he marched against the Jewish
tribes, vanquished them, and decreed that "neither Jews
nor Christians" should be accepted as friends. The
Jews rose and allied themselves to those Arabs who
rejected the new doctrines, but the extension of Moham-
medanism triumphed over them. By the time of Mo-
hammed's death they had been reduced to extreme weak-
ness ; Omar completed the work. He drove out of Chal-
bar and Wadil Kora the last Jewish tribes, as well as



83

the Christians of Dedjran, for Christians and Jews alike
polluted the sacred soil of Islam.

Wherever Omar carried his arms, the Jews, oppressed
by reason of that very affinity which united them with
the Arabs, favored the second calif, who took possession
of Persia and Palestine. Omar enacted severe laws
against the Jews, who had assisted his antagonist; he
subjected them to restrictive legislation, prohibited the
erection of new synagogues, forced them to wear dress
of a particular color, enjoined them from riding on
horseback, and imposed upon them a personal and a
land tax. Christians were treated likewise. Nevertheless
the Jews enjoyed greater liberty under Arab rule than
under Christian domination. On the one hand, the leg-
islation of Omar was not rigorously enforced; on the
other hand, aside from a few manifestations of fanatic-
ism, the Mussulmanic mass, in spite of religious differ-
ences, showed a friendly disposition towards them. And
later, with the expansion of Islam, the Arabs were hailed
as liberators by all the Western Jews.

The condition of the Western Jews since the destruc-
tion of the fragile Koman empire and the rush of bar-
barians upon the old world, was subject to all the vicis-
situdes of the times. The Csesars, those poor Cassars
who bore the names of Olybrius, Glycerins, Julius Nepos,
and Komulus Augustulus, fell, but the Roman laws re-
mained ; and if for short periods they were not enforced
against the Jews, they still remained in effect, and the
German sovereigns could make use of them at pleasure.

From the fifth to the eighth century the fortunes of the
Jews wholly depended upon religious causes which were



- 84:

external to them, and their history among those who
were called barbarians is bound with the history of
Arianism, its triumph and defeats. So long as the Arian
doctrine predominated, the Jews lived in a state of
relative welfare, for the clergy and even the heretical
government were busy fighting against orthodoxy and
little worried about the Israelites, who, to them, were
not the enemies to be crushed. Theodoric, however, was
an exception. No sooner was the Ostrogoth empire estab-
lished than the king prohibited the erection of syna-
gogues and endeavored to convert the Jews. 1 He pro-
tected them, however, against popular outbreaks, and
compelled the Eoman Senate to rebuild the synagogues
which had been set on fire by the Catholic mobs which
rose against the Arian Theodoric.

Still in Italy, under the Byzantine dominion so har-
assing to them, or under the more indifferent Lombard
rule, for the Arian and the pagan Lombards scarcely
took notice of the existence of Israel, the Jews were
guarded against the zeal of the lower clergy and
their flocks by the benevolence of the pontificial author-
ity, which, from the earliest days of its power, seems to
have desired, with rare exceptions, to preserve the syna-
gogue as a living testimony of its victory.

In Spain the condition of the Jews was quite different.
From time immemorial they freely settled in the
peninsula; their numbers increased under Vespasian,
Titus and Hadrian, during the Judean wars and after

1 His course was probably influenced by his Minister Cassio-
dorus, who seems to have had scant sympathy for the Jews ho
characterized them as scorpions, wild asses, dogs and unicorns.



85

the dispersion; they owned large fortunes, they were
wealthy, powerful and respectable and exerted a great
influence upon the population among whom they lived.
The imprint received by the peoples of Spain from
Judaism, endured for centuries, and that land was the
last to witness once more the contest, with almost equal
weapons, between the Jewish and the Christian spirit.
More than once Spain came very near becoming Jew-
ish, and to write the history of that country until the
fifteenth century means to write the history of the
Jews, for they were intimately connected in a most re-
markable way, with its literature and intellectual, na-
tional, moral and economic development. The church,
from its very establishment in Spain, contended against
Jewish tendencies and proselytism, and it was only after
a struggle of twelve centuries that it succeeded in com-
pletely extirpating them.

Until the sixth century the Spanish Jews lived in
perfect happiness. They were as happy as in Babylonia,
and they found a new mother country in Spain. The
Roman laws did not reach them there and the ecclecias-
tical ordinances of the Council of Elvira, in the fourth
century, which enjoined Christians from intercourse
with them, remained a dead letter.

The Yisigothic conquest did not change their con-
dition and the Arian Visigoths confined themselves to
persecuting the Catholics. The Jews enjoyed the same
civil and political rights as the conquerors; moreover,
the Jews joined their armies and the Pyrenean frontier
was guarded by Jewish troops. With the conversion of
King Eeccared everything changed ; the triumphant



86

clergy heaped persecution and vexation upon the Jews,
and from that hour (589 A. D.) their existence became
precarious. They were gradually brought under severe
and meddlesome laws which were drafted by the numer-
ous councils, held during that period in Spain, and
were enacted by the Visigoth kings. These successive
laws are all combined in the edict promulgated, in 652,
by Eeceswinth ; they were re-enacted and aggravated by
Erwig, who had them approved by the twelfth council
of Toledo (680). 1 The Jews were prohibited from
performing the right of circumcision and observing the
dietary laws, from marrying relatives until the sixth
generation, from reading books condemned by the Chris-
tion religion. They were not allowed to testify against
Christians or to maintain an action in court against
them, or to hold public office. These laws which had
been enacted one by one, were not always enforced by
the Visigoth lords, who were independent, in a way, but
the clergy doubled their efforts to procure their strict
enforcement. The object of the bishops and the dig-
nitaries of the church was to bring about the conversion
of the Jews and to kill the spirit of Judaism in Spain
and the secular authority lent them its support. From
time to time the Jews were put to the choice between
banishment and baptism; from that epoch dates the
origin of the class of Marranos, those Judaizing Chris-
tians who were later dispersed by the Inquisition. Un-
til the eighth century the Spanish Jews lived in that
state of uncertainty and distress, relying only upon the
transitory good will of some kings like Swintila and
1 Leges Visigoth, L. XII, tit. 11, 5.



87

Wamba. They \vere liberated only by Tarin, the Mo-
hammadean conqueror, who destroyed the Visigothie
empire with the aid of the exiled Jews joining his army
and with the support of the Jews remaining in Spain.
After the battle of Xeres and the defeat of Eoderick
(711), the Jews breathed again.

About the same epoch a better era dawned for them
in France. They had established colonies in Gaul
in the days of the Eoman republic, or of Caesar, and
they prospered, benefiting by their privileges of Eoman
citizenship. The arrival of the Burgundians and Franks
did not change their condition, and the invaders accord-
ed them the same treatment as the Gauls. Their history
was subject to the same fluctuations and rythms as in
Italy and Spain. Free under pagan or Arian dominion,
they were persecuted as soon as orthodoxy became domi-
nant. Sigismund, king of the Burgundians, after his con-
version to Catholicism enacted laws against them which
were confirmed by his successors. 1 The Franks, being
ignorant of the very existence of the Jews, were wholly
guided by the bishops, and after Clovis they naturally
began to apply to the Jews the provisions of the Theo-
dosian Code. These provisions were aggravated and
complicated by ecclesiastical authority which left to the
secular power the duty of enforcing and compelling the
observance of its decrees. From the fifth to the eighth
century that part of the canon law relating to the Jews
was worked out in Gaul. The laws were formulated by
the councils and approved by the edicts of the Merovin-
gian kings.

1 Lea? Burgundionum, tit. XV, 1, 2, 3.



88

The chief concern of the church, during those three
centuries, seems to have been to separate the Jews
from the Christians, to prevent Judaizing among the
faithful and to check Israelite proselytism. This leg-
islation which had, towards the eighth century, be-
come extremely severe in dealing with the Jews and the
Judaizing, was not enacted at one stroke ; beginning with
the council of Vannes, of the year 465, the synods
first confined themselves to platonic injunctions. The
clergy at that epoch had but very scant authority and
could inflict no penalties; it was not before the sixth
century that the support of the Frank chiefs enabled
it to enact penal legislation, which originally applied
only to clerical offenders against the decisions of the
councils, but later was extended to laymen. These can-
onical penalties, however, comprising excommunication
and, for priests, eventually corporal punishment, con-
templated only the faithful; as to the Jews, the synods
took no punitive measures against them, which has en-
abled many writers to claim with apparent justification
that the church maintained a benevolent attitude toward
the Jews. 1

This is not so, however. It must not be forgotten that
the church had no right to legislate in civil matters;
yet the synodical regulations, the ecclesiastical interdic-
tions and prohibitions and the arguments by which they
were supported, exerted an enormous influence upon the

1 Tht Councils confine themselves to ordering the baptism of
the issue of mixed marriages as well as the dissolution of the
marriage in case the Jewish consort is not converted. Besides,
they decree that any Jew attempting to convert his slaves shall
forfeit them to the fisc.



89

political authorities ; furthermore, the episcopate exerted
a personal and manifest influence over the Merovingian
or Yisigothic kings, and it can be shown that Childebert
or Clotaire II., e. g., or Receswinth, in giving their sanc-
tion to ecclesiastical decrees and in promulgating their
own edicts, acted at the instigation of the bishops.

Still the clergy did not confine themselves to influ-
encing legislation; it was ever at work inciting against
the Jews the populace whose orthodoxy was not suffi-
ciently intolerant. It was under the leadership of these
priests that the mob attacked the synagogues and put the
Jews to the alternative of being massacred, banished
or baptized.

Nevertheless, one must not imagine the condition of
the Jews at that epoch as very miserable. On the Jew-
ish, as well as on the Christian side, one notices a mix-
ture of tolerance and intolerance which is accounted for
either by a mutual desire to make converts, or even to
some extent by reciprocal religious good-will. The Jews
took an interest in public life, the Christians ate at their
tables; they shared in their joys and sorrows, as well
as in factional fights. Thus they are seen, at Aries, 'to
unite with the Yisigothic party against the bishop
Caesarius, 1 and later to follow the funeral of the same
bishop, crying: Vae! vac! They were the clients of
great seignors (as witnessed by two letters of Sidonius
Apollinaris), 2 and the latter helped them to evade the
vexatious ordinances. In many regions the clergy visited
them, a great many Christians went to the synagogues,

1 Vie de Saint Cesaire, Migne. Patrologie latine, t. LXVII.
1 Sidonius Apollinaris, 1. Ill, ep. IV, and 1. V. ep. V.



90

and the Jews likewise attended Catholic services during
the mass of the catechumens. They resisted, as far as
possible, the numerous efforts to convert them, at times
attended with violence, notwithstanding the recom-
mendations of certain Popes; 1 and they boldly engaged
in controversies with theologians who endeavored to per-
suade them by the same means as the Fathers of former
ages. We shall return to these controversies and writ-
ings when we shall come to study the anti- Jewish lit-
erature.

Thus, as shown above, during the first seven centuries
of the Christian era, anti-Judaism proceeded exclusively
from religious causes and was led only by the clergy.
One must not be misled by popular excesses and legisla-
lative repression, for they were never spontaneous, but
always inspired by bishops, priests, or monks. It was
only since the eighth century that social causes super-

1 Fredegaire (Chronique, XV), and Aumoin (Chroniquc
Moissiacensis, XLV) relate that, at the instigation of Emperor
Heraclius, Dagobert gave to the Jews the choice between death,
exile and baptism. (Oesta Dagoberti, XXIV). The same is re-
ported of the Visigothic King Sisebut (see appendix to the
Chronicle of Bishop Marius, A. D. 588 ; Dom Bouquet, t. II,
p. 19). Chilperich forced many Jews to be baptized. (Greg-
oire de Tours, H. F., 1. VI, ch. XVII). Bishop Avitus com-
pelied the Jews of Clermont to renounce their faith, or leave
the city. Gregoire de Tours, H. F., 1. V, ch. XI). Other
bishops resorted to force, and it required the interference of
Pope St. Gregory to stop or at least moderate their zeal. "The
Jews must not be baptized by force, but brought over by sweet-
ness," says he in his letters addressed to Virgil bishop of
Aries, to Theodore, bishop of Marseilles, and to Paschasius,
bishop of Naples. (Regesta Pontificum Romanorum, ed.
Jafle, nos. 1115 and 1879). But the authority of the Pope
was not always effective.



91

vened to religious causes, and it was only after the
eighth century that real persecution commenced. It
coincided with the universal spread of Catholicism, with
the development of feudalism and also with the intel-
lectual and moral change of the Jews, which was mostly
due to the influence of the Talmudists and the exagger-
ated growth of exclusiveness among the Jews. We shall
now proceed to examine this new transformation of anti-
Judaism.



CHAPTER V.

ANTI-JUDAISM FROM THE EIGHTH CENTURY TO THE
REFORMATION.

Expansion and Christianity. Diffusion of the Jews
Among the Nations. Constitution of the Nation-
alities. The Eole of the Jews in Society. The
Jews and Commerce. Gold and the Jews. The
Love of Gold and Business Acquired by the Jews.
The Jew as Colonist and Emigrant. The Church
and Usury. The Birth of Patronage and Wage-
System. Transformation of Property. The Eco-
nomic Revolution and the Quest of Gold. The In-
stinct of Domination. Gold and Jewish Exclu-
sivism. Maimonides and Observation. Solomon
of Montpellier. Ben-Adret, Asher ben Yechiel, and
Jacob Tibbon. The Moreli NebukJiim. Intellec-
tual and Moral Abasement of the Jews. The Tal-
mud. Influence of this Abasement on the Social



92

Position of the Jews. Transformation of Anti-
Judaism. Social Causes; Eeligious Causes; Their
Combination. The People and the Jews. The
Pastoureaux, the Jacques and the Arrnleders. The
Kings and the Jews. The Monks and Anti-Juda-
ism. Pierre de Cluny, John of Capistrano, and
Bernardinus of .Feltre. The Church and Theo-
logical Anti-Judaism. Christianity and Moham-
medanism. The Albigenses, the Heretics of Or-
leans, the Pasagians. Heresies and Judaization.
The Hussites. The Inquisition. The Bourgeoi-
sie and the Jews. Ecclesiastic and Civil Legisla-
tion Against the Jews. Controversies and Con-
demnation of the Talmud. Vexations. Expul-
sions. Massacres. The Condition of the Jews and
of the People. The Eelativity of the Jewish Suf-
ferings. The Reformation and the Eenaissance.

The church reaches its final constitution in the eighth
century. The period of great doctrinal crises is at an
end, dogma is settled and heresies will not cause it any
trouble until the Reformation. Pontifical primacy
strikes deep root, the organization of the clergy is hence-
forth solid, religion and liturgy are unified, discipline
and canonic law are settled, ecclesiastic property in-
creases, the tithe is established, the federal constitution
of the Church sub-divided into sufficiently autonomous
circuits disappears, the movement of centralization for
the benefit of Rome is clearly outlined. This movement
came to an end, when the Carolingians had established
the temporal power of the popes, and the Latin church,



93

strongly hierarchical before, became as centralized, in a
comparatively short time, as the Eoman empire of yore,
which the church's universal authority had thus sup-
planted. Simultaneously Christianity spread further
still and conquered the barbarians. The Anglo-Saxon
missionaries had set the examples in Saint Boniface and
Saint Willibrod; they had followers. The gospel was
preached to the Alamans, the Frisians, the Saxons, the
Scandinavians, the Bohemians and the Hungarians, the
Eussians and the Wends, the Pomeranians and the Prus-
sians, the Lithuanians and the Finns. The work was ac-
complished at the end of the thirteenth century: Eu-
rope was christianized.

The Jews settled in the wake of Christianity as it
kept spreading by degrees. In the ninth century, they
came from France to Germany, got thence into Bohemia,
into Hungary and into Poland, where they met another
wave of Jews those coming by way of the Caucasus
and converting on their march several Tartar tribes.
In the twelfth century they settled in England and Bel-
gium, and everywhere they built their synagogues, they
organized their communities at that decisive hour,
when the nations were coming out from chaos, when
states were being formed and consolidated. They re-
mained outside of these great agitations, amid which
conquering and conquered races were amalgamating and
uniting one with the other; and in the midst of these
tumultuous combinations they remained spectators,
strangers and hostile to these fusions : an eternal people
witnessing the rise of new nations. However, their role
was surely of account at all times ; they were one of the



94



active elements of ferment of these societies in the
process of formation.

In some countries, as, e. g., in Spain, their history is
in so high a degree interlinked with that of the penin-
sula, that, without them it is impossible to grasp and
appreciate the development of the Spanish people. But
if they had influenced its constitution by the numbers
of their converts in that country, by the support they
had given in succession to the various masters in posses-
sion of its soil, they did so by seeking to bring to them-
selves those among whom they lived and not by letting
themselves be absorbed. Still, the history of the Span-
ish Marranos is exceptional. Everywhere, though, as
we shall see, the Jews played a part of economic agents ;
they did not create a social state, but they assisted after
a fashion in establishing it, and yet they could not be
treated with favor among the organizations to whose
formation they had lent aid. For this there was a seri-
our obstacle. All the states of the Middle Ages were
moulded by the church; in their essence, in their very
being, they were permeated with the ideas and doc-
trines of Catholicism; the Christian religion gave the
unity they lacked to the numerous tribes which had
gathered together into nations. As representatives of
contrary dogmas, the Jews could not but oppose the gen-
eral movement, both by their proselytism, and by their
very presence as well. As the church led this
movement it was from the church that anti-Judaism,
theoretical and legislative, proceeded, anti-Judaism
which the governments and the peoples shared and which
other causes came to aggravate. The social and religious



95

state of affairs and the Jews themselves gave origin to
these causes. But they had remained ever subordinated
to those essential reasons which may be traced to the
opposition, then secular already, between the Christian
spirit and the Jewish spirit, between the universal, and
so to say, international Catholic religion, and the partic-
ularist and narrow Jewish faith. At bottom, and we keep
in mind the changes which had taken place, the situa-
tion was the same as in Pagan antiquity. By the very
fact of denying the divinity of Christ, the Jews placed
themselves as enemies of the social order, since this
social order was based on Christianity, just as formerly
in Rome, they had been, together with the Christians
themselves, enemies of another social order. In the
midst of the downfall of the ancient world, amid the
radical transformations which had taken place this
ubiquitous people of the Jews had not changed. It pre-
tended to preserve as ever before, its manners, its cus-
toms, its habits and at the same time to participate in all
the advantages which states granted to their members or
their subjects. For all these states, very heterogeneous
at first, were becoming homogeneous ; they were advanc-
ing to an ever-increasing unity ; from the middle ages on
they were aspiring to that unity at which they arrived
later. Accordingly they were led to combat the foreign
elements, foreign nationally and dogmatically, whether
these elements came from without, as, e. g., the Arab? ;
or they existed within, as the Jews. At this point of his-
tory, the national struggle and the confessional struggle
intermingle. With the persistent barbarism of the feu-
dal system the struggle was naturally fierce, the more so



96



that it was instinctive rather than rational, especially
so on the part of the people, for the church or the popes
and the synods at least proceeded upon reasoning. With
these general principles given we shall, see how they
acted upon and in what manner they influenced the
special and particular manifestations of anti- Judaism.
To this end we must say a word about the commercial
and financial role of the Jews, of their activity and their
spirit.

Only towards the end of the eighth century the ac-
tivity of the Western Jews developed. Protected in
Spain by the Khalifs, given support by Charlemagne
who let the Merovingian laws fall into disuse, they ex-
tended their commerce which until then centered chiefly
in the sale of slaves. For this they were, indeed, par-
ticularly favored by circumstances. Their communities
were in constant communication, they were united by
the religious bond which tied them all to the theological
centre of Babylonia whose dependencies they considered
themselves up to the decline of the exilarchate. Thus
they acquired very great facilities for exporting com-
merce, in which they amassed considerable fortunes, if
we are to believe the diatribes of Dagobard, 1 and later
those of Rigord, 2 which, with all their exaggeration of
the property of the Jews must not, yet, be entirely re-
jected as unworthy of credence. 3 Indeed, with regard to
this wealth of the Jews, especially in France and Spain,



Online LibraryBernard LazareAntisemitism, its history and causes → online text (page 6 of 26)