Tag Archives: Yersinia pestis

The Black Death and a Jewish Holocaust

Jews are burned alive during the Black Death.
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I have been reading The Scourging Angel by Benedict Gummer, which is an account of the Black Death in Britain. The books is well worth a look if you are interested in this period of history during the Middle Ages. One thing I came across that I didn’t know is what happened to Jewish populations in Europe when the Black Death began to sweep across the Continent.

Medieval Europeans didn’t know why the plague was upon them. Many Churchmen put the blame on man’s sin – it was God’s divine punishment. But lay people however had more down to earth suspicions and decided that there were being maliciously attacked. Rumours spread that wells were being poisoned by enemies. And enemies in Medieval Europe usually meant the Jews, who were seen as outsiders and subject to myths such as the blood libel (the murder of children), the murder of Christ and well poisoning. The stresses of the Black Death turned people’s attentions to people who were seen as outsiders living amongst them and as the plague spread so did the attacks on Jews.

The Church did try to stop this – indeed Jews were protected by Papal order, but these orders were ignored (the Church was not all powerful in the Middle Ages).

In scenes chillingly similar to what would happen under the Nazis whole populations of Jews were slaughtered. For example in Strasbourg the burning of Jews lasted for six days. This was not just people attacking Jews opportunistically where they found them, but an organized slaughter of every Jew that the city authorities could get hold of.

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Medieval Black Death bacteria extinct (phew breathes sigh of relief)

A scanning electron micrograph depicting a mas...
Image via Wikipedia

And you thought it was all over? Well it is now. Seems to be loads of news at the moment about research into the plague/Black Death that caused mortality of up to 50% during the mid-Fourteenth century. It seems to be all unrelated items, but its a bit weird to be seeing so much in the news at the moment. Perhaps time for those time travelers to go back and cure the plague for our 14th century friends?

Here’s some more information from the scientists who recently published a paper on the subject in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science:

The remains of more than 100 plague victims buried between 1348 and 1350 in the East Smithfield burial site showed evidence of a strain of Y. pestis, according to the researchers, led by Hendrik N. Poinar of McMaster University in Canada and Johannes Krause of Tuebingen University in Germany.

“Our data reveal that the Black Death in medieval Europe was caused by a variant of Y. pestis that may no longer exist,” the researchers wrote.

This courtesy of azcentral.com.

No cause to relax though as other variants of plague are alive and kicking, however, we, unlike the 14th century chaps, have antibiotics to fight any further outbreaks.

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