The Unfortunate Scapegoats of the Black Death Were Mainly Heretics, Jews and Witches
The Unfortunate Scapegoats of the Black Death Were Mainly Heretics, Jews and Witches

The Unfortunate Scapegoats of the Black Death Were Mainly Heretics, Jews and Witches

Shaina Lucas - November 4, 2018

The Unfortunate Scapegoats of the Black Death Were Mainly Heretics, Jews and Witches
A medieval depiction of Jewish moneylenders, Wikimedia Commons.

The Jewish Were Blamed For The Black Death

By fall 1348 a rumor passed around Europe that members of the Jewish faith had an international conspiracy to poison Christians.  Amadeus VI, Count of Savoy, ordered a number of Jews to be arrested and tortured to confess to anything their inquisitors suggested. These Jews living on Lake Geneva incriminated other Jews in order to end their torture. These accounts and records of confessions were sent to numerous towns in Switzerland and down the Rhine River into Germany. As a result of these circulating documents, thousands of Jews in at least two hundred towns and hamlets were butchered and burnt to death. After these accounts had happened Christian hatred of Jews declined and did not play an important German life role until the 17th century.

During the time of the Black Death, it was believed that Jews had created the plague. The Jews had poisoned the water supply in order to “punish” Christians. Around this time the major religious change from various religions (such as paganism) to Christianity was taking place. The Jews were the perfect scapegoat during this time because of the Christians hatred toward members of the Jewish faith. People of the Jewish religion were wealthier than most Christians. Jews were the Christians economic competitors, and many were indebted to the Jews with loans. It was not only the fear of the plague and religious bigotry but also economic resentment that fueled the hate the Christians harbored against the Jews. This fueled the Christians extermination of the Jews as well as the plague wiping them out. But obviously, Jews were also dying from the pestilence, proving it was not the Jews causing the plague. The primary account of Agimet of Geneva, Châtel on October 20th, 1348 shows a look at the idea of Jews poisoning the wells.

“Agimet took this package full of poison and carried it with him to Venice, and when he came there he threw and scattered a portion of it into the well or cistern of fresh water which was there near the German House, in order to poison the people who use the water of that cistern. And he says that this is the only cistern of sweet water in the city. He also says that the mentioned Rabbi Peyret promised to give him whatever he wanted for his troubles in this business. Of his own accord, Agimet confessed further that after this had been done he left at once in order that he should not be captured by the citizens or others, and that he went personally to Calabria and Apulia and threw the above-mentioned poison into many wells. He confesses also that he put some of this same poison in the well of the streets of the city of Ballet.”

The Unfortunate Scapegoats of the Black Death Were Mainly Heretics, Jews and Witches

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