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A Child of Christian Blood: Murder and Conspiracy in Tsarist Russia: The Beilis Blood Libel

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A Jewish factory worker is falsely accused of ritually murdering a Christian boy in Russia in 1911, and his trial becomes an international cause célèbre.   On March 20, 1911, thirteen-year-old Andrei Yushchinsky was found stabbed to death in a cave on the outskirts of Kiev. Four months later, Russian police arrested Mendel Beilis, a thirty-seven-year-old father of five who w A Jewish factory worker is falsely accused of ritually murdering a Christian boy in Russia in 1911, and his trial becomes an international cause célèbre.   On March 20, 1911, thirteen-year-old Andrei Yushchinsky was found stabbed to death in a cave on the outskirts of Kiev. Four months later, Russian police arrested Mendel Beilis, a thirty-seven-year-old father of five who worked as a clerk in a brick factory nearby, and charged him not only with Andrei’s murder but also with the Jewish ritual murder of a Christian child. Despite the fact that there was no evidence linking him to the crime, that he had a solid alibi, and that his main accuser was a professional criminal who was herself under suspicion for the murder, Beilis was imprisoned for more than two years before being brought to trial. As a handful of Russian officials and journalists diligently searched for the real killer, the rabid anti-Semites known as the Black Hundreds whipped into a frenzy men and women throughout the Russian Empire who firmly believed that this was only the latest example of centuries of Jewish ritual murder of Christian children—the age-old blood libel.   With the full backing of Tsar Nicholas II’s teetering government, the prosecution called an array of “expert witnesses”—pathologists, a theologian, a psychological profiler—whose laughably incompetent testimony horrified liberal Russians and brought to Beilis’s side an array of international supporters who included Thomas Mann, H. G. Wells, Anatole France, Arthur Conan Doyle, the archbishop of Canterbury, and Jane Addams. The jury’s split verdict allowed both sides to claim victory: they agreed with the prosecution’s description of the wounds on the boy’s body—a description that was worded to imply a ritual murder—but they determined that Beilis was not the murderer. After the fall of the Romanovs in 1917, a renewed effort to find Andrei’s killer was not successful; in recent years his grave has become a pilgrimage site for those convinced that the boy was murdered by a Jew so that his blood could be used in making Passover matzo. Visitors today will find it covered with flowers. (With 24 pages of black-and-white illustrations.)


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A Jewish factory worker is falsely accused of ritually murdering a Christian boy in Russia in 1911, and his trial becomes an international cause célèbre.   On March 20, 1911, thirteen-year-old Andrei Yushchinsky was found stabbed to death in a cave on the outskirts of Kiev. Four months later, Russian police arrested Mendel Beilis, a thirty-seven-year-old father of five who w A Jewish factory worker is falsely accused of ritually murdering a Christian boy in Russia in 1911, and his trial becomes an international cause célèbre.   On March 20, 1911, thirteen-year-old Andrei Yushchinsky was found stabbed to death in a cave on the outskirts of Kiev. Four months later, Russian police arrested Mendel Beilis, a thirty-seven-year-old father of five who worked as a clerk in a brick factory nearby, and charged him not only with Andrei’s murder but also with the Jewish ritual murder of a Christian child. Despite the fact that there was no evidence linking him to the crime, that he had a solid alibi, and that his main accuser was a professional criminal who was herself under suspicion for the murder, Beilis was imprisoned for more than two years before being brought to trial. As a handful of Russian officials and journalists diligently searched for the real killer, the rabid anti-Semites known as the Black Hundreds whipped into a frenzy men and women throughout the Russian Empire who firmly believed that this was only the latest example of centuries of Jewish ritual murder of Christian children—the age-old blood libel.   With the full backing of Tsar Nicholas II’s teetering government, the prosecution called an array of “expert witnesses”—pathologists, a theologian, a psychological profiler—whose laughably incompetent testimony horrified liberal Russians and brought to Beilis’s side an array of international supporters who included Thomas Mann, H. G. Wells, Anatole France, Arthur Conan Doyle, the archbishop of Canterbury, and Jane Addams. The jury’s split verdict allowed both sides to claim victory: they agreed with the prosecution’s description of the wounds on the boy’s body—a description that was worded to imply a ritual murder—but they determined that Beilis was not the murderer. After the fall of the Romanovs in 1917, a renewed effort to find Andrei’s killer was not successful; in recent years his grave has become a pilgrimage site for those convinced that the boy was murdered by a Jew so that his blood could be used in making Passover matzo. Visitors today will find it covered with flowers. (With 24 pages of black-and-white illustrations.)

30 review for A Child of Christian Blood: Murder and Conspiracy in Tsarist Russia: The Beilis Blood Libel

  1. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Berg

    This case deserves to be more broadly known and studied. While it is regretful it took so long for someone to record the story as told by the public record, I am grateful to Edmun Levin for doing so. I may have finished the book, but the generous notes detailing his resource ensure I will be reading for quite some time. I am somewhat confused by the review complaining this was a "painfully slow read". In just over three hundred pages we go from a gruesome murder to the collapse of the Russian emp This case deserves to be more broadly known and studied. While it is regretful it took so long for someone to record the story as told by the public record, I am grateful to Edmun Levin for doing so. I may have finished the book, but the generous notes detailing his resource ensure I will be reading for quite some time. I am somewhat confused by the review complaining this was a "painfully slow read". In just over three hundred pages we go from a gruesome murder to the collapse of the Russian empire. There is so much drama and intrigue here, it would be implausible if not for the incontrovertible evidence that it happened. If anything, I am left wanting to know more about the case, though that does not mean the book is in any way incomplete. As a survey of the events of the case, it is a significant success and a solid companion to Beilis' memoir (which I also recommend). I think my main interest now is in developing a clearer picture of the international reaction and response to the trial as it was underway. Levin included a number of references to various newspaper articles, as well as the actions of organizations like the American Jewish Committee; now I want to read those sources - and others - myself.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Shiva Seven

    WOW! fucking kooky and spooky!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    A child is found dead in 1911 in Kiev. Can't find the killer after 6 months, it must be a Jew. A likely Jew is identified and arrested, and sits in jail for two years while the state fabricates a case: makes up facts and bribes others to claim untruths, all the while knowing it never really happened. The whole affair was accomplished because of the rot in the Russian judicial system (hmmmmm.....) The trial has two objectives: to prove the death of the child was a ritual murder, and to find Beil A child is found dead in 1911 in Kiev. Can't find the killer after 6 months, it must be a Jew. A likely Jew is identified and arrested, and sits in jail for two years while the state fabricates a case: makes up facts and bribes others to claim untruths, all the while knowing it never really happened. The whole affair was accomplished because of the rot in the Russian judicial system (hmmmmm.....) The trial has two objectives: to prove the death of the child was a ritual murder, and to find Beilis guilty. Beilus was freed, but the jury still declared it was a ritual murder. After all, the Czar believed it to be so.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

    Fascinating case of a young boy murdered in Russia in the early 1900's. The accused was a Jew. The evidence was flimsy, based on a mythical Jewish need for a blood sacrifice. The government and the Tsar were duplicitous in fabricating this anti-Sematic course of action. I was amazed how long a person could be held in prison before a trial. Tsar Nicholas I've seen in a different light. Levin's research into this case is amazing. The only difficulty was keeping the Russian names in my head as to who Fascinating case of a young boy murdered in Russia in the early 1900's. The accused was a Jew. The evidence was flimsy, based on a mythical Jewish need for a blood sacrifice. The government and the Tsar were duplicitous in fabricating this anti-Sematic course of action. I was amazed how long a person could be held in prison before a trial. Tsar Nicholas I've seen in a different light. Levin's research into this case is amazing. The only difficulty was keeping the Russian names in my head as to who was who. Great book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    This is historical murder mystery at its finest. Levin covered all aspects of the Beilis case with all the technicalities and evidence description, yet it reads like fiction. I really appreciated the discussion about Nicolas II which helped clarified his actions leading to his abdication and death. He was a19th century man trying to turn back the clock. His actions in the Beilis case was evidence of that. I really enjoyed this book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Beth Schiavo

    I Interesting topic and filled with facts, but a painfully slow read. Could have been about 100 pages shorter or tied together more succinctly.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Winfield

  8. 5 out of 5

    Debra Alderman

  9. 4 out of 5

    S.m. Elliott

  10. 4 out of 5

    katie clarke

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bob Braun

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mark Lindahl

  13. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

  14. 4 out of 5

    Hubmasaq anyone

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Pyles

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lucy

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Rose

  18. 5 out of 5

    dgmarcus2009

  19. 5 out of 5

    Harry

  20. 4 out of 5

    Philip Bigler

  21. 5 out of 5

    Shelton

  22. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  23. 5 out of 5

    Geoffrey Rose

  24. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Saunders

  25. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

  27. 4 out of 5

    Carol Staley

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Greenfield

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

  30. 5 out of 5

    Amy

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