Persecution of Jews in the First Crusade

Persecution Of Jews In The First Crusade

Persecution of Jews in the First Crusade

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The call for the First Crusade touched off new persecutions of Jews in which peasant crusaders from France and Germany attacked Jewish communities.

Background

The preaching of the First Crusade inspired an outbreak of anti-Semitism. In parts of France and Germany, Jews were perceived as just as much an enemy as Muslims: they were held responsible for the crucifixion, and they were more immediately visible than the distant Muslims. Many people wondered why they should travel thousands of miles to fight non-believers when there were already non-believers closer to home.

It is also likely that the crusaders were motivated by their need for money. The Rhineland communities were relatively wealthy, both due to their isolation, and because they were not restricted as Christians were against moneylending. Many crusaders had to go into debt in order to purchase weaponry and equipment for the expedition; as Western Christianity strictly forbade usury (unlike Orthodox Christianity, which merely regulated it), many crusaders inevitably found themselves indebted to Jewish moneylenders. Having armed themselves by assuming the debt, the crusaders conveniently rationalized the killing of Jews as an extension of their Christian mission.

There had not been so broad a movement against Jews by Christians since the seventh century's mass expulsions and forced conversions. While there had been a...
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