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1348 - 1349 THE BLACK PLAGUE (Europe)

One third of Europe's population died from the Black Death (Bubonic plague). Though many Jews were among the dead, they were accused by local church leaders and tortured to confess that they had poisoned the wells (Chillon) in order to kill Christians. During the next few years - despite the protests of Pope Clement VI - over 60 large and 150 small Jewish communities were destroyed as a direct result of these accusations. These included untold atrocities in cities such as Basel, Cologne, Strasbourg, Worms, Zurich and others. The plague, which originated in China, was spread for the most part by rats which came aboard ships from Asia to European ports. It is estimated that 25 million people perished within three years.


Black Plague massacres began in Barcelona and Cervera.In Saragossa 80% of the Jewish population died of the plague.


Bern, Chillon, Zurich. In the Castle of Chillon on Lake Geneva, Jews under torture admitted to being given poison to place in wells around Venice.

1348 September 26, POPE CLEMENT VI

Issued a Bull contradicting the libel against the Jews. In it he stated that the Jews were suffering just like the rest of Europe. Other rulers issued similar denunciations, but to little effect.

1348 November 22, RIOTS REACHED BAVARIA AND SWABIA (Germany)

Jews in eighty towns including Augsberg, Munich and Wurzburg were attacked.

1349 January, - August, ATROCITIES (Germany)

Spread from city to city up the Rhine; cities included Strasbourg, Worms and Cologne.

1349 January 16, BASEL (Switzerland)

The guilds brought up charges against the Jews accusing them of poisoning the wells. Despite an attempted defense by the town council, 600 Jews together with the rabbi were burned to death. One hundred and forty children were taken from their parents and forcible baptized. The victims were left unburied, the cemetery destroyed and the synagogue turned into a church. The remaining Jews were expelled and not readmitted until 1869.

1349 January 22, SPEYER (Germany)

The Jewish community was destroyed. The Jewish inhabitants were either killed, converted or fled to Heidelberg. All their property - including the Jewish cemetery - was confiscated.

1349 February 14, ST. VALENTINES DAY (Strasbourg)

Earlier that month, a riot ensued in the town after corn prices fell. The Jews were accused of a conspiracy. The mayor and some members of the city council had voted against the action and were removed from office by the tradesmen. The entire Jewish population (2000) was dragged to the cemetery and burned to death. Only those who accepted Christianity were allowed to live. The new council voted that Jews could not return for 100 years and their property and possessions were divided amongst the burghers. Within six months Emperor Charles IV pardoned the town council for the murders. Twenty years later, Jews were re-admitted.

1349 February 22, ZURICH (Switzerland)

Although the town council initally tried to protect the Jews of the town, they were forced to give in to the mob, resulting in the murder of many of the Jewish inhabitants.

1349 March 1, (10 Adar I 5109) WORMS (GERMANY)

Riots broke out in the town. Many Jews fled to Heidelberg, others in desperation set fire to their homes or were murdered. An estimated 420 people died that day. Their property was seized by the town.

1349 March 21, ERFURT (Germany)

After a mob marched into the Jewish quarter carrying a flag with a cross, the Jews tried to defend themselves. Over a hundred Jews were killed and much of the ghetto burned.

1349 May 28, BRESLAU/ WROCŁAW (Silesia)

Sixty Jews were murdered by a mob, after a fire in the town. The city claimed their property and the synagogues, while the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV (1316-1378), was given the cemetery and all debts owed to the Jews. Less than a year later on Feb.21,1350, the king ordered the murderers to be punished, but left it up to the city council to determine the punishment.

1349 August 23, COLOGNE (Germany)

As the riots began, many of the residents took shelter in the synagogue. When it was attacked as well, the Jews inside set fire to it rather then be taken by the mob outside. Most of those who had not taken refuge in the synagogue were also murdered. Their property was confiscated by the Church, with the municipality and the Count of Juelich each fighting over their share.

1349 August 24, MAYENCE AND BRESLAU (Germany)

After a mob marched into the Jewish quarter of Mayence carrying a flag with a cross, three hundred young Jews tried to defend themselves. Although as many as 200 of the attackers were killed, they soon overcame the defenders. Rather then be converted, the Jews set their houses on fire. 6,000 Jews died and another 4,000 died in Breslau.

1349 September 29, ALBERT II (Austria)

After an attack on the Jews at Krems, he forcibly ended the riots. Austria was thus one of the few places of relative security in Europe.

1350 - 1414 ISAAC DURAN (Profiat Duran) (Spain)

Scholar, astronomer, physician and philosopher. Though forcibly converted to Christianity, he reverted back to Judaism as soon as possible. After one of his friends was also converted and decided to remain Christian, he wrote two brilliant attacks on Christianity: Al Tehi ka-Avotekha (Be Not Like Your Fathers) and Kelimat ha-Goyim (The Confusion Of The Gentiles). The first was such a successful satire, that some Christian scholars actually thought it was pro-Christian and republished it until they realized the true meaning behind it. His Ma'aseh Efod (The Making of the Ephod) discussed both linguistics and the fundamental nature of Jewish music. He also wrote a historical work Zikaron haShemadot. ( A Record of Persecutions) .

C. 1350 ISAAC TYRNAU (late 14th-early 15th century) ( Austria)

In the introduction to his Sefer HaMinhagim ("Book of Customs") he describes the poor condition of Torah study in Hungary. He was the first Rabbi to discuss in detail the idea of Yahrzeit - anniversary of a death.

1350 - 1396 JOHN I (Aragon, Spain)

Son of Peter(Pedro)IV, known before his coronation as the Infante(crown prince) Don Juan. Although prior to his reign (1387-1396) he was in the forefront of anti-Jewish agitation, he adopted a somewhat less belligerent policy as king.

1355 May 7, TOLEDO (Spain)

Henry de Trastamasa, step-brother of Peter the Cruel, invaded Toledo on the pretense of rescuing the Queen Blance from Peter. Twelve hundred Jews were killed. His hatred for his brother, Jews, and his brothers good relationship with Jews, were ostensibly part of his reasons for his attacks against him. Bitter fighting within the Jewish quarter repelled the attack. As a reward for the courage of the Jews and loyalty of his advisor, Samuel ben Meir Halevi (Abulafia), Pedro allowed him to construct a beautiful synagogue (1357) which was later converted into a church under the name of El Tránsito. A few years later despite his service, Abulafia lost favor with the king and he was painfully murdered.(see 1360).


Alienated all rights of Jews. This led to the common practice of expelling the Jews from one district and, due to financial considerations, accepting them in another.

1356 ESTHERKA ( Poland)

Daughter of a Jewish tailor won over Casimir III "The Great" (1310-1370) so completely that many of his pro Jewish enactments are said to be due to her. He installed her in a royal palace near Cracow. She was said to have born him 2 sons and two daughters. The daughters raised as Jews and the sons as Christian. She was killed around 1370 by Casimir's successor, Louis of Hungary during his persecution of the Jews.


Six years after the 1348 riots, community leaders met in order to formulate a united front in representing their case before the King and Pope. Due to the lack of a consensus on the makeup of the council and the fear of the local communities of losing their independence of action none of the resolutions were enacted.rn rnrn rn


The defeat by the English at Poitiers, and the ransom that was needed to be raised, led to a financial crisis. This prompted King John II ( The Good), to readmit the Jews (mostly financiers) back to France, this time for 70 years.

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