Blood Libel in Late Imperial Russia: The Ritual Murder Trial of Mendel Beilis

Blood Libel in Late Imperial Russia: The Ritual Murder Trial of Mendel Beilis

Blood Libel in Late Imperial Russia: The Ritual Murder Trial of Mendel Beilis

Blood Libel in Late Imperial Russia: The Ritual Murder Trial of Mendel Beilis

Synopsis

On Sunday, March 20, 1911, children playing in a cave near Kiev made a gruesome discovery: the blood-soaked body of a partially clad boy. After right-wing groups asserted that the killing was a ritual murder, the police, with no direct evidence, arrested Menachem Mendel Beilis, a 39-year-old Jewish manager at a factory near the site of the crime. Beilis's trial in 1913 quickly became an international cause celebre. The jury ultimately acquitted Beilis but held that the crime had the hallmarks of a ritual murder. Robert Weinberg's account of the Beilis Affair explores the reasons why the tsarist government framed Beilis, shedding light on the excesses of antisemitism in late Imperial Russia. Primary documents culled from the trial transcript, newspaper articles, Beilis's memoirs, and archival sources, many appearing in English for the first time, bring readers face to face with this notorious trial.

Excerpt

On the morning of Sunday, March 20, 1911, a group of children playing in the caves that dotted Kiev’s Lukianovka district, a hilly suburb that overlooked the city, made a gruesome finding: the blood-soaked body of a partially clad boy. Propped up against a cave’s wall in a sitting position, the corpse was riddled with about four dozen stab wounds to the head, neck, and torso, leaving the body drained of most of its blood. The boys’ clothes, both those he was wearing and those found scattered on the ground, were caked with blood.

The police who were summoned to the scene had no difficulty establishing the identity of the victim because his name was written inside the school notebooks lying nearby. Thirteen-year-old Andrei Iushchinskii had been reported missing by his mother Aleksandra Prikhodko earlier in the week. Last seen when he supposedly left for school on the morning of Saturday, March 12, Andrei had skipped class to visit his friend Zhenia Cheberiak, who lived near the caves several kilometers from Andrei’s home in another suburb of Kiev. Joined by several neighborhood children, Andrei and Zhenia had been playing on the premises of a brick factory adjacent to the two-storied house where Zhenia’s family occupied the top floor.

Police investigators initially suspected Andrei’s family of the killing, having learned that his mother and stepfather abused him and that Andrei . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.