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Judaica
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sociology

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

 
 
Author
Edmund Levin.
Publisher Schocken  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.25 inches
ISBN 9780805242997
Pages/Publication Date 377/2014
Daedalus Item Code 61551
List Price: $29.95
Sale Price: $6.98
You Save: $22.97
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On March 20, 1911, in a cave near Kiev, the body of 13-year-old Andrei Yushchinsky was found with dozens of stab wounds. Russian police arrested Mendel Beilis, a brick factory clerk and father of five, and charged him with Andrei's murder in a blood libel, a Jewish ritual killing 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 career criminal who was herself under suspicion for the murder, as Edmund Levin explains in his gripping account, Beilis was imprisoned for more than two years before being brought to trial. As a handful of officials and journalists diligently searched for the real killer, anti-Semite groups whipped Russian citizens into a frenzy, assuring them that this was only the latest example of centuries of Jewish ritual murder. Tsar Nicholas II's prosecution called an array of "expert witnesses"—pathologists, a theologian, a psychological profiler—whose laughably incompetent testimony horrified educated Russians, and brought to Beilis's side an array of international supporters including Thomas Mann, H.G. Wells, Anatole France, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Addams, and the archbishop of Canterbury. Levin shows how the schism was resolved by a split decision—the jury decided that the murder was indeed a ritual killing, but Beilis himself was innocent—and notes that even today, Andrei's grave is a pilgrimage site for those who refuse to believe the blood libel is a myth.

"Thorough, lucid, and on all counts admirable ... researched almost entirely from primary sources by Levin.... This may well be the definitive book on its subject, and it is to be hoped that it finds a wide readership."—Washington Post

"In 1911 in Kiev, Russia, Jewish factory worker Mendel Beilis was arrested for ... 'ritual murder to obtain Christian blood' ... after the body of a young boy was found in a cave near the brick factory where he worked. Despite evidence to the contrary, the trial began in 1913. The prosecutors came to care little about whether Beilis was guilty or innocent. What they wanted to prove was the notion that the Jewish people had used Christian blood in their rituals. The world watched, and such luminaries as Jane Addams and Booker T. Washington rallied against the injustice. Levin has used archival materials, including the original case files, made available after the fall of the Soviet Union. His detailed description of the trial and the events leading up to it will likely leave contemporary readers as stunned and horrified as many observers at the time were. This is a fascinating and disturbing depiction of the blood libel and 'a cautionary reminder of the power and persistence of a murderous lie,' one that, Levin notes, persists even in the 21st century."—Booklist

 
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