Hillel Kieval, "The Strange Career of the 'Ritual Murder' Trial in Modern Europe"

The Tiszaeszlár affair of 1882–83 (Austria-Hungary) was the first in a series of sensational trials against Jews prosecuted by modern European states in which an older, mythical trope of religiously inspired crime interacted uncomfortably with competing notions of rationality, scientific procedure, and Jewish citizenship. This, the first of the "modern" ritual murder trials, would be followed by four more, well-publicized cases: Xanten (Germany) in 189192, Polná (Austria-Hungary) in 18991900, Konitz (Germany) in 19001901, and Kiev (Russia)the famous Beilis Affairin 191113. By the end of the first decade of its odd career, nearly all of the structures and motifs of the modern trial were well in place, yet the Hungarian case remains unique in several key respects. This talk explores the tensions that inhered in the modern prosecution of blood libel cases, the factors behind the temporary efflorescence of the phenomenon, and the particular issues that set Tiszaeszlár apart.

Hillel Kieval is the Gloria M. Goldstein Professor of Jewish History and Thought at Washington University in St. Louis.

Date & Time
Monday, February 10, 2014 - 4:00pm

Jackman Humanities Building, Room 100, 170 St. George Street