October 18


The whole world knows about Emile Zola's open letter in defence of Alfred Dreyfus, or perhaps I should say in opposition to anti-Semitism and injustice, the one that begins with the words "J'Accuse"; it was published on the front page of the newspaper "L'Aurore" on January 13th 1898, and led to Zola's trial, conviction, and flight into exile from France; eventually his assassination (read the detail here). 

On the other hand, very few people seem even to be aware of the letter that Victor Hugo wrote, to a Monsieur Daelli, the Milanese publisher of the Italian translation of "Les Miserables", from Hauteville House, the home on the isle of Guernsey where he lived out the long years of his exile from France (1856 to 1870). That letter is dayed October 18th, 1862:

"You are right, sir, when you tell me that 'Les Miserables' is written for all nations. I do not know whether it will be read by all, but I wrote it for all. It is addressed to England as well as to Spain, to Italy as well as to France, to Germany as well as to Ireland, to Republics which have slaves as well as to Empires which have serfs. Social problems overstep frontiers. The sores of the human race, those great sores which cover the globe, do not halt at the red or blue lines traced upon the map. In every place where man is ignorant and despairing, in every place where woman is sold for bread, wherever the child suffers for lack of the book which should instruct him and of the hearth which should warm him, the book of 'Les Miserables' knocks at the door and says: 'Open to me, I come for you.'

"At the hour of civilization through which we are now passing, and which is still so sombre, the miserable's name is Man; he is agonizing in all climes, and he is groaning in all languages.

"Your Italy is no more exempt from the evil than is our France. Your admirable Italy has all miseries on the face of it. Does not banditism, that raging form of pauperism, inhabit your mountains? Few nations are more deeply eaten by that ulcer of convents which I have endeavored to fathom. In spite of your possessing Rome, Milan, Naples, Palermo, Turin, Florence, Sienna, Pisa, Mantua, Bologna, Ferrara, Genoa, Venice, a heroic history, sublime ruins, magnificent ruins, and superb cities, you are, like ourselves, poor. You are covered with marvels and vermin. Assuredly, the sun of Italy is splendid, but, alas, azure in the sky does not prevent rags on man.

"Like us, you have prejudices, superstitions, tyrannies, fanaticisms, blind laws lending assistance to ignorant customs. You taste nothing of the present nor of the future without a flavor of the past being mingled with it. You have a barbarian, the monk, and a savage, the lazzarone. The social question is the same for you as for us. There are a few less deaths from hunger with you, and a few more from fever; your social hygiene is not much better than ours; shadows, which are Protestant in England, are Catholic in Italy; but, under different names, the vescovo is identical with the bishop, and it always means night, and of pretty nearly the same quality. To explain the Bible badly amounts to the same thing as to understand the Gospel badly.

"Is it necessary to emphasize this? Must this melancholy parallelism be yet more completely verified? Have you not indigent persons? Glance below. Have you not parasites? Glance up. Does not that hideous balance, whose two scales, pauperism and parasitism, so mournfully preserve their mutual equilibrium, oscillate before you as it does before us? Where is your army of schoolmasters, the only army which civilization acknowledges?

"Where are your free and compulsory schools? Does every one know how to read in the land of Dante and of Michael Angelo? Have you made public schools of your barracks? Have you not, like ourselves, an opulent war-budget and a paltry budget of education? Have not you also that passive obedience which is so easily converted into soldierly obedience? Military establishment which pushes the regulations to the extreme of firing upon Garibaldi; that is to say, upon the living honour of Italy?

"Let us subject your social order to examination, let us take it where it stands and as it stands, let us view its flagrant offences, show me the woman and the child. It is by the amount of protection with which these two feeble creatures are surrounded that the degree of civilization is to be measured. Is prostitution less heart-rending in Naples than in Paris? What is the amount of truth that springs from your laws, and what amount of justice springs from your tribunals? Do you chance to be so fortunate as to be ignorant of the meaning of those gloomy words: public prosecution, legal infamy, prison, the scaffold, the executioner, the death penalty? Italians, with you as with us, Beccaria is dead and Farinace is alive. And then, let us scrutinize your state reasons. Have you a government which comprehends the identity of morality and politics? You have reached the point where you grant amnesty to heroes! Something very similar has been done in France. Stay, let us pass miseries in review, let each one contribute his pile, you are as rich as we. Have you not, like ourselves, two condemnations, religious condemnation pronounced by the priest, and social condemnation decreed by the judge? Oh, great nation of Italy, thou resemblest the great nation of France! Alas! our brothers, you are, like ourselves, Miserables.

"From the depths of the gloom wherein you dwell, you do not see much more distinctly than we the radiant and distant portals of Eden. Only, the priests are mistaken. These holy portals are before and not behind us.

"I resume. This book, Les Miserables, is no less your mirror than ours. Certain men, certain castes, rise in revolt against this book, — I understand that. Mirrors, those revealers of the truth, are hated; that does not prevent them from being of use.

"As for myself, I have written for all, with a profound love for my own country, but without being engrossed by France more than by any other nation. In proportion as I advance in life, I grow more simple, and I become more and more patriotic for humanity.

"This is, moreover, the tendency of our age, and the law of radiance of the French Revolution; books must cease to be exclusively French, Italian, German, Spanish, or English, and become European, I say more human, if they are to correspond to the enlargement of civilization.

"Hence a new logic of art, and of certain requirements of composition which modify everything, even the conditions, formerly narrow, of taste and language, which must grow broader like all the rest.

"In France, certain critics have reproached me, to my great delight, with having transgressed the bounds of what they call 'French taste'; I should be glad if this eulogium were merited.

"In short, I am doing what I can, I suffer with the same universal suffering, and I try to assuage it, I possess only the puny forces of a man, and I cry to all: 'Help me!'

"This, sir, is what your letter prompts me to say; I say it for you and for your country. If I have insisted so strongly, it is because of one phrase in your letter. You write: —

"'There are Italians, and they are numerous, who say: This book, Les Miserables, is a French book. It does not concern us. Let the French read it as a history, we read it as a romance.'

"Alas! I repeat, whether we be Italians or Frenchmen, misery concerns us all. Ever since history has been written, ever since philosophy has meditated, misery has been the garment of the human race; the moment has at length arrived for tearing off that rag, and for replacing, upon the naked limbs of the Man-People, the sinister fragment of the past with the grand purple robe of the dawn.

"If this letter seems to you of service in enlightening some minds and in dissipating some prejudices, you are at liberty to publish it, sir. Accept, I pray you, a renewed assurance of my very distinguished sentiments.


Nothing that anyone can really add to that, is there? Except to say, to those who haven't, or who think that seeing the musical is sufficient - go read the book.

Amber pages

Henri Bergson, French philosopher, born today in 

Pierre Trudeau, former Canadian Prime Minister, and father of the current Canadian Prime Minister, born today in 1919

Chuck Berry, or rather more boringly Charles Edward Anderson, born today in 1926

Lee Harvey Oswald, presidential assassin, born today in 1939

Martina Navratilova, Czech exile, born today in 1956

Wynton Marsalis, jazz and classical trumpeter, born today in 1961

Alaska transferred from Russia to the United States, today in 1867

The Tribunal that established the Nuremburg trials and passed judgement on the senior German leadership convened in Berlin, today in 1945 - click here for the full archival document; the minutes of this first gathering, chaired by the Tribunal's President General Major General I. T. Nikitchenko, are on page 24. The first formal session would begin, in Nuremburg, on November 14th, and they continued until October 1st, 1946

December 23


Another of the vagaries of time that fascinates me is the things that one knows, or encounters, that may be mildly interesting, or even completely uninteresting, at the time, but which acquire an enormous significance later on, especially when history becomes personal. This is not simply the obvious fact that days which become historic started out as days like any other (9-11 for example, only became significant when the first plane struck the first building, at 8:45am), but the way in which future events render past events historic, even though they were not so at the time.

So, hunting for something else in an old diary more than a decade after the event, I came upon this entry from December 23rd 2001, written because it was a Sunday and I wanted to write, but it was the school holidays, and almost Christmas, and the kids wanted to go out and do something, and my wife was nagging me to cook the full roast for lunch; but I wanted a quiet hour of writing first, and knew that an hour was insufficient for focused attention on the novel I was writing at the time; and so I surfed around an on-line almanac to see what might turn up, and it was this:

The Other Straus Family

 Nathan, Oscar and Isidor Straus
Minus the second of that double S with which no German Jewish family could ever spell their name, and entirely free of either the schmaltz of the waltz brothers or the Nazi ambivalence of Richard "Zarathustra" Strauss, the "other" Straus family were American Jews of the sort of level of personal achievement to which Jewish culture expects all of its sons and daughters to aspire, but which leads non-Jews by way of jealousy into anti-Semitism.

Three brothers, of whom Isidor was born first, in 1845, Nathan second in 1848, and Oscar last, today, December 23 1850, all three in Otterberg, in Germany. The parents were Lazarus and Sara, and there was a sister too, Hermine, born in 1846. They left Germany for America in 1854, settling in Talbotton in Georgia for a while, where Lazarus established a company importing crockery, china and glassware and manufacturing lamps, in the basement of a small store owned by a man named Rowland Hussey Macy.

Macy had opened four dry goods stores between 1843 and 1855, the original in downtown Haverhill, Massachusetts, in 1851, to serve the employees of the mill industry in the area. All four failed. In 1858, at the suggestion of Lazarus Straus and with his expertise to back him, he established a new store named "R.H. Macy Dry Goods", located at the junction of Sixth Avenue and 14th Street. Lazarus Straus made the move to New York at the same time, advising and financially supporting Macy, but also establishing L Straus and Sons at 44 Warren Street, the sole agent and distributor in the U.S. for Baccarat, Edward Webb, Minton and Wedgwood. By 1885 the company had branch offices in London, Paris, Berlin and Yokohama, Japan.

Isidor and Nathan worked in the family business, growing it until, in 1887, they became sole owners of what was now Macy’s department store in New York, maintaining their family's business as well, but pouring the bulk of their efforts into Macy's because, to be absolutely frank, even without that second S, Straus was too Jewish, and too many people thought that they were making denim jeans.

Isidor became a Congressman and was active in Jewish affairs until his death, on board the Titanic, in 1912 – his death, and the refusal of Ida, his wife, to be separated from him when the lifeboats were launched, became one of the great sentimental scenes in the 1953 movie “Titanic”, as well as “A Night To Remember” in 1958 and the 1997 remake of “Titanic”. The couple are remembered in Straus Park, on Manhattan's Upper West Side, at the intersection of Broadway, West End Avenue, and 106th Street (click here and see the illustration at the top of the page).

Nathan served as New York Park Commissioner from 1889 to 1893, and gave two-thirds of his fortune away to projects in what was then Ottoman Falastina, particularly for the building of hospitals. His son, Americanly named Nathan Junior, was assistant editor at "The Globe", then editor of "Puck", which he published himself, and headed the U.S. Housing Authority from 1937 to 1942. Nathan is also officially remembered in New York, at Straus Square on the Lower East Side (click here), and perhaps more significantly in the Israeli town of Netanya, which was named for him (click here).

Oscar, the third brother, trained as a jurist, was Teddy Roosevelt’s Secretary of Commerce and Labour – the first Jew to gain Cabinet rank in the U.S. – and his country’s envoy to Turkey (a key post in those days of the Ottoman Empire) three times: 1887-9, 1898-1900 and 1909-1910. He was also appointed five times to the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague, founded the American Jewish Committee, and was the first President of the Jewish Historical Society.

Nor was the family a one-generation wonder. Isidor’s son Jesse was the one who built Macy’s into the world’s largest department store, before leaving to become U.S Ambassador to France from 1933 to 1936. Oscar’s son Roger was a member of the U.S. delegation to the U.N. General Assembly in 1954, and founder of the National Conference of Christians and Jews; his son, Roger Junior, founded Farrar-Straus, the publishing house (now Farrar, Straus and Giroux), in 1946 in partnership with John C. Farrar. At the third generation Peter Straus, son of Nathan Junior, founded the Straus Broadcasting Group of radio stations, worked for the International Labour Organisation in Geneva as its executive assistant director, and then in the same capacity ran the U.S. aid programme to Africa in the 1960s.

8 years and a month after I learned these facts, but did no more with them than write them in my diary as something that might perhaps lead somewhere literary some day, 8 years and a month later, divorced and living in Miami, I met a woman on J-Date, who five years later became my fiancée – a great achiever in her own right, as an architect who counts prisons, courts and city halls across America amongst her accomplishments. Nina's great-great-grandparents were Isidor and Ida Straus.

Nina, abandoned, incomplete, 2017

Amber pages

Jean Francois Champollion, the man who deciphered the Rosetta Stone, born today in 

Harriet Monroe, founder of "Poetry" magazine, born today in 1860

Giuseppe di Lampedusa, Sicilian Leopard, born today in 1896

And today was the day, in 1888, when that sad failed priest turned unwanted artist Vincent Van Gogh, failed even in the act of suicide, because there are no significant veins or arteries behind the ear

Joni as Vincent, the cover of "Turbulent Indigo"

You can find David Prashker at:

Copyright © 2016 David Prashker
All rights reserved
The Argaman Press

January 14

2015 (1989) [1791] {1875}

Following the Paris terrorist attacks, what else can possibly appear under this date, but this:

Good on you, Charlie!

Well, sadly, one thing - this:

Paris attacks: Pope Francis says freedom of speech has limits" (click here to read it, assuming the article hasn't been condemned and placed in the Index of Prohibited Literature in the meanwhile)

Because, yes, His Holiness the Pope, guardian of that great tradition of free speech which has been the hallmark of Catholicism since... since never. To which the only plausible response is a cartoon:-

And since I have now used up my quota of freedom of speech to post the Charlie Hebdo cartoon, and my criticism of the Pope, let me follow Kierkegaard's great maxim that

"People demand freedom of speech to make up for the freedom of thought which they avoid using"

... and then use my freedom of thought to invite you to click here, and read Charlie Winter's translation of the Islamic State women's movement's - the al Khanssaa Brigade's - manifesto "Women of the Islamic State", which might well be sub-titled "I'm not Islamophobic, just very scared."

And then... because we are honouring the great tradition of satire today, that weapon of human wit that is so much sharper than the axe of ideology or the scimitar of despotism... let me also note, because sports commentators do so love their off-the-wall statistics (this, for instance, is the first time that anyone has written this precise statement, in a silver journal, in blue ink, in Miami, on this date, while wearing a green T-shirt with black chinos, right-handed - ever: which makes it a record someone, somewhere, someday, has to beat - unless it gets disqualified because I have done it while using those performance enhancing drugs caffeine and chocolate); but in the wacky world of meaningless superstitions and fatuous data, few can beat this one, noted in a variety of otherwise intelligent newspapers of international renown, on this day in 1989:

"Ronald Reagan becomes the first U.S. President elected in a '0' year since 1840 to leave office alive"

and anyway, given the condition of his mental faculties, even this may not be certain...

I would also like to note that, on this day in 1791, Calvin Phillips "became the world's shortest man, at 61 cms, 2' 2”" - only, how do you become the world's shortest man? Did he suddenly shrink? Was he not previously even shorter, when a baby, or a boy? And was this the day on which he stopped growing? And how do they know?

And: how do they know? A quick Google-search reveals that a Taiwanese man named Lin Yih-Chih is actually shorter than Phillips by 2 cms, which is a lot at that height; and there is a South African woman named Madge Bester who comes up at 67.5 cms; or maybe it's the other way around and she's the shorter, he's the taller - is somebody trying to cheat by switching out of feet and inches into millimeters? And why are they in the newspapers for it anyway -  some sort of freak show? And can we presume that, if they made an actual competition out of this, there would have to be laws about the use of performance diminishing drugs so that people don't get shorter by cheating?
Both, I also presume, are suffering from some form of bone disease or growth impediment; I wonder if Albert Schweitzer ever came upon the condition during his many years in Africa, and if he did was he able to respond medically? I ask only because today was Schweitzer's birthday, in 1875. 

Oh, and one amberthought, which alas he is for most book-readers, even American book-readers, John dos Passos, transferred to Manhattan today in 1896. Does anyone know who did the portrait?

You can find David Prashker at:

Copyright © 2016 David Prashker
All rights reserved
The Argaman Press

July 14


"As it is completely absurd and improper in the utmost that the Jews, who through their own fault were condemned by God to eternal servitude..."

So begins the Papal Bull "Cum Nimis Absurdum", announced by Pope Paul IV on July 14th 1555, and whose purpose was to provide form and structure to the persecution of the Jews. All previous anti-Jewish decrees were formally renewed. Jews were required to wear special clothing, forbidden to own real estate or practice medicine among Christians, prohibited from practicing any trade except rag-picking, and were restricted to one synagogue per city. All property had to be sold, and Jews were ordered to move to an area of Rome that would henceforth be known as the ghetto, though in fact it was properly a borghetto, which is the Italian word for borough, and the original ghetto was the one that Shylock inhabited, already dressed like this, in Venice, not in Rome.

Click here to read the full text of this truly obnoxious Papal Bull, and here to try to work out what if anything Pope John Paul II was specifically apologising for in his apology for an apology for the sins of the church against the Jews.

Below you will find a more thorough catalogue of the attempts by Christianity to oppress, suppress and repress Jews, and after it a comparative table of Christian and Hitlerian anti-Semitic measures:

I have included in brackets those instances of the defense of the Jews that are also historically recorded. It will not surprise you to learn that the vast majority of these only occur after the Holocaust.

A Timeline of Christian Anti-Semitism

The French Jewish scholar, Jules Isaac, has written ("Jésus et Israel" - Paris 1948, p508) that, "without centuries of Christian catechism, preaching and vituperation, the Hitlerian teachings, propaganda and vituperation would not have been possible.

c. 240: Origen of Alexandria writes that the Jews "have committed the most abominable of crimes" in conspiring against Christ, and for that reason "the Jewish nation was driven from its country, and another people was called by God to the blessed election".

248: St. Cyprian writes that the Jews have fallen under the heavy wrath of God, because they have departed from the Lord, and have followed idols.

306: The Council of Elvira decrees that Christians and Jews cannot intermarry, have sexual intercourse, or even eat together.

325: Conversation and fellowship with Jews is forbidden to the clergy by the Council of Nicea.

4th century: Christian emperors of Rome decree that Christians converting to Judaism, and Jews obstructing the conversion of other Jews to Christianity, will incur the death penalty; Jews cannot marry Christians, or hold public office, or own slaves.

c. 380: St. Gregory of Nyssa refers to the Jews as "murderers of the Lord, assassins of the prophets, rebels and detesters of God… companions of the Devil, race of vipers, informers, calumniators, darkeners of the mind, pharisaic leaven, Sanhedrin of demons, accursed, detested… enemies of all that is beautiful".

388: A mob of Christians, at the instigation of their bishop, loots and burns the synagogue in Callinicum, a town on the Euphrates. The Emperor Theodosius wants those responsible punished and the synagogue rebuilt at the expense of the Bishop, but St. Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan, pressures him to relent and condone the action.

400: St. Augustine writes: "The Church admits and avows the Jewish people to be cursed, because after killing Christ they continue… in impiety and unbelief".

c. 400: Calling the synagogue "a brothel and theatre" and "a cave of pirates and the lair of wild beasts", St. John Chrysostom writes that "the Jews behave no better than hogs and goats in their lewd grossness and the excesses of their gluttony".

413: A group of monks sweep through Palestine, destroying synagogues and massacring Jews at the Western Wall.

414: St. Cyril of Alexandria expels Jews from his city.

425: Jews are required by law to observe Christian feasts and fasts and to listen to sermons designed to persuade them to convert.

442: The synagogue in Constantinople is turned into a church.

553: The Code of the emperor Justinian decrees that in Christian Byzantine society Jews cannot read their sacred books in Hebrew in their synagogues, and the Mishnah and other rabbinic interpretations are banned.

538: The Third Synod of Orléans decrees that Jews cannot show themselves in the streets during Passover Week.

591: Pope St. Gregory the Great decrees that Jews are not to be forced into baptism "lest they return to their former superstition and die the worse for having been born again".

(600: Pope St. Gregory the Great decrees that Jews should not have excessive freedom, but also "in no way should they suffer a violation of their rights".)

681: The Synod of Toledo orders the burning of the Talmud and other books.

768: Pope Stephen IV decries ownership of hereditary estates by "the Jewish people, ever rebellious against God and derogatory of our rites".

c. 830: Agobard, Archbishop of Lyons, writes anti-Jewish pamphlets in which he refers to Jews as "sons of darkness".

c. 937: Pope Leo VII encourages his newly appointed archbishop of Mainz to expel all Jews who refuse to be baptised.

c. 1010-1020: In Rouen, Orléans, Limoges, Mainz, and probably also in Rome, Jews are converted by force, massacred, or expelled.

1050: The Synod of Narbonne decrees that Christians are not permitted to live in Jewish homes.

c. 1070: Pope Alexander II warns the Bishops of Spain to prevent violence against the Jews because, unlike the Saracens, they "are prepared to live in servitude".

1078: The Synod of Gerona decrees that Jews must pay the same taxes as Christians to support the church.

1081: Pope Gregory VII writes to King Alphonso of Spain telling him that if he allows Jews to be lords over Christians, he is oppressing the Church and exalting "the Synagogue of Satan".

(1084: Rüdiger, bishop of Speyer, grants the Jews a charter allowing them to keep Christian servants and serfs, own fields and vineyards, and carry arms.)

1096: Massacres of Jews take place during the First Crusade, destroying entire Jewish communities in Mainz, Speyer, Worms, Cologne and other cities. The Jewish chronicler reports: "The enemies stripped them naked and dragged them off, granting quarter to none, save those few who accepted baptism. The number of the slain was eight hundred in these two days." The chronicler Guibert de Nogent reports that the Rouen Crusaders said: "We desire to go and fight God's enemies in the East; but we have before our eyes certain Jews, a race more inimical to God than any other".

1182: Jews are expelled from France, all their property is confiscated, and Christian debts to them are cancelled with the payment of one-fifth of their value to the treasury.

1190: The coronation of Richard I (Richard the Lion-Hearted) leads to anti-Semitic riots in London; after which his announcement of The Third Crusade stirs anti-Jewish fervour and results in the mass suicide of the York Jews in Clifford's Tower on March 16th.

(1198: Jews are allowed to return to France.)

(1199: Pope Innocent III decrees that Jews are to be allowed to worship in their synagogues, they are not to be coerced into baptism, and that Jewish cemeteries are not to be mutilated.)

1215: The Fourth Lateran Council decrees that Jews are to wear distinctive clothing, and on the three days before Easter they are not to go out in public.

1222: The Council of Oxford prohibits the construction of new synagogues.

1227: The Council of Narbonne orders Jews to wear a round patch.

1230: Jews in France are forbidden to lend money on interest.

1234: The Council of Arles orders Jews to wear a round patch.

1235: Thirty-four Jews are burned to death in Fulda (Germany) on a blood-libel charge.

1246: The Council of Béziers orders Jews to wear a round patch.

1247: Pope Innocent IV writes a wonderful defense of the Jews: "They are wrongly accused of partaking of the heart of a murdered child at the Passover…Whenever a corpse is found somewhere, it is to the Jews that the murder is wickedly imputed. They are persecuted on the pretext of such fables… they are deprived of trial and of regular judgement; in mockery of all justice, they are stripped of their belongings, starved, imprisoned and tortured". However, subsequent history shows what little impact his words had on the church. In 1227, 1234, 1246, 1254, 1260, 1284, 1289, 1326, and 1368 a series of Councils at Narbonne, Arles, Béziers, Albi , Arles, Nîmes, Vienna, Avignon, and Vabres all require the wearing of a round patch by Jews.

1254: The Council of Albi orders Jews to wear a round patch.

1260: The Council of Arles orders Jews to wear a round patch, but not when travelling.

1267: The Synod of Vienna decrees that Christians cannot attend Jewish ceremonies, and Jews cannot dispute with simple Christian people about the Catholic religion.

1267: The Synod of Breslau decrees compulsory ghettos for Jews.

c. 1270: St. Thomas Aquinas writes that the Jews sin more in their unbelief than do pagans because they have abandoned the way of justice "after knowing it in some way".

(1272: Pope Gregory X defends the Jews: "It happens sometimes that Christians lose their children and that the enemies of the Jews accuse them of having kidnapped and killed these children in order to offer sacrifices with their heart and blood, and it also happens that the parents themselves, or other Christians who are enemies to the Jews, hide the children and attack the Jews, demanding of them, as ransom, a certain sum of money, on the entirely false pretext that these children had been kidnapped and killed by the Jews".

1275: Jews in England are forbidden to lend money on interest.

1279: The Synod of Ofen decrees that Christians cannot sell or rent real estate to Jews.

1283: Jews in France are forbidden to live in the countryside.

1284: The Council of Nîmes orders Jews to wear a round patch.

1289: The Council of Vienna orders Jews to wear a round patch.

1290: Jews are expelled from England and southern Italy.

1294: Jews are expelled from Bern in Switzerland.

1294: Jews in France are restricted to special quarters of the cities.

1298: The Jews of Röttingen, charged with profaning the Host, are massacred and burned down to the last soul.

1320: The "Shepherds' Crusade." A Christian chronicler records: "The shepherds laid siege to all the Jews who had come from all sides to take refuge... the Jews defended themselves heroically... but their resistance served no purpose, for the shepherds slaughtered a great number of the besieged Jews by smoke and by fire... The Jews, realising that they would not escape alive, preferred to kill themselves... They chose one of their number (and) this man put some five hundred of them to death, with their consent. He then descended from the castle tower with the few Jewish children who still remained alive... They killed him by quartering. They spared the children, whom they made Catholics by baptism".

1326: The Council of Avignon orders Jews to wear a round patch, but not when travelling.

1345: King John authorises his subjects in Liegnitz and Breslau to destroy the Jewish cemeteries in order to use the tombstones to repair the city walls.

1347-1350: During the Black Death, Jews are accused of poisoning wells in order to overthrow Christendom, and many thousands of Jews are killed. (Pope Clement VI defends the Jews against these charges.)

1350: Jews are expelled from many parts of Germany.

1367: Jews are expelled from Hungary.

1368: The Council of Vabres orders Jews to wear a round patch.

1381: Jews are expelled from Strasbourg.

1394: The expulsion of Jews from France, begun in 1306, is completed with an edict promulgated on the Jewish Day of Atonement.

1420: Jews are expelled from Mainz by the Archbishop.

1421: Jews are expelled from Austria.

1424: Jews are expelled from Fribourg and Zurich.

(c. 1425: Pope Martin V denounces anti-Jewish preaching and forbids the forced baptism of Jewish children under the age of twelve.)

1426: Jews are expelled from Cologne.

1432: Jews are expelled from Saxony.

1434: The Council of Basel decrees that Jews cannot obtain academic degrees.

1435: King Alfonso orders the Jews of Sicily to attach a round patch to their clothing and to display one over their shops.

1438: Jews are expelled from Mainz by the town councillors.

1439: Jews are expelled from Augsburg.

1453: Jews are expelled from Wurzburg.

1454: Jews are expelled from Breslau.

1456: Pope Callistus III bans all social communication between Christians and Jews.

1462: Jews are expelled from Mainz following a conflict between two candidates for the arch-episcopal seat.

1467: Jews are expelled from Tlemcen.

1471: Jews are expelled from Mainz (again!), on the orders of the Archbishop.

1475: The entire Jewish community in Trent, northern Italy, is put to death on the allegation that it had murdered a boy for religious purposes.

1485: Jews are expelled from Warsaw and Cracow.

1492: After forcing many Jews to be baptised and then referring to them as "marrano" (swine), and after an Inquisition in which some 700 "marranos" were burnt at the stake for showing signs of "Jewish" taint, Spain expels all Jews from the country.

1497: Jews are expelled from Portugal.

1519: Jews are expelled from Regensburg.

1553: Cardinal Carafa instigates a public burning of copies of the Talmud and other Jewish religious works in a square in Rome.

1555-1559: Pope Paul IV restricts Jews to ghettos and decrees that they are to wear distinctive headgear.

1566-1572: Pope St. Pius V expels Jews from the Papal States, allowing some to remain in Rome's ghettos and in Ancona for commercial reasons.

1592-1605: Pope Clement VIII includes a ban on all Jewish books in the expanded "Index of Forbidden Books" (it isn't clear if he intended this to include the "Old Testament").

1806: A French Jesuit Priest, Abbé Barruel, had written a treatise blaming the Masonic Order for the French Revolution. He later issues a letter alleging that it was the Jews, not the Masons, who were the guilty party. This was the source of many of the beliefs in the existence of an international Jewish conspiracy to control the world, which continue to this day. 

1826: Pope Leo XII decrees that Jews are to be confined to ghettos and their property is to be confiscated.

1846–1878: Pope Pius IX restored all of the previous restrictions against the Jews within the Vatican state. All Jews under Papal control are confined to Rome's ghetto - the only one left in Europe by the 1930s, until the Nazis recreated them; Pius IX was beatified in the year 2000; the last step before sainthood.

1858: Edgardo Mortara, 6-year old son of a Jewish family in Bologna, is abducted by the Papal police and brought to Rome. He had been secretly baptised five years earlier by a domestic servant who thought he was about to die. The parents try to get the boy back, and there is a universal outcry, but Pope Pius IX rejects all petitions.

1881: The assassination of Alexander II of Russia is falsely blamed on Jews. About 200 individual pogroms against the Jews follow. ("Pogrom" is a Russian word meaning "riot" or "destruction".)

1894: French army captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jew, is accused of treason by anti-Semitic officers, found guilty, and given a life sentence. The Church, government and army unites to suppress the truth. Ten years later, he is declared totally innocent. The Dreyfus Affair is world-wide news for many years, central to the writing of Proust's "A la recherche du temps perdu", and the reason for the assassination of Emile Zola.

1903 and afterwards, anti-Jewish pogroms continue in Russia, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths during the first two decades of the 20th century.

1904: In an interview with Zionist leader Theodor Herzl, Pope St. Pius X says: "I know, it is disagreeable to see the Turks in possession of our Holy Places. We simply have to put up with it. But to sanction the Jewish wish to occupy these sites, that we cannot do... The Jews have not recognized our Lord, therefore we cannot recognize the Jewish people... If you go to Palestine and your people settle there, you will find our clergy and churches ready to baptize you all".

1905: The Russian secret police creates the spurious "Protocols of the Elders of Zion". A Russian Orthodox priest, Sergius Nilus, publishes them in 1905. It is promoted as the record of "secret rabbinical conferences whose aim was to subjugate and exterminate the Christians". The forgeries are still being circulated. They appear from time to time in Muslim media. Wal-Mart stocked them in their online bookstore until September 2004.

1919: Newly independent Poland passes a law making Sunday a compulsory day of rest in Poland. The law is intended to force Jews to observe the Christian Sabbath in addition to their own.

1921: On behalf of Pope Benedict XV, a Vatican spokesman informed representatives of the Zionist Movement that they did not wish to assist "the Jewish race, which is permeated with a revolutionary and rebellious spirit" to gain control over the Holy Land.

1925: At a conference of Catholic academicians in Innsbruck, Austria, Bishop Sigismund Waitz calls the Jews an "alien people" who had corrupted England, France, Italy, and especially America.

1930s: Some American clergy used their radio programs to attack Jews. Father Charles E. Coughlin was one of the best known clergyman of his day. In the 1930s, radio audiences heard him rail against the threat of Jews to America's economy and defend Hitler's treatment of Jews as "justified in the fight against communism".

1933: The Catholic Chancellor of the Third Reich, Adolf Hitler, justifies his anti-Semitic policies to the German Catholic hierarchy on the grounds that he is only treating the Jews the way their church has treated them for centuries. He reminds the prelates that their Church has regarded the Jews as dangerous parasites and pushed them into ghettos for 1500 years.

1933: In a series of Advent sermons, Cardinal Faulhaber of Munich defends the "Old Testament" against Nazi attacks, but emphasises that it is not his intention to defend contemporary Jewry, saying that a distinction has to be drawn between Jews living before and after the crucifixion of Jesus.

1933: In a pastoral letter on January 23rd, Bishop Johannes Maria Gföllner of Linz, Austria, declares that while the radical anti-Semitism preached by Nazism is completely incompatible with Christianity, it is the right and duty of Christians to fight and break the harmful influences of Jewry in all areas of modern cultural life. The Austrian episcopate condemns the letter in December for causing racial hatred and conflict.

1935: The general consensus among the Catholic papers in Poland is that Jewish influence should be reduced in all areas of life, that the Polish and Jewish communities should be separated as much as possible, and that the most desirable option is mass emigration of the Jews from Poland. St. Maximilian Kolbe is an active promoter of anti-Semitic literature.

1935-1936: The Polish Catholic Church gives full support to a government policy encouraging Jewish emigration from Poland.

1936: Cardinal August Hlond, the primate of Poland, urges Catholics to boycott Jewish businesses. His pastoral letter states: "I warn you against that ethical attitude that is fundamentally and uncompromisingly anti-Jewish. It is contradictory to Catholic ethics. It is permissible to love your nation more than others, but it is not permissible to hate anyone. Not even the Jews... You should close yourselves to the harmful influence of Jewry... But you may not attack Jews, beat them, hurt them, slander them. In a Jew you should also respect and love a human being and your neighbour".

1937: Austrian bishop Alois Hudal publishes a book defending Nazi racial ideology, supporting laws preventing a flood of Jewish immigrants, and criticizing the "Jewish" press for playing off Austrians against Germans. His book receives the support of Archbishop (later Cardinal) Theodor Innitzer of Vienna.

(1938: In a speech before Belgian pilgrims, Pope Pius XI denounces anti-Semitism and says: "Spiritually we are all Semites". His comments are reported in various newspapers but not in the Vatican’s own "L'Osservatore Romano".)

1938: Hitler brings back various century-old church laws, ordering all Jews to wear a yellow Star of David as identification.

1939: Roberto Farinacci, a member of Mussolini's Fascist Grand Council, while speaking on "The Church and the Jews", says: "We Fascist Catholics consider the Jewish problem from a strictly political point of view… but it comforts our souls to know that if, as Catholics, we became anti-Semites, we owe it to the teachings that the Church has promulgated over the past twenty centuries."

1939: Josef Tiso, a Catholic priest with a doctorate in theology, becomes President of independent Slovakia. An extremist hater of Jews, he allied Slovakia with Nazi Germany and, with strong objections from the Vatican, deported most Slovakian Jews to their deaths in the camps. He declared: "It is a Christian action to expel the Jews, because it is for the good of the people, which is thus getting rid of its pests." Monsignor Tiso was executed after the war as a war criminal.

1940: The Nazis confine Jews to inner-city ghettos.

1941-1945: The Nazi Holocaust results in the extermination of over 6 million Jews, and a similar number of non-Jews, such as Soviet prisoners of war, Polish intellectuals, and about a half million Roma (Gypsies). Also killed were an unknown number of Jehovah's Witnesses and homosexuals. Of these victims, only the Jews were marked for total annihilation.

1941: In Croatia, Bishop Ivan Saric of Sarajevo appropriates Jewish property for his own use. His diocesan newspaper declares that "Jewish greed increases. The Jews have led Europe and the world towards disaster, moral and economic disaster. Their appetite grows till only domination of the whole world will satisfy it." Bishop Aksamovic of Djakovic teaches that "today it is the sacred duty of every citizen to prove his Aryan origins." Meanwhile, Archbishop Aloys Stepinac of Zagreb preaches in a sermon that "it is forbidden to exterminate Gypsies and Jews because they are said to belong to an inferior race".

(1941: Provost Bernard Lichtenberg of Berlin's St. Hedwig Cathedral publicly declares that he will include Jews in his daily prayers. On October 23rd he is arrested and sent to Dachau, but dies on the way.)

1941: The German Bishops' Conference issues a pastoral letter secretly distributed and read from all pulpits. It outlines in detail the Nazi assault on the Catholic Church, but makes no mention of the Jews.

1941: In Operational Situation Report USSR No. 54, the German Einsatzgruppen A reports from Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania: "The attitude of the Church regarding the Jewish question is, in general, clear. In addition, Bishop Brisgys has forbidden all clergymen to help Jews in any form whatsoever. He rejected several Jewish delegations who approached him personally and asked for his intervention with the German authorities. In the future he will not meet with any Jews at all".

1942: The French Assembly of Cardinals and Archbishops sends a letter to Marshal Pétain, head of the Vichy government, protesting against the mass arrests and cruel treatment of the French Jews.

(1942: Protest against the persecution of Dutch Jews is read from the pulpit of all churches in Holland.)

(1942: In August and September, messages to be read out in their churches protesting the deportation of Jews from France are written by Archbishop Saliège of Toulouse, Bishop Théas of Montauban, Bishop Delay of Marseilles, Cardinal Gerlier of Lyon, Bishop Vanstenbergher of Bayonne, and Archbishop Moussaron of Albi.)

1942: Great Britain, the Polish Government-in-exile, Brazil, the United States, and Uruguay press Pope Pius XII to condemn the Nazi treatment of Jews. The Pope responds to this international appeal with his Christmas radio address, but does not specifically mention the Jews.

1942-1945: Cardinal Adolf Bertram, Archbishop of Breslau and head of the German Bishops' Conference, opposes all public protest against the deportation and massacre of the Jews. He maintains a cordial relationship with Hitler, and in May 1945 he orders requiem masses for Hitler be offered in all his parishes.

1943: At their annual meeting in Fulda, the German Catholic bishops debate whether to speak out about the Holocaust and confront Hitler with a direct accusation. They decide not to do so.

1943: Slovakia's Catholic Bishops protest the deportation of Jews in a pastoral letter read in Latin from the pulpits. Many priests refuse to read it or insert their own negative comments.

1945: Addressing the College of Cardinals after the end of the European war, Pope Pius XII speaks of the hundreds of priests and religious who died in Nazi concentration camps, but makes no mention of the Jews.

(1965: The Second Vatican Council issues its Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions: "True, authorities of the Jews and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ; still, what happened in His passion cannot be blamed upon all the Jews then living, without distinction, nor upon the Jews of today... The Jews should not be presented as repudiated or cursed by God... The Church decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone".)

(1967: The Catholic bishops in the United States establish an Office on Catholic-Jewish Relations, and promptly issues Guidelines for Catholic-Jewish Relations.)

1967: In an interview with a Los Angeles Rabbi, Cardinal Frings of Cologne, Germany, states that the Jews had been economically too powerful in the 1920s, and he doubts if six million Jews had actually been killed under Hitler.

(1974: The Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews issues its Guidelines for Catholic-Jewish Relations: "The spiritual ties and historical relations between the Church and Judaism are enough to condemn, as contrary to the spirit of Christianity, all forms of anti-Semitism and discrimination".)

1979: Pope John Paul II visits Auschwitz and refers to the Holocaust as "the Golgotha of our century" (while wearing an amulet of another Jew murdered on Golgotha around his neck and supporting the establishment of a Carmelite convent at the entrance to the site).

(1980: The German Bishops' Conference declares that: "A serious dialogue of reciprocal love and understanding must replace the 'anti-Semitism' which, to some extent, still lives on in Christians. The spiritual bonds and historical statements that bind the Church and Judaism condemn any form of anti-Semitism as contradictory to the spirit of Christianity".)

(1984: The National Conference of Brazilian Bishops declares: "All forms of anti-Semitism must be condemned. Every unfavorable word and expression must be erased from Christian speech. All campaigns of physical or moral violence must cease. The Jew must not be considered a deicide people".)

(1985: The Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews issues the document "Notes on the Correct Way to Present the Jews and Judaism in Preaching and Catechesis in the Roman Catholic Church": "Our two traditions are so related that they cannot ignore each other. Mutual knowledge must be encouraged at every level. There is evident in particular a painful ignorance of the history and traditions of Judaism, of which only negative aspects and often caricature seem to form part of the stock ideas of many Christians".)

1987: Pope John Paul II holds a controversial Vatican meeting with Kurt Waldheim, President of Austria. The meeting causes an international uproar because of Waldheim's reputation as a willing bureaucratic accomplice under the Nazis.

(1988: The Pontifical Commission "Justice and Peace" issues a document on racism: "Amongst the manifestations of systematic racial distrust, specific mention must once again be made of anti-Semitism. If anti-Semitism has been the most tragic form that racist ideology has assumed in our century, with the horrors of the Jewish 'Holocaust', it has unfortunately not yet entirely disappeared.)

1989: Reacting to Jewish efforts to remove the Carmelite convent established at Auschwitz, Cardinal Glemp, the Primate of Poland, says in an August homily: "Dear Jews, do not talk with us from the position of a nation raised beyond all others and do not dictate terms that are impossible to fulfill. Don't you see, esteemed Jews, that openly opposing the Carmelite nuns hurts the feelings of all Poles and violates our hard-won sovereignty. Your power is in the mass media, at your immediate disposal in many countries. Do not use it to spread anti-Polonism." The convent was eventually removed.

(1993: The Holy See establishes diplomatic relations with the State of Israel.)

(1994: Pope John Paul II hosts a concert at the Vatican to commemorate the Holocaust. It is the first time that the Chief Rabbi of Rome is invited to co-officiate at a public function in the Vatican; the first time a Jewish cantor sings at the Vatican; the first time the Vatican choir sings a Hebrew text in performance.)

(1994-1995: Bishops in Hungary, Germany, Poland, Netherlands, and the United States issue documents condemning anti-Semitism on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Holocaust.)

1997: The French Catholic Bishops issue a "Declaration of Repentance": "The end result is that the attempt to exterminate the Jewish people, instead of being perceived as a central question in human and spiritual terms, remained a secondary consideration. In the face of so great and utter a tragedy, too many of the Church's pastors committed an offense, by their silence, against the Church itself and its mission. Today we confess that such a silence was a sin. In so doing, we recognize that the Church of France failed in her mission as teacher of consciences". A close reading of this text suggests that "extermination of the Jewish people" remains the goal.

(1997: The Swiss Catholic Bishops' Conference issue a document on the role of Switzerland during the Second World War: "For centuries, Christians and ecclesiastical teachings were guilty of persecuting and marginalizing Jews, thus giving rise to anti-Semitic sentiments... It is in reference to these past acts of churches for which we proclaim ourselves culpable and ask pardon of the descendants of the victims".)

1998: The Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews issues the document "We Remember: A Reflection on the 'Shoah'": "We wish to turn awareness of past sins into a firm resolve to build a new future in which there will be no more anti-Judaism among Christians or anti-Christian sentiment among Jews, but rather a shared mutual respect as befits those who adore the one Creator and Lord and have a common father in faith, Abraham". Is anti-Judaism the same as anti-Semitism? This speaks of the religion, not of the people.

(1998: The Italian Bishops address a letter to the Jewish community of Italy, expressing the "hope that the maleficent plant of anti-Semitism will be extinguished forever from history, beginning with our cultural and linguistic habits".)

2000: Pope John Paul II visits Israel. He pays tribute to the victims of the Holocaust at Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority), and he leaves the following prayer between the ancient stones of the Western Wall in Jerusalem:

"God of our fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring your Name to the Nations: we are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant."

"Deeply saddened" - interesting choice from amongst the many that might have been chosen. And no suggestion of reparations.But progress, of a sort.

My thanks to Jerry Darring at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama for most of the original work on the above list, to which I have added, but which is still far from complete, though sufficient for its purpose. This essay is presented without comment. Comment is unnecessary where history speaks for itself. 

A Comparison of Canon Law and Nazi Measures
Canonical Law
Nazi Measure
Prohibition of intermarriage and of sexual intercourse between Christians and Jews. Synod of Elvira, 306
Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honour, September 15th 1935
Jews and Christians not permitted to eat together. Synod of Elvira, 306
Jews barred from dining cars (Transport Minister to Interior Minister, December 30th 1939)
Jews not allowed to hold public office. Synod of Clermont, 535
Law for the Re-establishment of the Professional Civil Service, April 7th 1933
Jews not allowed to employ Christian servants or possess Christian slaves. 3rd Synod of Orleans, 538
Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honour, September 15th 1935
Jews not permitted to show themselves in the streets during Passion Week. 3rd Synod of Orleans, 538
Decree authorising local authorities to bar Jews from the streets on certain days (i.e. Nazi holidays), December 3rd 1933
Burning of the Talmud and other books. 12th Synod of Toledo, 681
Book burnings in Nazi Germany
Christians forbidden to patronise Jewish doctors. Trulanic Synod, 692
Decree of July 25th 1938
Christians not permitted to live in Jewish homes. Synod of Narbonne, 1050
Directive by Göring providing for concentration of Jews in houses, December 2nd 1938 (Bormann to Rosenberg, Jan 17th 1939)
Jews obliged to pay taxes for support of church to the same extent as Christians. Synod of Gerona, 1078
The "Sozialausgleichsabgabe" which provided that Jews pay a special income tax in lieu of donations for Party purposes imposed on Nazis, December 24th 1940
Prohibition of Sunday work. Synod of Szabolcs, 1092
Jews not permitted to be plaintiffs, or witnesses against Christians, in the courts. 3rd Lateran Council, 1179, Canon 26
Proposal by the Party Chancellery that Jews not be permitted to institute civil suits, September 9th 1942 (Bormann to Justice Ministry)
Jews not permitted to withhold inheritance from descendants who accepted Christianity. 3rd Lateran Council, 1179, Canon 26
Decree empowering the Justice Ministry to void wills offending the "sound judgement of the people", July 31st, 1938
The marking of Jewish clothes with a badge. 4th Lateran Council, 1215, Canon 68 (copied from the legislation by Caliph Omar II [634-44], who had decreed that Christians must wear blue belts and Jews yellow belts)
Decree of September 1st 1941
Construction of new synagogues prohibited. Council of Oxford, 1222
Destruction of synagogues across the Reich, November 10th 1938 (Heydrich to Göring, November 11th 1938); leading to Krystallnacht
Christians not permitted to attend Jewish ceremonies. Synod of Vienna. 1267
Friendly relations with Jews prohibited, Gestapo directive L-15, October 24th 1941
Jews not permitted to dispute with simple Christian people about the tenets of the Catholic religion. Synod of Vienna, 1267
Compulsory ghettoes. Synod of Breslau, 1267
Order by Heydrich, September 21st 1939
Christians not permitted to sell or rent real estate to Jews. Synod of Ofen, 1279
Decree providing for compulsory sale of Jewish real estate, December 3rd 1938
Adoption by a Christian of the Jewish religion, or return by a baptised Jew to the Jewish religion, defined as a heresy. Synod of Mainz, 1310
Adoption by a Christian of the Jewish religion places him in jeopardy of being treated as a Jew. Decision by Oberlandesgericht Königsberg, 4th Zivilsenat, June 26th 1942
Sale or transfer of church articles to Jews prohibited. Synod of Lavour, 1368
Jews not permitted to act as agents in the conclusion of contracts between Christians, especially marriage contracts. Council of Basel, 1434, Sessio XIX
Decree of July 6th 1938, providing for liquidation of Jewish real estate agencies, brokerage agencies and marriage agencies catering to non-Jews.
Jews not permitted to obtain academic degrees. Council of Basel, 1434, Sessio XIX
Law against Overcrowding of German Schools and Universities, April 25th 1933
From "Christian Anti-Semitism, A History of Hate", by William Nichols (Rowman & Littlefield, 1993), pages 204-206

Amber pages

Difficult to add amber pages, after a piece like that! But there are some, and some "saving graces" too, amongst them:

Andrea del Sarto, Italian painter and subject of one of Robert Browning's greatest poems, born today in 1486

Emmeline Pankhurst, suffragette, born today in 1858.

Isaac Bashevis Singer, Yiddish author, born today in 1904

Woodrow Wilson "Woodie" Guthrie, folk singer, born today in 1912

Ingmar Bergman, Swedish film director, born today in 1918

French peasants stormed the Bastille prison in Paris, today in 1789 (the Marquis de Sade was waving down at them from his upstairs window)

And the death, today in 1881, of William H "Billy the Kid" Bonney Jr, outlaw, killed by the bounty-hunter (is that not just a different sort of outlaw?) Pat Garrett - see November 23

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