Primary Texts on History of Relations

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FREDERICK II, HOLY ROMAN EMPEROR, "Refuting Ritual Murder Accusations" (1236)

[From Alexis Rubin, Scattered Among the Nations, pp. 113-115.]

In the name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, Frederick II, through the favor of divine mercy august emperor of the Romans and king of Jerusalem and Sicily:

Although the preeminence of this august dignity is obligated to extend the arm of its protection to all subjects of the Roman Empire and although it is fitting, for the protection of the faith which stems from celestial dispensation, to treat the faithful of Christ with special favor, nonetheless, for the proper management of justice, it is required that we rule the non-believers properly and protect them justly, as a special group committed to our care. Thus, living with the faithful under the protection of our majesty, they shall not be violently oppressed by those stronger than themselves. Therefore, it is by the contents of the present letter that present and future generations shall know that all the serfs of our court in Germany have beseeched our majesty that we deign by our grace to confirm for all the Jews of Germany the privilege of our divine grandfather Frederick, granted to the Jews of Worms and their associates. These are the contents of that privilege...

Providing then for the security and peaceful status of the Jews of Germany, we cause this special grace to be extended to all Jews who belong directly to our court. That is to say, copying and adhering to the edicts of our aforesaid grandfather, we confirm for the Jews by our natural mercy the above privilege and those stipulations contained in it, in the same manner as our divine and august grandfather granted to the Jews of Worms and their associates.

Moreover, we wish that all present and future know the following. When a serious crime was imputed to the Jews of Fulda concerning the death of certain boys of the town, because of that terrible incident the harsh opinion of the neighboring populace, spawned by recent misfortune, was projected against the rest of the Jews of Germany, although covert attacks were not yet in evidence. In order to clarify the truth concerning the aforesaid crime, we had many of the princes and magnates and nobles of the empire, along with abbots and clerics, convened to provide counsel. When diverse views on the matter had been expressed, not adequate to produce clear counsel, as is fitting, we concluded that one could not proceed more properly against the Jews accused of the aforesaid crime than through those who had been Jews and had converted to the cult of the Christian faith. They, since opposed to Judaism, would not withhold whatever they might know against the Jews, whether through the Mosaic books or through the contents of the Old Testament. Although through the authority of many books, which our majesty distributed, our conscience had the innocence of the aforesaid Jews reasonably proven, in order to provide satisfaction for both the populace and the law, by our counsel and that of our princes, magnates, nobles, abbots, and clerics, with unanimous agreement, we sent special messengers to all the kings of the West, through whom we had many experienced experts in Jewish law sent from their kingdoms to our presence. When they had tarried in our court for some time, we commanded, in order to ascertain the truth of this matter, that they diligently conduct a study and instruct our conscience whether there survives any belief leading to the perpetrating of any act regarding human blood, which might impel the Jews to commit the aforesaid crime. When their findings were published on this matter, then it was clear that it was not indicated in the Old Testament or in the New that Jews lust for the drinking of human blood. Rather, precisely the opposite, they guard against the intake of all blood, as we find expressly in the biblical book which is called in Hebrew, "Bereshit" [Genesis], in the laws given by Moses and in the Jewish decrees which are called in Hebrew, "Talmud." We can surely assume that for those to whom even the blood of permitted animals is forbidden, the desire for human blood cannot exist, as a result of the horror of the matter, the prohibition of nature, and the common bond of the human species in which they also join Christians. Moreover, they would not expose to danger their substance and persons for that which they might have freely when taken from animals. By this sentence of the princes, we pronounce the Jews of the aforesaid place and the rest of the Jews of Germany completely absolved of this imputed crime. Therefore, we decree by the authority of the present privilege that no one, whether cleric or layman, proud or humble, whether under the pretext of preaching or otherwise, judges, lawyers, citizens, or others, shall attack the aforesaid Jews individually or as a group as a result of the aforesaid charge. Nor shall anyone cause them notoriety or harm in this regard. Let all know that, since a lord is honored through his servants, whoever shows himself favorable and helpful to our serfs the Jews will surely please us. However, whoever presumes to contravene the edict of this present confirmation and of our absolution bears the offense of our majesty.

In order that the present confirmation and absolution remain in unimpaired and perpetual validity, we have ordered that the present privilege be drawn up and be sealed with the golden seal bearing the symbol of our majesty.