The Last Blood Libel Trial

One hundred years later, David Mikics recounts the last recorded trial of blood libel in the West—Mendel Beilis, falsely accused of draining the blood of a young boy killed by gangsters, in Kiev:

In his trial, Beilis was defiant when he needed to be. He answered one of the judge’s opening questions, “To what religion do you belong?” with, he remembered [in his memoir], “something approaching a shout”: “I am a Jew.” As the trial went on, the prosecution’s case collapsed. The workers that Beilis supervised testified to his honesty; they knew he was incapable of murder. A 10-year-old boy, a friend of the dead [victim] Andrei, had been primed by the Tcheberiak gang to testify that Andrei had often played near the brick factory and had been chased off the factory grounds by Beilis. Instead, the boy stated that Andrei had never gone near the factory. The student who had distributed the anti-Semitic leaflets at Andrei’s funeral fainted when he took the stand. Then, in a moment of high drama, the lamplighter who had originally said that Beilis had chased Andrei from the brickyard recanted his testimony, proclaiming, “I am a Christian and fear God. Why should I ruin an innocent man?”