Jews Beign Burned at the Stake
Figure 1. Jews Beign Burned at the Stake

Between 1348 and 1351 a terrifying epidemic of Bubonic Plague often called the Black Death swept through Europe, killing about one third of the population. Although it is now known that it is a bacterial disease carried by rat fleas (some now think gerbils were the carrier), at that time the people accused the Jews of causing the plague in order to destroy Christianity. This accusation spread through many cities in Europe, inciting the people to burn thousands of Jews at the stake. This illumination, from a medieval manuscript depicts one such event, in this case Jews (identified by the mandatory yellow Jewish badge and Jewish hat) of Ravensburg being burned at the stake during the plague in 1348. Note that the Jews are shown wearing a yellow badge centuries before they were compelled to do so by the Nazis. (From (Luzerner Schilling,1515); (Eban,1984) Credit: Burgerbibliothek, Lucerne (Image source: Wikipedia)

The persecution and extermination of Jews in the modern times of Nazi Germany during the Holocaust are well documented (Friedlander, 1997; Holocaust 2014), but these more recent events have a history of their own, in that the murder and mass relocation of Jews have taken place not only in early and mid-20th century Germany but in virtually every country in Europe for more than a millennium (Oberman, 1984). A chronological survey of anti-Semitism shows that anti-Semitic acts occurred throughout the world and encompassed dozens and dozens of periods, dating from the third century BCE through to the present time [see A Brief Chronology of anti-Semitism (web.archive)]. These atrocities are often reflected in historical medals designed and issued to purposely vilify the Jewish community.

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