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August 12, 1966 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1966-08-12

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Zoe Oldenbourg's 'The Crusades' • Tragic Era of
'Soldiers of Christ' Replete With Horror of Massacre

"Crusade" has become a word still was the "singularly abstract
for the rallying of forces for causes summons" for the cross-carrying,
which—without knowledge of the as an appeal by Christ, "You shall
background or the origin of the help me carry the Cross". Mme.
religious medieval movements to Oldenbourg asserts:
capture the Holy Land from in-
"The strange thing is that for
fidels and Moslems—are accepted
more than a century a section
as mobilizing points for great good.
of Western Christendom had
`'resident Eisenhower often spoke
genuinely believed in this myth
f "crusading." Others resort to it.
and had, in some inexplicable
With a knowledge of the crimes
way, confused Christ and the
and cruelties that were heaped
place where Christ lived on
upon innocent peoples during the
earth to such an extent that
Crusades, one would be com-
they saw him banished, driven
pelled to use the term very cau-
out of his birthplace, or a pris-
oner, tortured by his enemies
in his own land . • . It was an
The story of the first Crusade,
excuse for a mystical adventure.
with emphasis on the Kingdom of
Jerusalem, especially during the
• • • The idea in itself was too
farfetched to exercise any real
rule of the Baldwins, is told bril-
influence over Western thought
liantly by Zoe Oldenbourg, a native
and opinion."
of Leningrad who escaped from
Communism with her family, to
But while it lasted it caused
France. She has written extensive- damage, it led to massacres, it
ly and has made the Middle Ages brought about frightful feuds
her specialty. In "The Crusades," among kinsmen, wars between
published by Pantheon Books, Moslems and Christians, massacres
Mme. Oldenbourg has incorporated of Jews. . . .
so much material about the crusad-
Curiously, Peter the Hermit, one
ers, their motivations, the role of of the first inspired Crusaders, is
the Popes, the fanaticisms as well absolved of anti-Semitism by Mme.
as the dedications to religious Oldenbourg. "Adored by the peo-
ideals—and the pogroms against ple and respected by the great,
Jews—that her work emerges as Peter the Hermit was already, in
a most authoritative work. It is a 1095, a leader of crowds," Mrs.
skilful compilation of facts, pre- Oldenbourg writes. "Whether or
sented in • a masterful style, offer- not we are to believe that he
ing historical data that reads like would have exploited the idea of a
fiction—so well has this historian holy war in order to increase his
polished her narrative.
own popularity, it is certainly a
The Crusades, as a holy war, fact that he attempted to dispute
tad many romancers, but their with the Pope the credit for the
late did not always end in glory. enterprise which had appealed to
There were more tragedies than the popular imagination from the
joys, and when the adventure outset . . . " Proceeding to de-
resulted in failure, women were scribe the Hermit's tray e l s
sold to brothels, young men through the French provinces, we
"were destined for masters' are told by Mrs. Oldenbourg:
pleasures," and "there is no rec-
"Peter appealed to the nobles
ord of the tens of thousands of
and wealthy citizens and even
adventurers, • fanatic, tragic, or
to the Jews, for help in his
merely ordinary because they
pious undertaking and his move-
were so frequent, or even im-
ment quickly swelled to consid-
probably lucky, which happened
erable proportions. Some gave
in the course of a century of
him money from motives' of pie-
Crusades to tens of thousands of
ty, and others—the Jews—be-
pilgrims. Those lucky enough to
cause they were afraid. In Rou-
make their way back to their
en, Peter even obtained a letter
countrymen told their adven-
from the chief rabbi of the city
tures, and their family and
to the Jews of Mainz, urging
friends" remembered them. But...
them to show charity to God's
in Europe there were so many
poor. (This last touch seems to
tall stories going about that it
show that Peter had not
was not easy to tell truth from
abandoned his evangelical work
lies . . . "
when he undertook the Crusade,
But in the 13th century "poets
and was able to remain on good
were still arguing about the neces-
terms even with the Jews. Alle-
' sity, or lack of necessity, for the
gations that, in Normandy, the
holy war . . . People were still talc-
preaching of the Crusade gave
cross" in 1235. . . There
rise to demonstrations of anti-
Semitism appear to be unfound-
ed; if this had been so, Peter's
:'New Jersey Cemetery
letter of introduction would have
been unlikely to win the good
.Probed by State Senate
graces of the Jews of Mainz)."
TRENTON, N.J. (JTA) — Beth
This statement is subject to
!:Israel Memorial Park, a Jewish
cemetery in Woodbridge, N.J., was challenge. There was one Crusade
.charged at a hearing conducted by that was organized by Louis IX
-;'the New Jersey State Senate's busi- with Jewish financial support. But
Hitless affairs committee of attempt: the fact that a Crusade leader had
;; : ing to "shock" customers into buy- a letter from a rabbi proves noth-
ing: it could have been obtained
Ang burial plots.
The Committee is investigating under threat and pressure.
Mme. Oldenbourg does provide
practices of cemetery operators,
.:headstone and vault dealers and data about "The Great Massacre
:funeral directors who accused each in Jerusalem in July of 1099. "The
"other at the hearing of alleged ir- Crusading army appeared in full
force before the walls of Jerusa-
regular practices.
The charge against Beth Israel lem on June 7, 1099. . . During
Memorial Park was made by How- the days of July 15 and 16 the
, and Stern, a lawyer representing `solders of Christ' were masters
the New Jersey Monument Build- of the Holy City, They scoured
ers Association, who read excerpts streets and' alleys, gardens and
from a manual of Beth Israel in courtyards, breaking down doors
. which the salesmen were urged to of houses and mosques and killing,
.confront the prospect with what killing all who fell in their path,
was called a "shocker" describing no longer the soldiers, who had
the possibility of the sudden death been killed first, but civilians,
men, women, children, and old
of a member of the family.
Irwin Shipper, vice-president of people."





Asserting that "the massacre
perpetrated by the Crusaders in
Jerusalem has long been reck-
oned among the greatest crimes
of history," Mme. Oldenbourg
writes: "The Jews, as many of
them as the building would
hold, were shut up in the syna-
gogue, which was then set on
fire. The entire Jewish com-
munity of Jerusalem perished in
the flames."

There were tragedies without
end. Mme. Oldenbourg gives an
historic record of the Moslem-
Christian battles, of the control of
Jerusalem by the holy crusaders,
and the eventual victory over them
by Saladin.
The crimes against the Jews are
only briefly referred to. In that
respect this chronicle of events is
incomplete. But because it deals
primarily with the First Crusade

and the Kingdom of Jerusalem, it
is thus limited. As history Mine,
Oldenbourg's "The Crusades" is
superb. As a record of the crimes
against the Jews it is most incom-

Friday, August 12, 1966-9



Syria Still Has Six Israel Prisoners
Released Captive Tells Authorities

TEL AVIV (TA) — Israel and
Syria exchanged prisoners at the
Bnot Yaacov bridge on their bor-
der in the north, Israel receiving
back four men who had been in-
carcerated in Syria for periods
varying from three years to 12
years. In return, Syria received
six men, one of them a convicted
The four Israelis returned by
Syria are Yoseph Shemesh, 43, who
crossed over into Syria 12 years
ago; Yehuda Vaankin, 26, who went
into Syria three years ago; Shlomo
Yifrach, 32, who entered Syria 11
years ago; and Yitzhak Reznik, who
has been imprisoned by Syria when
he was caught across its border
nine years ago.
Six other Israelis are still im-
prisoned in Syrian jails, Yoseph
Shemesh, one of the men returned
here revealed.
Of the four Israelis given back
by the Syrian jailers, Shemesh,
who is 43 and had been imprisoned
by the Syrians for 12 years, was
the only one who seemed able to
face Israeli journalists. '
Two of the four were taken im-
mediately after brief medical ex-
aminations to mental hospitals. The
fourth of the men, Shlomo Yifrach,
is still being examined.
All four had suffered severe
mental disturbances,' physicians
said. Shemesh said that Avraham
Daskel, one Israeli prisoner re-
ported by the Syrians to have died
three years ago, had committed
suicide after being tortured in his
Syrian prison. The Syrians refuse

to turn over his remains.
Shemesh said that he was sure
there were still six more Israelis,
two of them Arabs, in Syrian jails
now. The Syrians denied they
were holding any more Israelis.
The six Syrians • returned in-
cluded Mouhammed Arifa, a con-
victed spy who was serving a 15-
year sentence here. Israel offered
a year ago to exchange him for
Eli Cohen, the alleged Israeli in-
telligence man, who was convicted
as a spy by a court in Damascus
and, later, executed.
Syria had refused to exchange
Cohen for Arifa. Now they took
Arifa, another man who is insane;
and four Syrian sailors who were
detained aboard a Lebanese boat
in April, 1964.
Syria at first denied that it was
holding any Israeli prisoners, but
finally admitted it held the four.

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