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Blood Libel: Perpetuating The Myth Of Jewish Ritual Murder


Blood Libel (Ritual Murder)

Original painting from the church in Sandomierz, Poland. Author: Karol de Prevot, first half of the 18th century.

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In the 17th century and the first half of the 18th century, Sandomierz was a place of conflicts between Catholics and Jews. In 1628, Jews were accused of causing the death of a local pharmacist’s son. They had allegedly kidnapped the child, drawn blood from him, chopped up his body and given it to dogs to eat. The investigation conducted at the time proved that the accused Jews were innocent.

However, Sandomierz Jews were accused of committing ritual murders of Christian children two more times, in 1698 and 1710.

The “blood libel”. Also known as blood accusation, is the belief that Jews were murdering Christian children (mainly boys) in order to use their blood in religious rituals, e.g to make matzah. This myth, whose origins date back to England in 1144 (the case of William of Norwich), has spread over the centuries almost throughout the entire European continent. It was strongly evident in Poland and its tragic consequences were still present in the second half of the 20th century.

False accusations of ritual murders have had grave consequences for the Jewish people throughout the centuries, in the form of pogroms, arsons and, above all, murders.

What is utterly disturbing about this belief is how deeply it is rooted in culture and society. Tragically,  accusations of ritual murders occurred in 1945  in Krakow and 1946 in Kielce. The rumor of alleged confinement of Christian children in a synagogue or a Jewish organization led to infamous pogroms just after the tragedy of the Holocaust.

The Kielce Pogrom was the spark that accelerated the mass emigration of Holocaust survivors from Poland, for it drastically reduced the sense of security in this country.

Shockingly, this event stemmed from a rumor that Jews had held a Christian boy in the basement of a building overnight. During the act of aggression and vandalism, no one pointed out that the building in question did not have a basement at all.

Nowadays, this medieval stereotype is obsolete.  It no longer appears in public discussions or church sermons.

Every now and then, however, a scandal erupts in academia. Some cultural scholars or historians associated with Catholic universities seem to treat the old accusations of ritual murder as justified, thus granting such allegations a touch of historical truth. The latest case in point took place in April 2021 at a Catholic university in Lublin.

It is therefore extremely important to put the notion of “ritual murder” into the category of dangerous canards and harmful myths against the Jews.


Żyd Wróg odwieczny Antysemityzm w Polsce i jego źródła (book “Jew. The eternal enemy. Antisemitism in Poland and its sources”, by Alina Cała)

The image of the Jew in Polish folk culture,  by Alina Cała,  published by Jerusalem: Magnes Press, Hebrew University, 1995. (The Jewish Pogrom in Kielce, July 1946 – New Evidence, by Bozena Szaynok) (Case Study: The Pogrom in Kielce)


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