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Trent 1475: Stories of a Ritual Murder Trial Revised Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0300068726
ISBN-10: 0300068727
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Hsia, author of The Myth of Ritual Murder ( LJ 10/1/88), uses original sources to examine an infamous ritual murder case. In 1475 three Jewish families of Trent were charged with the murder of a Christian child. Judicial torture was used to force the accused to sign confessions fabricated by the prosecution. This victimization of the Jewish community did not go unchallenged. The account of the conflict between Trent's prince-bishop, who wanted the canonization of the alleged child martyr, and the papal commissioner sent to investigate irregularities in the judicial procedures highlights the fraudulent nature of the charges. Informed lay readers as well as scholars and specialists will welcome this addition to the literature on the history of anti-Semitism. For academic libraries and large public libraries with strong reader interest in this area.
- Robert Andrews, Duluth P.L., Minn.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

On Easter Sunday, 1475, the dead body of a two-year-old boy named Simon was found in the cellar of a Jewish family's house in Trent, Italy. Town magistrates arrested eighteen Jewish men and one Jewish woman on the charge of ritual murder - the killing of a Christian child in order to use his blood in Jewish religious rites.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 204 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; Revised edition (September 25, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300068727
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300068726
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #849,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Peter S. Bradley on March 16, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In Trent 1475: Stories of a Ritual Murder Trial, R. Po-Chia Hsia absolutely nails his twin points - (a) antisemitism is evil and (b) judicial torture is both evil and not a very effective way of collecting reliable information. Beyond that Po-Chia Hsia doesn't seem to be very interested in what happened to two-year old Simon Unferdorben, or how it came to be that his body was found in the water cellar of Samuel, the Jewish money-lender of Trent, in 1475.

That's too bad because there is a good murder mystery in there, along with what could be some real illumination of the time and the culture.

The factual story is confused, and Po-Chia Shia's narrative doesn't do much to unravel the confusion. It seems that two and a half year old Simon Unferdorben went missing on Thursday afternoon of Easter week, March 24, 1475. His father Andreas Unferdorben and family friends searched all over Trent, the neighboring villages and the canals that led from the Adige River into Trent. After Good Friday services on Friday, March 25, 1475, Andreas asked Prince-Bishop Johannes Hinderbach for assistance. At the request of the Prince-Bishop, Trent's chief magistrate, the "podesta" Giovanni del Salis, had his men spread the news to all quarters of the city. On Saturday, March 26, 1475, Andreas went to the podesta and told him that Simon had not been discovered. Andreas asked the podesta to search the Jewish houses - a small community of three Jewish "agnatic" lineages constituting about thirty to forty individuals in three houses existed in Trent - because Andreas had heard rumors about Jews kidnapping Christian children and that someone - Zanesus "der Schweizer," the "Swiss" - told him to search the Jewish houses. (p. 3.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a case study of a ritual murder trial that destroyed a small Jewish community. I learned a lot from this book, including:

1. The amazingly small size of medieval Jewish communities. Trent contained 30 Jews in three households; even Rome contained only a couple of thousand Jews at the end of the 15th century.

2. That ritual murder cases weren't just against Jews. Christian authorities also used ritual murder accusations against heretics and in witchcraft cases.

3. That ritual murder cases involved judicial proceedings as well as mob justice. In the Trent case, the local government relied on 3 witnesses before arresting Jews: an ex-Jew who claimed to have been told 15 years earlier that Jews used blood in preparing matzos, a Christian woman whose son got lost in a Jewish defendant's shed 14 years earlier, and another Christian woman who heard a boy crying near a Jew's house. The authorities had no interest in the fact that the Jewish defendants voluntarily came forward with the corpse of the alleged victim.

3. The heavy use of torture. The Christian authorities recognized that these three witnesses' testimony was not adequate to prove guilt. So they tortured the Jews (mostly using the strappado, for which the victim had his or her hands tied behind his back with a long rope and was then hoisted up in the air by a pulley) until they confessed. After enough pain, the prisoner would confess to anything. Even after the Jews confessed, the authorities continued to torture them in order to ensure that they told roughly identical stories, and to ensure that their stories included certain details that the authorities imagined would be present.
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This tale of a Jewish community in early modern Europe is very brilliant. The book has many interesting facts regarding the tale, and needs to be read to really get to know the brilliance of the book.
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The 475 trials of Trent mark a very important chapter in Jewish history. The history of genocide and murder dates back to the early days of Europe. Here, in Trent, three Jewish families were accused of murdering a young Christian boy through ritual practices. The now-infamous trial lasted more than three years, during which many Jewish men and women were tortured during brutal interrogations and forced to confess to a crime they had not committed.
The book is a good read that never boggles down in too much details. Hsia gives all the necessary information for the reader to understand the time and place as well as the events surrounding the death of little Simon. His study of 15th century Italy is visually appealing to the reader, as the facts are written down to be easily understood by anyone.
Thought-provoking, precise and well written, Trent 1475 brings you back to a time and place where torture was the popular recourse during judicial interrogations, where the Jewish population was misunderstood and badly treated, where torture was so brutal that people would lie and condem themselves just to avoid being brutalized.
This book will appeal to historians, but also to the curious and inquisitive minds. Trent 1475: Stories of a Ritual Murder Trial is an important book that teaches us about our past and about our violent history.
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