On this day, May 18, 1096, approximately 800 Jews were massacred in Worms, Germany. The massacre occurred within the context of the First Crusade and at the direction of Count Emicho of Leiningen from the Rhineland (also known as Emich of Flonheim). The excuse or ruse used to attack the Jewish population was that a rumor had spread that the Jews had drowned a Christian and used contaminated water to poison the town’s wells.
In reality, it was about money, greed, and vanity bordering on mental illness. Emicho envisioned that he would march on Constantinople, overcome the Muslim army, and become the title of "last World Emperor" in accordance with Canonical prophetic tradition. He believed this would cause all Christian armies, both Latin (Western) and Greek (Eastern) to unite and march to Jerusalem, prompting the Second Coming and final battle with the Antichrist.
To finance his army, Emich targeted the Jewish communities (which he thought to be wealthy) along the march to Constantinople. The Jews in the cities along the Rhine at first attempted to pay Emicho to make him go away, but although he accepted their money, he still converted or killed them. Emicho, or his followers in separate groups, also went to Mainz, Cologne, Trier, and Metz, where they forcibly converted the Jewish communities, and massacred those who resisted.
The local Bishop of Worms, Adalbert II of Saxony, offered sanctuary in his residence, but the mob attacked the palace and slaughtered those seeking asylum. The Archbishop Ruthard of Mainz also tried to protect the local Jewish community on May 25, but they too were slaughtered.
These events are known collectively as German Crusade of 1096, The Rhineland Massacres, the First Pogrom of 1096, and the Gezeroth Tatenu.
Thomas E. Keefe
Assistant Professor of Humanities,