Budapest (Oct. 28)
Ernst Mezei, noted Hungarian Jew, who as a member of the Hungarian Parliament played a prominent part in the events that led to the vindication of the Jews arrested in the famous Tisza-Eszlar blood ritual affair, died here today at the age of eighty-one.
The death of Mezei recalls the Tisza-Eszlar affair which was a cause celebre at the end of the nineteenth century.
Louis Kossuth, the great Hungarian patriot, then living in Turin, raised his voice to castigate the action of the authorities and to deprecate the stirring up of medieval race prejudices.
Mezei, then a deputy in Parliament and an adherent of Kossuth’s, addressed an interpellation to the Minister of Justice, which called forth exciting scenes. As a result an investigation was stirred up which ultimately led to the acquittal of fifteen Jews who had been held in prison for fifteen months.
The case started with the disappearance on April 1, 1882 of a fourteen year old Christian peasant girl, Esther Solymosi, a servant in the house of one Andreas Huri at Tisza-Eszlar, who was sent on an errand from which she did not return.
Stirred up by the agitation of the anti-Semitic groups who were demanding the expulsion of the Jews, the mother of the girl on May 4th, accused the Jews before the local judge of having killed her daughter for blood ritual purposes.
On May 19th, the county court of Nyireghyhaza sent a notary, Bary, to act as examining judge in the case.
A five year old youngster, Samuel Scharf, son of the synagogue sexton, Josef Scharf, having been plied with sweets. described how his father allegedly had lured the girl to his house, killed her and drained her blood of which he and his fourteen year old brother, Moritz, drank.
The father and Moritz both denied the charges. The authorities, however, ordered both taken into custody. Moritz was segregated from his father and so worked upon by his captors, that he too issued a confession that he saw the murder committed through the keyhole of the synagogue.
The fact that on June 28, the body of a girl was dragged out of the river in the district of the town and that the girl wore the clothes worn by Esther made no difference to the authorities, nor would the mother identify the body as that of her daughter.
A month latter, on July 29, fifteen persons were arrested on charges of abetting the crime and smuggling the body.
The case dragged for fifteen months, largely through the illegal and arbitrary acts of Bary. The case attracted general attention. The country was greatly agitated. A number of pamphlets were issued attempting to establish the guilt of the accused.
At this juncture Kossuth intervened. Later Mezei introduced his interpellation in Parliament. As a result the Attorney General Havas was sent to Nyiereghyhaza and he found that despite the official declaration of the examining judge, the accused had not had a single hearing. He released some prisoners, but realizing that he was hampered by powerful influences in his endeavor to accelerate the affair, he offered his resignation which was readily accepted.
In the Middle of November, the wife of Josef Scharf was set free. A month later, the defense lawyers succeeded in having the body of the girl found in the river exhumed and re-examined, this time by three professors of medicine at the University of Budapest. They found that the body was too decayed to allow a positive judgment, and charged the previous examining committee with gross ignorance. Since the corpse had not been claimed, it was, in their opinion that of Esther Solymosi, and as the neck was not cut, no ritual murder could have been committed.
On June 17, 1883, a trial of the accused was held. Moritz Scharf was the principal witness. The glaring discrepancies in his statements despite his coaching resulted in the unanimous acquittal of all the accused on August 3, 1883.
Uprisings followed the acquittal in Presburg, Budapest and other parts of Hungary.