Allusions to Blood Libel Made by Prominent Italian Newspaper

A newspaper article that appeared to link the unsolved murder of an Italian child last year with ancient blood libel slander against the Jews has prompted concern among Italian Jewish leaders.

The article, which appeared May 30 in a provincial edition of the Rome daily II Messaggero, drew parallels between the murder of 4-year-old Simone Allegretti, near the central Italian town of Foligno, and two ritual murder cases in 15th-century Italy.

The article theorized that Simone’s murderer was a mentally unbalanced person who, knowing the ritual murder stories, may have committed a sort of copycat crime.

But, as Tullia Zevi, the president of the Italian Union of Jewish Communities, pointed out in a June 8 letter to the editor of II Messaggero, the article’s conclusions were so ambiguous that they could be “potentially dangerous.”

The Messaggero article was headlined: “From History, Chilling Similarities with the Murder of Simone.” A subhead read: “Monster of Foligno, the Hypothesis of Ritual Murder.”

The article mentioned the 15th-century cases of Simon of Trent, in northern Italy, and Antonuccio of Bevagna, a town near Foligno, in Umbria.

“The first (victim), later beatified, was kidnapped the evening of Good Friday and died drained of blood during a macabre rite,” the article declared.

“The other, instead, is said to have been seized and wounded,” the newspaper said.

The blood libel, or accusation that Jews murdered Christian children and drained their blood for use in ritual, particularly in making matzot for Passover, dates back to medieval times and has been one of the most persistent and irrational anti-Semitic superstitions over the centuries.

MODERN ANALOGY MADE TO SIMON OF TRENT

The accusations have sparked mass persecutions, anti-Semitic hysteria and other horrors, down into this century. Perhaps for this reason, the Jewish community here has been quick to respond to any apparent attempt to revive on lend credence to this superstition.

The Messaggero article, by Gilberto Scalabrini, described in detail the story of Simon of Trent, a 2-year-old who was found horribly murdered on Easter Sunday 1475.

“How was Simon of Trent killed? To reread this story gives one goose pimples, because the details have a terrible resemblance to the fate of the little boy from (Foligno),” he wrote.

He quotes a Jewish historian recounting the case of Antonuccio of Bevagna, in 1485, in which a child accused a family of local Jewish bankers of kidnapping him and trying to drain his blood.

That story, however, appeared to have been linked to attempts at the time to close down the Jewish bank. The case was dismissed.

“Surely they do not have any precise analogy to the murder of Simone Allegretti,” Scalabrini wrote. “But ‘a sick mind’ could have read them” in order to commit a ritual murder, he wrote.

“The blood of Simone, in fact, was never found, even though he lost about 3 liters,” the reporter wrote.

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