Since the aforementioned hearsay was coming from an official source it had prestige and power. To continue, it was repeated by various individuals of any class, some in a gullible manner, some on purpose, from the upper to the lower class, doctors and lawyers, landowners, merchants, tranters particularly in politics re-circulated the above-mentioned rumours, which being considered useful in serving their personal aims, and used their aims to eradicate Jewish elements from Corfu from which they had much to gain. Groups of citizens came into the Jewish district injuring, beating, calling the Israelites names or shooting them.
Others Christian citizens , when coming across others Jews outside the Jewish district, would threaten them and hitting them with any object spreading fear and terror which caused despair to the Israelites and forced them to abandon their homeland. Other Christians threw the Jews boarding ships to depart for foreign lands into the sea, destroyed their monuments — in that sense also practising symbolic violence — others publicly advocated against the Jews in squares, coffee houses, taverns, and wherever there were groups of citizens, where those belonging to the opposition has a primary role.
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Such individuals, twisting every governmental effort to keep peace, and adopting every false rumour that could ignite the spirit of the people, regularly sent texts and short articles to Athenian opposition newspapers in order to create a general evil mood. Despite powerful military forces patrolling the Jewish district, assaults against the Jews continued. The local and Athenian press had frequent, if not daily, correspondence on the Jewish affairs of Corfu, which expanded to include neighbouring areas, particularly Zakynthos.
The plethora of usually contradicting information about the Corfu blood libel contributed to the reinforcement of the rumours of R. However, these rumours were not the only ones initially circulating around the island, and later on around the whole of Greece. The rumour of the ritual murder was not the only one.
There were many other rumours, especially because a murder is always a fascinating story, and the murder of a child even more so. Or that she had been, unwillingly, taken to a brothel, had resisted and was subsequently killed. A second array of rumours surrounded the family drama of Rubina. Newspapers reported a wide variety of theories. It is indeed difficult for one to explain the reason why the despicable malefactors used such ways to kill the young innocent girl.
The mystery becomes more obfuscated when it is taken into account that while the Jew, to whom it is said that the massacred maiden belongs, said that he had 5 children, while from the official announcement of the rabbi it results that he had 4. Consequently, the murdered maiden is Christian, going by the name Maria Dessyla, orphan of father, kidnapped in Ioannina in order to be mercilessly sacrificed; a tradition which is considered by many to be a custom of the Jews. But that rumour is falsified by the announcement of the mayor of Corfu, which certifies that the maiden is Jewish, as can be seen from the archives of the arch-rabbi.
Of these three different categories of rumours sexual topics, family drama, and ritual murder accusations it was the third that dominated. Apparently — at that time — there could not be any other rumour more interesting. Family drama as a motive was just too private and could not have interested the mass of the society a lot. On the contrary, the rumour about a possible ritual murder had the best characteristics for a rumour to be spread out quickly for several reasons, as detailed below.
The whole issue initially took on huge proportions against the Jews of the island. An initial attack on the Jewish district on the 3 rd of April ended up in an uprising, resulting in the Jewish district being closed off by military forces after the order of L. Vlachos, mayor of the city. This exacerbated the already tenuous situation, since the Christians started to have the impression that the government was protecting the guilty Jews. After a month of repeated disruptions and the renewed invasion of Christians into the Jewish district, military forces were sent from Patras, supervised by Notaras.
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Bouklakos, 65 to appeal to the people to maintain peace 66 and urged him to work towards preventing the emigration of the Jews. Indeed, there had been reactions in other Greek places, mainly on Zakynthos, where there was also a strong Jewish community. In panic, the responsible military guardsman ordered guns to be used.
Due to this, five Christian citizens were killed, five were hurt and property damage, 69 vandalism and terror. The first, and greatest, part was organised by the opposition, the second by thiefs and robbers and the least part was organised by those who were religiously spurred by honesty and stupidity and helping the offenders without realising what they were doing. The Zakynthos events, and particularly those of Corfu, caused a general outcry against Greece from abroad.
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Even if the incidences, which sadden us all, could be seen as a burst of popular sentiment, we strongly believe that they could not be found in any other part of Greece. Finally, he upheld that the greater part of the Greek people was innocent, while - along the same lines - they felt outraged and ashamed of the occurrences on the Ionian Islands. These kinds of rumours and accusations towards Jews were not unknown in the Greek-orthodox community, especially during the last quarter of the 19th Century and well into the 20th century.
The soil was always fertile. The history of different European countries 80 and of the Greek population in Greece and especially in the Ottoman Empire 81 always proved it. Taking the bloody events of Corfu as an impetus Petros Kassimatis published an antisemitic work 82 in the same year which mainly is based on the book of Henri Desportes 83 , set out to prove the veracity of the ritual murder accusations against Jews. Among the numerous cases of presumed ritual murder in Greece and in other places he mentions two more almost unknown blood defamations on the island, aside from the blood defamation of Corfu in In this antisemitic frenzy there was also the other side, not only in publishing circles but also in the Orthodox Church.
The works of Georgios Zavitsianos 88 and Spyridon Papageorgiou, 89 as well as the pro Semitic stance and effort of Dionysios Latas, archbishop of Zakynthos during , 90 constitute characteristic examples. His work was written due to the examined blood defamation of Corfu. In the pages that follow the author endeavors to collate arguments, documents and statutes that prove the false and unsubstantial nature of the accusations of human sacrifice against the Jews.
This aim seems to have been achieved to a large extent, since -as the speaker himself noted in the preface of his published text- many members of the audience discarded their mistaken perceptions about the Jewish human sacrifices, while the beliefs of others were — if not totally discarded — but significantly shaken. Dionysios Latas is an example of a high ranked cleric who fought against the defamations that those of similar religion to his Christianity spread against the Jews, because of the Jewish affairs of Corfu.
Indeed, the personality of archbishop Latas and his persistent fight against antisemitic practices in Greece constituted a notable exception at that time. Despite the official published condemnation of the ritual murder accusation from the official Greek church, 99 after the beginning of the Corfu affair, the Greek Orthodox Church, and the low ranks of the clergy in particular were harboring an intense anti-Jewish mood and in essence left the path open for the manifestation of anti-Jewish popular traditions in the halls of the Church; such as the widely spread until recently in many areas of Greece practice of burning an effigy of Judas that they used to.
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They hung this effigy on a tree outside the temple or on a gallow which was raised in a way as to allow them to work off their hatred in various ways. They threw stones at the effigy, they beat it with sticks, they spat curses and foul words at it, and the most restless would stab it, making sure to make it as despicable as they could. However, there were, aside from the religious aspects not of the murder per se, but of the emphasis given to it, also financial and political reasons that pushed antisemitic manifestations to the edge. Iakovos Polylas also does not admit the existence of financial reasons for the antisemitic outburst in Corfu, as he upholds that the Jews of the island do not play a role in the industry, and that they only partly do control the trade of olive oil, since Christians are also involved in it.
Furthermore he considered it a mistake that the Jews dared blame the Christians for the murder. On part of the Jews, the prestigious Dr. De Semo also does not believe in the existence of financial reasons for the bloodthirsty developments in Corfu. He upholds that — except for two cases — the Jews of Corfu do not have significant influence on the banking business, as it the case in other European countries, neither do they have their hand in industry, and, except for some tailors, are not artisans.
De Semo considers the superstitions about human sacrifice as the main reason for the antisemitic incidences. However, even though the most important political and social figures of the local Greek and Jewish society doubted the existence of financial reasons for the outburst of antisemitic incidences, those reasons were valid. Specifically, during that time there was a feudal system in Corfu and the Christian landowners rented their mainly olive fields to farmers Christian citizens as well in exchange for money.
Frequently, the farmers could not pay the lease and had to take a mortgage, often from Jewish citizens of the island, which were described as usury and therefore Jews were hated by the Christian farmers. Very often, Christian farmers could not pay the high interest at the same time as the lease. The landowners and the Jews were considered responsible for the miserable situation in which the farmers found themselves, as well as for their exploitation. According to the report of Kefalas, who denounces the police force to participate in auctions. Furthermore, did political reasons contribute to the outburst of antisemitic incidences in Corfu.
We do not deny that we fight the Jews. In fact, we consider this an essential part of our mission. We fight them in order to restrict them… We should not permit the Jews to have more privileges and rights than the Christians anymore. In this case, it was known that the Jews almost in union voted against Georgios Theotokis' party, and against his brother Michail Theotokis.
On July 7 th communal elections were. The electoral run was predicted to be difficult and therefore every vote were of particular importance. His followers put in great efforts to persuade the Jews to abstain from the elections in order to prevent Vassilakis to win the elections. This turned out to be an effective strategy. Conversely, friends and family of the mayor collaborated for the annihilation and disappearance of the Jews, while the local newspapers who had the same political beliefs published any false rumour.
The communal elections of the 7 th of July showed M. Theotokis as winner. A big part of the Jews had already left the island. Of the total of 5. The Boy They Tried to Hide.
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