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Reconfiguring Diaspora: The Transformation of the Jewish Diaspora in Antiquity

Abstract: Michael Brocke

Medieval Martyrdom Remembered and Reflected in Cemeteries and Spolia

Michael Brocke

Salomon L. Steinheim-Institut fuer deutsch-juedische Geschichte an der Universitaet Duisburg-Essen


While the Hebrew Chronicles of the Crusades paint many martyrs “al qiddush haShem”, their fate and their heroism – men women and children – in vivid colors, in horrible stories, they cannot tell much about what happened after their cruel deaths. They were not granted individual burials, we do not know of any individual headstone of those events. Quite different was the fate of individual martyrs murdered not in a major massacre or pogrom, who were buried by and in their respective communities, e.g. the ShUM cities. In those places we do find a relatively high number of tombstones for martyrs (and those dying from an unnatural death), from the 11th century until the early 14th century (up until the Black Death pogroms of 1348 and the following years). While they could be granted proper burial and an epitaph, there is no telling of any details about their deaths, in contrast to the details told by the Hebrew Chronicles. There might be one or two exceptions to this thesis.
As there are no biographical or other details, I will study the uses of the expressions: “al yihud / al qiddush Ha-Shem'”, “qadosh”, “qedoshim”, “qedosha” etc., used to define the status of the murdered ones, in their chronological development and change over the course of several  centuries, as is possible by a close reading of the inscriptions of martyrs in the major Ashkenazic communities of Woms, Mainz, Wuerzburg, Regensburg et al.