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Blood Libel of Andreas of Rinn

Andreas of Rinn Blood Libel - The blood libel is a false accusation that Jews sacrifice Christian children either to use the blood for various "medicinal" purposes or to prepare Passover Matzoth (unleavened bread). It is one of the central fables of Anti-Semitism of the older (middle ages) type. The story of Andreas Oxner or Anderl of Rinn is particularly famous along with that of Simon of Trent. The cult has persisted into modern times and is believed by dissident Catholics.

Church "decoration"
removed recently,
showing Jews murdering
Anderl of Rinn. The caption
 reads "They cut the martyr's
throat and take all his blood."

In 1462, at Rinn, near Innsbruck in Austria, a boy named Andreas Oxner (or Anderl or Andrew) was supposedly bought by Jewish merchants and cruelly murdered by them in a forest near the city. His blood was carefully collected in vessels. The story was only popularized in the 17th century. In 1619 a Dr. Hippolyt Guarinoni (1571-1654) heard a story about little boy who was buried in Rinn and had been murdered by Jews. Guarinoni claimed that he dreamed that the year of death of this boy was 1462. The modern celebration of the the cult of Anderl began in 1621 and by the late 17th century the cult of Anderl was established throughout the Tyrol, together with other boys who had supposedly been killed by Jews. In 1642 Guarinoni himself wrote a book Triumph Cron Marter Vnd Grabschrift des Heilig Unschuldigen Kindts [Triumph, Crown, Martyrdom and Epitaph of the Holy Innocent Child].

Though Andreas of Rinn was never canonized, a plenary indulgence was granted for pilgrims in 1754. The case for canonization was considered and rejected by Pope Benedict XIV in an encyclical of 1751.

 The issue of canonization is important because following the suppression of the cult, it was claimed that Simon of Trent along with Andreas of Rinn are both canonized saints. The actual status of both children is made clear in the Bull Beatus Andreas of Pope Gregory XIV: Both children were beatified evidently, but neither one was formally canonized.(see List of Papal Bulls concerning Jews

The martyrdom of "Saint" Andreas was recorded by Jacob Grimm:

In 1462 it so happened that in the Tyrol, in the village of Rinn, several Jews persuaded a poor farmer to give up his little child, by paying him a lot of money. They took the child out into the forest and in the most horrible manner, martyred him there on a big stone, which is ever since called the "Judenstein" ["the Jewry-stone"]. The dead corpse they hung on a birch tree standing near a bridge. Now, the mother of the child was working in a field as the murder happened, and at once her thoughts turned to her child and without knowing why she became very afraid, and then, one after another, three fresh drops of blood fell on her hand. Full of anxiousness she hurried home and sought after her child. Her husband led her into the room and confessed what he had done. He wanted to show her the money which had released them from poverty, but it had all transformed into leaves. Then the father lost his mind and died of grief, but the mother went out to look for their little-child, and when she found it hanged on a tree, took it down with hot tears and carried it into the church in Rinn. And still the child lies there and is viewed by the people as a sacred child. The Judenstein was also brought there. It is said that a shepherd chopped down the tree on which the child had hanged, but when he wanted to take it to his home, he broke a leg and had to die. ref  

The issue of canonization is important because following the suppression of the cult, it was claimed that Andreas of Rinn Simon of Trent along with Simon of Trent are both canonized saints. The actual status of both children is made clear in the Bull Beatus Andreas of Pope Gregory XIV: Both children were beatified, but neither on was formally canonized. It is possible that Gregory wished at the same time to accede to the wishes of local people to honor their heroes, and yet at the same time was unwilling to put the final imprimatur of the Church on a story that had not been investigated in the prescribed manner. That the investigation never took place leads to the suspicion that the Popes understood what such an investigation would find.  

In the 1950s, souvenir postcards portraying the murder were still being sold and the then Bishop Rusch of Innsbruck stated his belief in the myth in a letter to Simon Wiesenthal, the Nazi Hunter: "the Jewish writer goes much too far if he meant to claim that Jews had never done such things." The Bishop also wrote to the Jews of Linz who protested the cult, "The Jews have not up to the present time proved that they never committed a parallel crime. In 1961, Pope John XXIII tried to expunge the cult. He secretly ordered a plaque placed on the Judenstein stating that the cult of Andrew was nothing other than a legend and that it had nothing to to with the Jewish people. He directed that the various tableaux, statues, and frescoes be removed. The villagers of Rinn protested, threatening revolt if the statue was removed. Thus the statue remained, and the pilgrimages continued, the statue being surrounded by flowers and candles.   (see: Dundes, Alan, The Blood Libel Legend, pp 342-3)  Belated attempts of a later Bishop of Innsbruck  to end the cult had not been entirely successful. In 1994 the cult was officially banned, but processions to the site of the supposed martyrdom continue.ref   This attests either to the indelible embedding of anti-Semitism in European culture, or the attachment of local inhabitants to the folk cult, or to their attachment to a fetish that attracts tourists and is a valued source of income, or perhaps to all of these. The veneration of real or imagined saints and martyrs and the cult of pilgrimages to their graves is likewise popular in some subcultures of both Jewish and Muslim culture, though both religions also condemn all such practices as idolatry, regardless of the worth of the "saint" or the truth of the story.

Ingrid Shafer, who collaborated in rewriting the Oberammargau Passion play to remove the most anti-Semitic aspects, is a native of Innsbruck. She offered these recollections and insights concerning the cult of Andreas of Rinn and the blood libel myth:

I was born in Innsbruck, Austria, one month before Hitler marched into Poland, and have been haunted by images of the Holocaust ever since I was old enough to read magazines and interrogate adults.  In my teens I began to seek a rational explanation for what seemed the unconscious, knee-jerk anti-Jewish prejudices of so many good people I knew--teachers, other children, even my father.  One day, as part of the study of regional history, our class hiked up the mountain to the nearby village of Rinn to visit Judenstein (“Jew-stone”), the shrine of the “Blessed  Anderle,” the final resting place of a  small boy whose throat, the teacher told us, had been slit by a band of Jewish merchants centuries before.  In the chapel, we saw the large grey boulder on which the toddler had been slaughtered, and marveled at the imprint of the tiny body, miraculously left behind, a silent witness to a crime so heinous it softened the very stone. We listened to the story of Anderle’s martyrdom, how on this stone altar his tormentors had torn pieces of flesh from his body, stabbed him numerous times,  and cut his arteries, catching the blood in containers. Later the Jewish monsters planned to use the blood to prepare the dough in order to bake bread for their heathen ritual, mocking the Eucharist. We looked at the pictures of the crime being committed on the chapel walls, knelt for prayer in the pews, and imagined the child’s agony and his mother’s grief when she discovered her son’s lifeless body hanging from a birch tree.

In the months and years following that class outing, in the recesses of my mind, doubts began to stir. Initially, I was  repulsed by the teacher’s story and the gruesome pictures of the murder. Eventually, and more importantly, the entire tradition, especially the miraculously imprinted stone, began to make no sense and seemed fabricated in order to terrify Christian children, malign Jews, and attract pilgrims.  This suspicion was reinforced by a fine priest, Professor Anton Egger, my religion teacher at the Realgymnasium, who was clearly not impressed by the cult, and who told me years later that he had doubted the legitimacy of the devotion all along. Especially when I discovered that a folk drama version of the Anderle murder by a Norbertine canon, Gottfried Schöpf, was still regularly performed,  I began to connect the ways Jews of the past were depicted in pious tales with the ways ordinary Christians continued to view their Jewish contemporaries.  

Between 1985 and 1994, due to the efforts of Bishop Reinhold Stecher, the blood libel story was officially debunked, little Anderle was debeatified, and the shrine was turned into a memorial to the victims of anti-Semitism with the following inscription on a plaque: "This stone reminds us of a dark deed of blood  as well as, by its very name, of the many sins Christians have committed against Jews.  In the future it shall serve as a sign of our reconciliation with the people who have borne us the savior."  However, until the veneration of Anderle was officially prohibited, the shrine had continued to attract pilgrims and, with its graphic depictions of the murder, helped shape the imagination of countless visitors, especially children, even after World War II, as it had for hundreds of years before.  On my last visit to the chapel in 1998 I overheard a group of local residents complain bitterly about the desecration of their shrine and demotion of their “saint.”  The power of image and imagination to shape one’s understanding of reality and especially one’s pre-conscious, intuitive assumptions cannot be overemphasized. ref 

Ami Isseroff

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information:

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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