Daily Israel Report

Polish Catholic Church Unveils Blood Libel Painting

On Thursday for church's international Day of Judaism, controversial picture uncovered to expose realities of anti-Semitic past.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 1/17/2014, 8:05 AM

Illustration: Christian paintings
Illustration: Christian paintings
Flash 90

The Catholic Church of Poland unveiled a painting on Thursday that had been kept hidden since 2006, after protests from both Catholics and Jews opposed the depiction of Jews murdering Christian children in the classic anti-Semitic blood libel trope.

The painting, an 18th century CE work by Italian painter Charles de Prevot called "Mord Rytualny (Ritual Murder)," has been mounted on a wall at the cathedral in Sandomierz but hidden behind a red curtain for the past 8 years due to its contents.

For the Catholic Church's international Day of Judaism, it was decided the painting should be shown to clarify the dark history of anti-Semitism.

A plaque next to the painting, prepared by the  Polish Episcopal Conference’s Committee for Dialogue with Judaism, explains how Jews did not commit "ritual murder" because it is forbidden by Judaism, reports the Polish daily Gazeta.

Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich supported the unveiling.

"It had a damaging place in history, it had a murderous place in history," Rabbi Schudrich told AFP. "You know, Jews were murdered after such accusations were made, but to cover it up I think is in some ways to forget or deny a painful past,"

The rabbi added "to uncover it, to show it publicly, is to show it for what it is: a lie, a falsification and something that no one believes in anymore."

Unfortunately the blood libel is still alive and well in the Muslim world according to reports in 2013, where fabricated stories of Jews ritually killing non-Jewish children to use their blood in baking matzah for Passover still abound.

The painting is part of a series by the same artist depicting the "martyrdom" of Christians, in a set of pictures portraying graphically brutal images of torture and murder by pagans.

Poland, which had the largest European Jewish community before roughly 90% of the country's over 3 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, has been arguing about its history lately.

Last Friday, the country's opposition proposed a bill banning the use of the term "Polish Death Camp" on pain of fines and jail time, claiming the term implies Polish responsibility for the camps.

Meanwhile a Polish municipal prosecutor ruled on Wednesday that Polish League soccer fans chanting "move on Jews," "your home is at Auschwitz," and "send you to the gas (chamber)," was not a racist criminal offense.

Rabbi Schudrich concluded "compared to...20 years ago, we've made tremendous strides, closening and deepening understanding and relations, and we still have a long way to go."