Beiliss Libel 3

As the Beiliss fiasco gathered  momentum, protests poured into Russia  from leading Jews and gentiles  worldwide. The first protest was  signed by 206 leading German academics.

An American protest contained  the names of 74 Christian leaders. A  British protest had 240 signatories,  including government leaders and the  Archbishops of Canterbury and York.  A Russian manifesto was signed by  150 eminent scientists and artists, six  members of the Imperial Council and  sixty-four members of the Duma  (Russian parliament).

Twenty-five members of the St.  Petersburg bar were sentenced to  imprisonment for sending a cable to  the defense, denouncing “the distortions  of the foundations of justice evident  in the staging of the trial.” Mass  meetings were held worldwide and the  vast majority of the world’s press condemned  the show trial. However, as  the saying goes, “the dogs barked and  the caravan moved on.” 

One of the key witnesses against  Beiliss was ten-year-old Lyudmilla  Cheberyak, the daughter of the alternative  prime suspect, who claimed that  she had seen Beiliss dragging off his  victim. The court accepted her as a  witness even though she had kept  silent for the first eighteen months  after Andryusha Yushchinsky’s murder.  In court, she gave a detailed description  of what purportedly happened  (cited in Maurice Samuel’s book,  Blood Accusation):

“Andryusha (the victim) called to  my brother, Zhenya, asking him to go  and play. We all went: Zhenya, Dunya,  myself and some boys. We were playing  on the grounds when Mendel and  someone else chased us away. He got  Zhenya and Andryusha. Zhenya got  away and ran but he held onto  Andryusha while I ran home with my  sister. She shouted, ‘They got  Andryusha,’ but I didn’t see it.”  Of all the children that Lyudmilla  named, only Dunya was still alive during  the trial; Zhenya and their sister  had died during the thirty months since  the murder. Dunya was asked to take  the stand and Judge Boldyrev asked  her, “Were you playing with Lyudmilla  and did Beiliss chase you away?”

“It never happened!” she replied.

“We were chased by Beiliss!” Lyudmilla  insisted.

“Better think back!” retorted Dunya.

Lyudmilla began to cry and the prosecutor  asked that this be entered into  the record to support his foolproof thesis  that any witnesses who supported  Beiliss had been bribed or intimidated.

Thus, paradoxically, the more support  garnered for Beiliss, the more it  proved the corrupting influence of the  Jews. In anti-Semitic circles, this kind  of argument is considered eminently  logical even nowadays.

As mentioned earlier, there was an  alternative prime suspect in the Beiliss  case – the criminal ringleader, Vera  Cheberyak. Not happy with the way  the case was going, she clumsily  attempted to bribe another youngster  to testify against Beiliss. However, she  was overheard by a witness and confronted  with the youngster in court.

Judge: “Witness Cheberyak, the boy  says you instructed him to tell us that  he was at the clay mixer at the time.”

Cheberyak: “It never happened!”

Judge: “Tell us, boy, how it really  was.”

Zarutsky: “She (Cheberyak) was  seated some way from us (in the court  building). She told me to come over  and said to me, ‘Don’t you remember  when you, Zhenya, Valya and Lyudmilla  were playing on the clay mixer  and Beiliss grabbed Valya, Zhenya and  Andryusha and those two managed to  get away and he got Andryusha?’”

Cheberyak: “You are lying. It was  Lyudmilla who said that.”

Although this incident provided a  clear insight as to the source of the testimony  of Cheberyak’s daughter,  Lyudmilla, the court allowed the incident  to slide into oblivion.

On the other hand, the number of  witnesses who came forward and testified  against Cheberyak and her henchmen  mounted. For example, Katherine  Diakonova, a seamstress, testified that  she had visited Cheberyak’s home on  the day the victim disappeared and  noticed many strange things going on.

“Cheberyak herself opened the door  and I saw in the big room the three  men (her henchmen) who got flustered  and ran into the small room where they remained in hiding,” she said. “She  didn’t let me go into the living room  but took me into the kitchen. The room  was in disarray, the rug thrown under  the table.”

Also, Zinaida Malitzkaya, the  woman who lived underneath  Cheberyak, testified that she heard  suspicious footsteps and noises coming  from Cheberyak’s apartment that  morning.

To prevent the case from drifting too  far in the “wrong” direction, Prosecutor  Vipper expended superhuman  efforts proving that Cheberyak’s three  henchman had committed a complicated  burglary the following evening and  could not possibly have had time to  commit another crime and hide the  evidence the day before. 

On the twenty-fifth day of the trial,  the religious experts took the stand. On  the prosecution’s side was Father  Pranaitis, who had been hauled all the  way from Tashkent to deliver his twisted  notions of Judaism. It was true that  his expertise was a little shaky, but the  prosecution was nonetheless confident  that his passionate anti-Semitism  would convince the boorish jurymen  where to cast their vote.

Pranaitis launched into an involved  opening address, peppered with  Hebrew terms, such as chassidimtzaddik, Zohar and Shulchan Aruch.  He also quoted extensively from a  book, published a century before, by  an unknown author who called himself  Neophyte and claimed to be a converted  Jew, privy to the secrets of the Jews.  In front of the court and international  press, Pranaitis read pearls of wisdom  from this book, including interesting  facts, such as, “All European  Jews have eczema… all Asiatic Jews  mange upon their heads, all African  Jews boils on their legs, and American  Jews a disease of the eyes as a result of  which they are disfigured and stupid.”  The book described the use of blood  for so many different rites that a London

Times correspondent cabled  home, “If Neophyte is right, it is difficult  to see why the huge supply of such  a demand has escaped general attention  hitherto.”

Despite Pranaitis’ boorishness, it  was difficult for the defense to expose  him because every time they asked  him to back up his quotations from  Jewish texts, he pleaded that he did not  have the requisite volumes with him.  And when the defense offered to supply  the books themselves, he retorted  that he refused to be drawn into a literary  squabble.

Then Ben-Zion Katz, a Hebrew  writer who was acting as an advisor for  the defense, figured out a brilliant  solution. Why not show everyone that  Pranaitis was totally ignorant of the  meaning of the Hebrew phrases he was  spouting forth so confidently?

The next day, Karabchevsky of the  defense asked Pranaitis, “Will the  expert kindly tell us the meaning of the  word Chullin?”

“One may not cross-examine the  experts,” the judge objected.  Karabchevsky explained that he  merely wanted information in order to  follow the priest’s arguments more  closely.      Then the fun began.

Defense: “What is the meaning of  the word Chullin?”

Pranaitis: “I don’t know.”

Defense: “What is the meaning of  the word Eruvin?”

Pranaitis: “I don’t know.”

Defense: “What is the meaning of  the word Yevamos?”

Pranaitis: “I don’t know.”

Defense: “When did Bava Basra  live and what was her profession?”

“Pranaitis: “I don’t know.”

After the last question, the Jews in  the courtroom burst into laughter.

“Furthermore, all the perverse and  ridiculous lies that Pranaitis had postulated  were completely refuted by the  brilliant, decisive testimony given by  the well-known and universally  respected Rabbi of Moscow, Rabbi  Mazeh,” Beiliss later wrote in his autobiography.

“He delivered a long,  detailed speech, quoting passages from  the Torah, the Talmud and many other  books, to conclusively reveal both the  absurdity and the stupidity inherent in  the testimony of such ‘experts’ as  Pranaitis.

“Any intelligent person could see  that the priest had no knowledge whatsoever  of the Talmud and could hardly  even read a passage in Hebrew.”

A Russian agent disappointedly  wrote to his superiors in St. Petersburg:

“Questioning of Pranaitis  reduced the persuasive power of his  testimony, revealing ignorance of texts  and insufficient acquaintance with  Jewish literature. 

In his final summation, Judge  Boldyrev asked the jury to decide two  questions. The first: “Has it been  proved that on March 12th, 1911…  Andrei Yushchinsky [suffered]…  wounds [that] caused… almost total  loss of blood… and death?” This question  was carefully worded to hint at ritual  murder.

The second question: “If the event  described in the first question has been  proved, is the accused… guilty…?”

While the jury deliberated, a memorial  service for Andryusha was held in  a nearby cathedral surrounded by a  giant crowd.

Finally, the jury filed back into court  and the foreman read out their decision.  Concerning the first question, as to  whether there had been a ritualistic  crime: “Yes, it has been proved!”

Concerning the second question,  whether Beiliss had committed the  crime: “No, not guilty.”

Pandemonium broke out and Beiliss  burst into tears. The crowd around the  cathedral dispersed quietly. The Times  of London wrote that “the acquittal of  Beiliss was the most crushing blow to  Russia since the Russo-Japanese War.”

Despite this, the prosecution  claimed that they had triumphed  because the jury had ruled the first verdict  as guilty, and organized a victory  banquet in St. Petersburg.

Beiliss left Russia in 5674/1914 and,  after eight years in Palestine, he  moved to America. By the time he  passed away in 5694/1934, blood  libels were largely an aberration of the  past, but worse things were yet to  come.

Anti-Semitism is so difficult to  stamp out that Father Pranaitis is quoted  even in our day. Canadian schoolteacher,  James Keegstra of Eckville,  Alberta, was dismissed from his post  in 5742/1982 because of his anti-  Semitic actions, including the espousal  of that priest’s ideas in class.

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