Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fixing The Fixer

Mark Stein, one of my oldest friends, has helped edit and re-issue the memoirs of Mendel Beilis:
One of the great trials of the twentieth century was the 1913 blood-libel trial of Mendel Beilis in Czarist Russia. Beilis, a Jew, was arrested in 1911 by the Czarist secret police. He was accused of ritually murdering a Christian boy in order to use the boy’s blood to bake matzah for Passover. Beilis was jailed for over two years, under horrible conditions, while awaiting trial. He heroically resisted all pressure to implicate himself or other Jews. In 1913, after a dramatic trial that riveted the Jewish people and much of the rest of the world, Beilis was acquitted by an all-Christian jury.
This is a genuinely moving and gripping account. With something of a happy ending, even. Aside from Beilis's own responses to his troubles, which display an unassuming heroism in the face of forces bent on his destruction, it is quite heartwarming to see that a good many Christians supported and came to his aid, but also his neighbors and acquaintances. Very oddly, his friends and supporters included even members of the Black Hundreds, the anti-semitic nationalist group that was pushing the libel.

The post title is a reference to a supplementary essay that claims Bernard Malamud plagiarized large sections of his famous novel The Fixer from Beilis' account.

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