FYI January 09, 2021

On This Day

1349 – The Jewish population of Basel, believed by the residents to be the cause of the ongoing Black Death, is rounded up and incinerated.[3]
The Basel massacre (Basler Judenpogrom) of January 1349[1] was an instance of persecution of Jews during the Black Death. An estimated 50 to 70 Jews were killed by burning.

A Jewish community had formed in Basel in the late 12th to early 13th century, migrating from the Rhineland. A synagogue and a Jewish cemetery existed outside the city walls in the 13th century.

With the spread of the Black Death, there were pogroms against Jews triggered by rumours of well poisoning. Already at Christmas 1348, before the plague had reached Basel, the Jewish cemetery was destroyed and a number of Jews fled the city. In January 1349, there was a meeting between the bishop of Strasbourg and representatives of the cities of Strasbourg, Freiburg and Basel to coordinate their policy in face of the rising tide of attacks against the Jews in the region, who were nominally under imperial protection.

The pogrom was committed by an angered mob and was not legally sanctioned by the city council or the bishop. The mob captured all remaining Jews in the city and locked them into a wooden hut they constructed on an island in the Rhine (the location of this island is unknown, it was possibly near the mouth of the Birsig, now paved-over). The hut was set alight and the Jews locked inside were burned to death or suffocated.

The number of 300 to 600 victims mentioned in medieval sources is not credible; the entire community of Jews in the city at the time was likely of the order of 100, and many of them would have escaped in the face of persecution in the preceding weeks. A number of 50 to 70 victims is thought to be plausible by modern historians. Jewish children appear to have been spared, but they were forcibly baptized and placed in monasteries. It appears that also a number of adult Jews were spared because they accepted conversion.[2]

Similar pogroms took place in Freiburg on 30 January, and in Strasbourg on 14 February. The massacre had notably taken place before the Black Death had even reached the city. When it finally broke out in April to May 1349, the converted Jews were still blamed for well poisoning. They were accused and partly executed, partly expulsed.

Following the expulsion of the Jews in 1349, Basel publicly resolved to not allow any Jews back into the city for at least 200 years. However, less than 15 years later, in the wake of the disastrous earthquake of 1356, Jews were allowed back and by 1365, the existence of a Jewish community is documented. It is estimated to have numbered about 150 people (out of a total population of some 8,000) by 1370.[3] It was again dissolved in 1397, for unknown reasons. It appears that this time, the Jews left the city voluntarily, and in spite of attempts by the city council to retain them, moving east into Habsburg territories, perhaps fearing renewed persecution in the face of a renewed climate of anti-Judaic sentiment developing in the Alsace in the 1390s. This time, the dissolution of the Jewish community was long-lasting, with the modern Jewish community in Basel established only after more than four centuries, in 1805.[4]


Born On This Day

1859 – Carrie Chapman Catt, American activist, founded the League of Women Voters and International Alliance of Women (d. 1947)[55]
Carrie Chapman Catt (January 9, 1859[1] – March 9, 1947) was an American women’s suffrage leader who campaigned for the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which gave U.S. women the right to vote in 1920.[2] Catt served as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association from 1900-1904 and 1915-1920. She founded the League of Women Voters in 1920 and the International Woman Suffrage Alliance in 1904,[3] which was later named International Alliance of Women. She “led an army of voteless women in 1919 to pressure Congress to pass the constitutional amendment giving them the right to vote and convinced state legislatures to ratify it in 1920” and “was one of the best-known women in the United States in the first half of the twentieth century and was on all lists of famous American women”.[4]




William Edwin Bruce Jr. (December 29, 1939 – January 8, 2021) was an American country music songwriter, singer and actor. He was known for writing the 1975 song “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” and recording the 1982 country number one hit “You’re the Best Break This Old Heart Ever Had”. He also co-starred in the television series Bret Maverick with James Garner during the 1981-82 season.


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