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mjhurst  mjhurst is offline
Join Date: 24 Jul 2003
Location: California, U.S.A.
Posts: 316
The Hanged Man and the "Jewish Execution"

Leon Efron looked into the so-called "Jewish Execution". He had run out of leads in researching the subject until his attention was drawn to the following passage from Gertrude Moakley's The Tarot Cards painted by Bonifacio Bembo:

For the shame-painting used against a debtor in Germany see “The ‘Jewish Execution’ in Medieval Germany and the Reception of Roman Law”, by Guido Kisch (in Studi in memoria di Paolo Koschaker L'Europa e il diritto romano, Milano 1955, II 65-93), or an earlier version of the same article in Historia Judaica V (1943) 103-132. It mentions hanging by the feet as a method of killing a man as a punishment for theft....
Eventually, Leon was able to locate a copy of Kisch, and the following report is from his site, quoted with his permission.

Kisch states that the term "Jewish Execution" is an arbitrary coinage of a modern author and was not the title of this mode of execution in the past. Kisch emphasizes the point which to some extent proves that the Hanged man trump was not created by the Jewish Execution's influence:

"[...] it should be emphasized that Jewish criminals were by no means the only ones to be executed in the described manner, either in the Middle Ages or in more recent centuries. It is a fact, for which ample evidence will be adduced hereafter, that in Central Europe up to the end of the fourteenth century the 'Jewish Execution' was completely unknown as a specifically 'Jewish' kind of punishment. Nor can historical origin of this intensification in the execution of the death penalty be tracked back to its application to Jewish transgressors. The 'Jewish Execution' is, furthermore, even from the fifteenth century onwards, not a punishment for all acts of felony committed by Jews, but for theft only. [...]" (Page 106)

Kisch quotes Von Amira (Todesstrafen p. 105): "There can be no question of [the Jewish Execution's] having originated in the Middle Ages, still less of its having arisen as a particular penalty for Jews. The custom simply persisted longest in this character."

As we see it did become, for a time, a punishment that was used primarily on Jews, as a means to not only inflict a more severe punishment but also to emphasize the 'otherness' of the Jew -- "The Jew should be distinguishable from the hanged Christians." (Bruner Schoffenbuch 14th century).

Kisch states that the earliest example of hanging a person by the feet and similarly suspending dogs or wolves at the victims sides, as described in the Jewish Execution, is recorded by Adam of Bremen in his Gesta Hammenburgenesis Ecclesiae Pontificum (ca. 1072-1076). The earliest description of a Jewish Execution carried out in this manner is found in the Annals and Chronicles of Kolmar (1296).

Kisch brings proofs that up till the 14th century, this manner of Execution was not a punishment specifically or exclusively inflicted on Jewish offenders. After this time it was mostly, but not exclusively a tool to emphasize the difference of the Jew and to humiliate him as such. In a picture from 1490 appearing below we see a Christian noble Hans von Judmann zu Affeking who was of Jewish descent portrayed as being hanged like a Jew. This is not a depiction of an actual execution. It is a caricature which was a part of a Scheltbrief, which is a defamation book meant to dishonor a debtor who failed to pay his debt. Medieval Law in some countries allowed creditors to use the Scheltbrief in order to bring debtors to pay. The fact the Jewish Execution is used here emphasizes that at that time it was considered a 'Jewish' symbol. The insult to the Christian noble is even greater in this caricature where his coat of arms is also suspended with him on the gallows showing four 'Jewish-hats' (a sign of shame which Jews were made to wear) depicted on it, emphasizing the Jewish heritage of the nobleman.
I'll post some of those illustrations below.

Best regards,
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