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Bodies in the Vacants

Remains in English well are those of persecuted Jews

Marc Tracy
June 23, 2011


Seventeen skeletons found at the bottom of a well in Norwich, England, are likely the last remains of Jews who, er, involuntarily dove in during the Middle Ages. DNA testing showed that five of the skeletons were members of a single Jewish family, and scientists have pretty much validly extrapolated the rest. In the course of researching a review of a Holocaust vampire novel, I learned that one place in which the blood libel is thought to have originated is, actually, Norwich, in eastern England, where, in the 12th century, a boy named William who was found dead by stab marks was said to have been murdered by the Jews who needed his blood; in 1189, essentially all the Norwich Jews were slaughtered. Bygones!

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.

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