Tiszaeszlar (In Hungarian Tiszaeszlár) is a town in northeast Hungary, close to the city of Nyiregyhaza. The city became infamous in reference to a blood libel there that drew popular opinion throughout Europe at the time and has become the topic of stormy agitation in Hungary for many years. Its effects were disastrously clear throughout the White Terror era (1919–21) and even later throughout the antisemitic activity that culminated in Hungary with the expulsions of Jews during WWII. In 1882, at the time of the blood libel, there were twenty-five Jewish families living in Tiszaeszlar, which had a complete population of roughly 2,700. In 1944, the year of the expulsions, there were sixty-one Jews within the village.
On April 1, 1882, a villager, Eszter Solymosi, a Christian lady aged fourteen, disappeared. it had been later discovered that she had committed suicide by throwing herself into the stream Tisza. A brief time after her disappearance, rumors were unfolding that a number of the native Jews had killed her within the community synagogue for spiritual necessities in anticipation of Pesach. The accusers comprised the leading native official, the provincial deputy within the parliament in Budapest, and the native Catholic priest who sent out an article that, by implication, suspected the Jews of ritual murder. The authorities began an investigation. The examining adjudicator and alternative representatives of the state, who, in essence, believed the accusers, implemented their investigation with brutal strategies. They succeeded in tricking a neighborhood 14-year-old Jewish boy, Móric Scharf, into agreeing with false evidence that he had witnessed his father, with other native Jews, commit the murder. The investigation and following trial were provided with lots of publicity throughout Europe. There were fierce arguments on the topic within the Budapest parliament. Antisemitic deputies, like Győző Istóczy, incited a violent upheaval. Prime minister Kálmán Tisza failed to believe the libel. However, thanks to political concerns he failed to dare to impede the judicial proceedings. The minister of justice, Tivadar Pauler, did believe that a couple of wild Jews used Christian blood for their spiritual worship. The state prosecutor-general, Sándor Kozma, a person of liberal opinions, was critical of the charge. A representative of the prosecution at the trial itself, Ede Szeyffert, conjointly supported this opinion.
The trial was controlled in Nyiregyhaza throughout the summer months of 1883. In his summing-up speech, the public prosecutor projected that the suspect ought to be not guilty, and therefore the fifteen Jewish suspects were acquitted. The counsel for the defense was smartly led by a non-Jewish advocate, Károly Eötvös, also a noted author, politician, and member of the Hungarian parliament. It had been as a result of his interventions that the assembly found invalid the false proof that had been submitted. When appealed, the decision was finally upheld by the supreme court of the national capital on May 10, 1884. Rather than subsiding, the wave of antisemitism gathered momentum throughout Hungary after the decision of the district assembly. In 1883, there were attacks on Jews in Budapest itself and alternative localities. These outbreaks reached such proportions that in bound districts, the authorities were forced to announce a state of emergency so as to safeguard the Jews and their property. Within the wake of the antisemitic movement focused around the trial galvanized by Istóczy, a specifically antisemitic party was supported that, in the parliamentary elections of 1884, won seventeen seats. Within the same elections, Eötvös, the defense advocate, was unsuccessful as a candidate for the Liberals.
A spread of books and articles on the trial was written by Jewish and antisemitic authors. In 1904, Eötvös wrote a history of the trial, a respected piece of literature that was revealed in a second edition in 1968. The boy that had implicated his parents and the fellow Jews of his community underwent a religious and mental crisis. He remained for a short while along with his parents in Budapest and later moved to Amsterdam, where he started a family with traditional Jewish values and gained employment in the diamond trade. He would later have his memoirs published.
“Károly Eötvös.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Karoly-Eotvos#ref999251.
Redaktionmws. “The Tiszaeszlár Blood Libel: Image and Propaganda.” Wissen in Verbindung, April 29, 2021. https://mws.hypotheses.org/37349.