Russian city, in the government of the same name; situated on the right bank of the Volga. The city is chiefly memorable for the "Saratof affair," which began in 1853. The direct cause of it was the murder of two Christian boys about the time of Passover. A few years earlier, in 1844, Skripitzyn, who was entrusted with the management of Jewish affairs in Russia, wrote a paper entitled "Information About the Killing of Christians by Jews for the Purpose of Obtaining Their Blood." A limited number of copies was printed and distributed among the members of the royal family, ministers, heads of departments, and members of the Senate. Although this paper was proved afterward to be a plagiarism of a treatise published in 1740 by a demented priest, Gaudent, still the theory expounded in it found many ardent believers among administrative and judicial circles, so much so that, as late as 1878, it was published in the "Grazhdanin." No wonder, then, that the Jews were immediately accused of this double murder. A certain Yushkewitzer, his wife, their son Theodor Yurlov, a soldier, and a barber named Shliffermann were put under arrest. The chief witnesses against them were Olympiada Gorokhova (a woman of bad character and a paramour of Yurlov) and Bogdanov, a soldier. When first put on the witness-stand the woman flatly denied all knowledge of the case, but afterward changed her mind and related the following story: In July, 1853, she (Olympiada) went, toward evening, to the market-place, where she met Ita Neḥamah Yushkewitzer, whom she accompanied home. There the conversation turned upon the burning question of the day, the murder of the two Christian boys. After much urging, Ita Neḥamah admitted that the Jews had killed the boys. She gave an account of the crime: The boys were first kept in a semistarved condition for many weeks, and, in spite of their tears and appeals, were brought to the synagogue, where they were stabbed, suspended by their feet from the ceiling, circumcised, and again stabbed in many places. Upon Olympiada's asking what was done with the blood, Ita Neḥamah said that "it had been collected in a large vase, dried, made into powder, and sent to Jitomir, where it was purchased by some wealthyJews; and that for this the barber Schliffermann received 4,000,000 rubles and her husband Yankel 2,000,000." Olympiada also declared on the stand that her lover Yurlov, upon hearing that his father had been arrested, threw up his hands, exclaiming, "We are all lost!" and begged her to save him. The woman's testimony was full of contradictions; at one time she asserted that she understood Yiddish well, though the fact was that she had no knowledge of it.
The soldier Bogdanov testified that while sitting one day in the armory he overheard a conversation between two Jewish soldiers, Chader and Levin; they were discussing the necessity of liberating their coreligionist Berlinsky, who was under arrest for complicity in the murder of the two boys, and Levin said, "We must not make anything public!" Bogdanov further testified that another Jewish soldier joined them and exclaimed, in Russian, "No! we must not confess anything, though they should dismember us!" When he, Bogdanov, made his presence known to the Jewish soldiers they gave him half a ruble and bade him not to tell anything of what he had heard.
A special committee was sent from St. Petersburg to investigate this case, and though the prosecuting attorney, Durnovo, and his associates made every effort to convict the Jews nothing could be proved, the testimony offered being entirely untrustworthy. However, many Jewish families were ruined, and the effect upon the Jews living in that part of the country was highly injurious, so much so that the government was forced to appoint a commission of scholars to settle once for all the question whether the Jews used Christian blood for religious purposes.
Saratof has a population of 137,109, of whom 570 are Jews.
- Russki Encyclopedicheski Slovar, vol. xxviii.;
- Voskhod, Oct., 1881;
- Chwolson, Die Blutanklage, p. 117, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1901;
- O. Niekotorykh, Srednoviekovykh Protiv Yevreyev, p. vii., St. Petersburg, 1880.