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The Accusation

Nonfiction: History
Unabridged   6 hour(s)
Publication date: 09/10/2019

The Accusation

Blood Libel in an American Town

Available from major retailers or BUY FROM AMAZON
Audio CD ISBN:9781684573813
Digital Download ISBN:9781684573806


A chilling investigation of America's only alleged case of blood libel, and what it reveals about antisemitism in the United States and Europe.

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Product Description

On Saturday, September 22, 1928, Barbara Griffiths, aged four, strayed into the woods surrounding the upstate village of Massena, New York. Hundreds of people looked everywhere for the child but could not find her. At one point, someone suggested that Barbara had been kidnapped and killed by Jews, and as the search continued, policemen and townspeople alike gave credence to the quickly-spreading rumors. The allegation of ritual murder, known to Jews as "blood libel," took hold.

To believe in the accusation seems bizarre at first glance—blood libel was essentially unknown in the United States. But a great many of Massena's inhabitants, both Christians and Jews, had emigrated recently from Central and Eastern Europe, where it was all too common. Historian Edward Berenson, himself a native of Massena, sheds light on the cross-cultural forces that ignited America's only known instance of blood libel, and traces its roots in old-world prejudice, homegrown antisemitism, and the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. Residues of all three have persisted until the present day.

More than just the disturbing story of one town's embrace of an insidious anti-Jewish myth, The Accusation is a shocking and perceptive exploration of American and European responses to antisemitism.


“[A] thoughtful history....Berenson’s study benefits from his having interviewed several people alive at the time, including Griffiths, and wisely avoids sensationalism. Readers interested in the recurrence of anti-Semitism in the U.S. will find food for thought here.” —Publishers Weekly

“An extraordinary―and timely―story expertly told. Edward Berenson, a distinguished historian of modern Europe, opens up a side of early twentieth-century American history that feels both startling and eerily familiar in its mix of ethnocentrism and political toxicity. A lucid, deeply intelligent, and important book.” —Steven J. Zipperstein, author of Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History

Author Bio

Edward Berenson is a professor of history at New York University. He is the author of Europe in the Modern World and The Statue of Liberty: A Transatlantic Story. He lives in Tarrytown, New York, with his wife, Catherine Johnson.