Monthly Archives: July 2016

A Jew who tried to save Christians

Isaac Cremieux was a Jewish friend of Napoleon Bonaparte, and he was both a patriotic Frenchman and a defender of his co-religionists.  As far as helping the Jews, one of his successes was helping to secure the acquittal of the Jewish victims of the famous Damascus (Syria) ritual murder case.  He also appealed to his fellow Jews to help Christians.
He said this to them about the Christians of Lebanon:
The Christians of the East are subjected to the most horrible persecution.  Tortures, rape, assassination, pillage, burning, the murder of women, children, and old people, even mutilation of corpses–such is the picture presented by the whole regions of the Lebanon.  Blood is shed; misery and famine are spreading among a dense population, whom Mohammadan fanaticism is destroying in a  war even against the intention and forces of the Turkish government, and whose sole crime is that they worship the Christ.  French Jews, let us be the first to come to the aid of our Christian brothers; let us not await the results of diplomacy, which is always so slow and which will regulate the future; let us alleviate present needs.  Let a large subscription be begun today in Paris, and let a Jewish committee be organized tomorrow….This signal will be answered by our brethren in England, Germany, Belgium, Holland and all Europe; in the countries that recognize them as citizens, and in those that still refuse them this noble title.  You, also, Jews of the American countries where religious liberty is triumphant, you will help the Catholics of Asia, who are so cruelly oppressed by superstition…
We read about anti-Semitism often in the history of Europe, but I think that in this period (he lived from 1796 to 1880) there must have been cordial relations between the Christians and Jews of parts of Europe, because otherwise he would not refer to “our Christian brothers” and expect his co-religionists to enthusiastically donate.   (Later he donated 50,000 francs to help flood victims in Toulouse, France.)
There was a different mentality back then as compared to our more skeptical and jaded present.  As a lawyer, Cremieux tried to persuade jurors to acquit three young men of having sung the hymn of the Revolution (the year was 1819, and the revolution that had killed Louis XVI was long over, and Louis XVIII was now king of France).  He paraphrased the song for the jury, and at the verse “Amour sacre de la patrie”, all the jurors rose, and acquitted the accused men.

Isaac Adolphe Cremieux

Those words come from the first line of the last verse of the Marseillaise, which was sung by the revolutionaries as they entered Paris:
Drive on sacred patriotism
Support our avenging arms
Liberty, cherished liberty
Join the struggle with your defenders
Under our flags, let victory
Hurry to your manly tone
So that in death your enemies
See your triumph and our glory!

He was a very honest man as well. In 1832 Cremieux heard that his father, on leaving the prison in 1796, had found his business destroyed, and had been compelled to compromise with his creditors. Crémieux did not rest until he had found all these creditors or their heirs; and he returned to them not only the principal, which most of them had forgotten, but also the accumulated interest for thirty-six years. Thereupon he sought and easily obtained the rehabilitation of his father’s name.