Historian Frank Snowden, author of Epidemics and Society, recounted how as the bubonic plague spread from body to body in the fourteenth century, a social plague of violence spread from mind to mind, with symptoms of “divisiveness, xenophobia, witch-hunting, blaming, finding a guilty party – the great ‘other’ that we can attack. The Jews became the other of choice upon whom European Christians repeatedly projected their pent-up anxiety and violence. Over two hundred pogroms – or organized massacres – erupted during that plague outbreak alone, with an especially horrific massacre occurring in Strasbourg, France, on Valentine’s Day, 1349. Snowden writes,
the citizens of Strasbourg rounded up the community of [2,000] Jews, brought them to the Jewish cemetery, and said that it was their religion that was leading them to poison the wells where Christian drank – and that was the source of the bubonic plague. They had either to renounce their religion or be killed on the spot. Half of the Jews held to their religion, and they were burned alive.
A priest/historian from later in that century, Jakob Twinger von Konigshofen (1346-1420), recounted that the motives for the massacre included money as well as plague-inspired panic. After the slaughter,
everything that was owed to Jews was cancelled…The council…took the cash that the Jews possessed and divided it among the working-men proportionately. The money was indeed the thing that killed the Jews. If they had been poor and if the feudal lords had not been in debt to them, they would not have been burnt.
From “Do I Stay Christian: A Guide for the Doubters, the Disappointed, and the Disillusioned” by Brian McLaren