Chapter 5 (“The Inquisition”), pp. 32-33:

The prosecutor, Karbovsky, who had been leaning back on his chair, watching me intently, suddenly bent over the table and asked me:

“They say there are people among you Jews who are called ‘tzadikim’ (holy men). When one wishes to do harm to another man, you go to the ‘tzadik’ and give him a ‘pidion’ (fee) and the ‘tzadik’ uses the power of his word which is sufficient to bring misfortune upon other men.”

The Hebrew words that he was using, “tzadik,” “pidion,” and the like, were written down in his notebook, and each time he wanted to use the word he would consult his notebook. I answered:

“I am sorry, but I know nothing about ‘tzadikim,’ ‘pidionot,’ or any other of these things. I am a man entirely devoted to my business, and I don’t understand what you want of me.”

“And what are you,” he asked, as he again consulted his notes. “Are you a ‘Hasid’ or a ‘Misnaged?’”

“I am a Jew,” I answered, “and have no idea of the distinction between a ‘Hasid’ and a ‘Misnaged.’”

“What do you Jews call an ‘afikomen?’”

“To these I have but the same answer.”

I began to regard these men as somewhat unbalanced. What could they possibly want? What had Yushchinsky’s murder to do with the afikomen? And furthermore, how did the difference between Hasidim and Misnagdim concern them? I could only imagine that they were poking fun at me, and at some of the Hebrew ritual.

But unfortunately, it was no matter of jest. On the surface they were sincere. In their heart, perhaps, was the deep conviction that Vera Cheberyak had murdered the boy. Perhaps these questions were directed at me under orders from the powers above.

Chapter 14 (“Once More Before the Inquisition”), pp. 74-76:

Rather than being put on trial, I was summoned several times for additional questioning by the new investigating magistrate. He was the notorious anti-Semite already mentioned, Mr. Mashkevich. Once, during the interrogation, he inquired, “Tell me, Beilis, had your father ever gone to see tzadikim?”

His question amazed me. I expected the announcement of my liberation, while he was apparently starting the interrogation all over again. What new tricks had he up his sleeve? Was not the interrogation all over? What remained was either to have me tried, or to release me.

But it was once more the same old story, with the Hasidim and tzadikim. Were not the authorities straining their point a little too far? I told him I could not well remember. If it happened, it was years ago.

“Are you a Hasid or a Misnaged?” he asked me smilingly.

“I am a Jew,” was my reply, “and I don’t know the difference between these two groups. We are all Jews.”

“Do you know whether Zaitsev ever went to a rabbi?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are you not related to the family of the Baal Shem Tov?”

“I have no idea of that, Mr. Magistrate.”

“Do you pray with a tallis (prayer shawl), or without a tallis?”

I had answered this question once before. Before my marriage I had prayed without a tallis, after my marriage with the tallis.

“What do you need the tallis for?”

“I don’t know what it is for.”

“Now, Beilis, tell me,” the investigating magistrate’s smile was becoming quite cunning. “What is it exactly that you call an afikomen?”

It was the same thing all over again. The same foolish questions with which the first investigating magistrate, Fenenko, had confronted me over a year ago. Besides that, I thought the new man probably wished to find out whether Fenenko had been investigating the case in the right manner, and once he had the information, he would release me. Fenenko himself had asked me those foolish questions, and didn’t he finally say he had no evidence against me? I was unable to explain properly to the investigating magistrate what the afikomen was. In my childhood I lived in a village, then I spent several years in the military service. I did not know much about religious rites. I used to eat matzah, eat the afikomen, which was actually a piece of matzah. I did not know any more about it. And had I even known, it would have been difficult for me to explain.

He had some more questions. “Have you not a brother who is a rabbi or a shochet (Jewish ritual slaughterer)?”

“No, we have no rabbis in the family. If there were any, fifty or a hundred years ago, I am not aware of it. There might have been a rabbi or a shochet at that time. However, not now.”

He was silent for a minute or two. He looked as if he wished to remind himself of something. He looked several times at some papers before him. At last, he asked another question. “Have you any connection with Schneur Zalman Schneerson, the well-known Rabbi of Liadi?”

“No,” was my answer. “I have a good friend by that name. He lives in Kiev and often came to visit me, but I do not know the Schneerson family in Liadi, and I am in no way related to it.”

..

Chapter 22 (“The Testimony of Various Witnesses”), pp. 115-16:

The examination of the witnesses began. The first to be called upon were the carters and drivers who had carted the bricks from the factory. These witnesses were to testify to a very important circumstance that played a large part in the trial. The lamplighter for the factory, Shakhovsky, had initially told the investigating magistrate, and it had been inserted in the indictment, that on Saturday, March 12, 1911, at 9:00 a.m., he had seen me standing in my house with two tzadikim, who were dressed in their long kaftans and skull caps, wrapped in their tallesim (prayer shawls) and absorbed in prayer. After prayers, I was alleged to have chased and caught Andryusha Yushchinsky in the yard, and to have carried him away to the kiln where the bricks were baked. He did not know what had taken place further, but from his statement it would seem quite clear that Andryusha had not come out of my hands alive. Shakhovsky had also stated that there was no one around the factory at the time, not even the workers. I was under the impression that the same story had been told to Fenenko by Cheberyak’s little boy, Zhenya.

When the prosecutor had asked me at the time what I had to say in regard to Shakhovsky’s statement, I had exclaimed that there is a receipt book system at the factory. The receipts showed who the drivers and carters had been upon that day, to whom the bricks had been delivered, with the signature in each case of the carter who loaded and delivered the bricks to the customers. The books showed that on March the 12th, ten thousand bricks had been delivered, and that fifty drivers and carters had been engaged throughout the day in that work. It was preposterous, therefore, for anybody to say that there was nobody in the factory yard on that day, and that I had no other work but to chase after Yushchinsky.

..

Chapter 25 (“The ‘Tzadikim’”), pp. 136-38:

Real gaiety broke out in the courtroom when the sergeant-at-arms brought to the witness stand the two “tzadikim,” Ettinger and Landau, who were alleged to have been seen at my house dressed in kaftans and skull caps, wrapped in tallesim, etc. The actual story about these two “rabbis” is as follows: the lamplighter, Shakhovsky, had at one point given a statement to the effect that on the Sabbath morning before the murder, he had seen two tzadikim in my house. The authorities therefore checked the register of the factory and the office, and found on the books the names of two persons, Ettinger and Landau.

Ettinger was a young man of about thirty years of age, clean shaven, completely “Europeanized” and hardly much of a Jew. He was very wealthy, and was Zaitsev’s brother-in-law. Mrs. Zaitsev was his sister.

Ettinger was Austrian. He had come to Kiev to visit his sister’s family, but as a foreign Jew, he had no right to live in Russia outside the “Pale.” Even his millionaire brother-in-law Zaitsev could not help in this case. Zaitsev himself lived in the most aristocratic section of Kiev, in the Lipki district, and it was precisely in that locality that his dashing young relative had no right to reside. Legally, at least, he could not have been shown on the house register.

To surmount this obstacle, a police captain of Zaitsev’s district found the way out – as most Russian policemen knew how to do when there was a prospect of remuneration. His idea was to have Ettinger register in the Plossky district, where Jews had a right to reside. So Ettinger registered there, but spent his nights and generally lived in Zaitsev’s house. Thus, the law was obeyed in a form which was perfectly a la Russe. Ettinger was duly registered at the factory, but as a matter of fact did not even know where it was located. He never put his foot inside of the factory.

The same was the case with Mr. Landau. He was a young man of twenty-five and was studying on the Continent. He was a grandson of the old Zaitsev, and was for similar cause also registered at the factory as a resident. The register showed that both these men had “checked out” about five months before the murder of Yushchinsky. Nevertheless, the two young men were summoned as witnesses for the trial, since the “experts” had decided that the murder had been performed with the participation of tzadikim in accordance with a supposed Jewish ritual.

When the two neatly-dressed young men were put on the stand, Mr. Gruzenberg, well known for his wit, introduced the two to the judges and to the public. “These gentlemen,” he said, “are the two tzadikim, who are said to have been praying wrapped in the tallis and dressed in the kaftans with their skull caps on.” As most residents of the city of Kiev knew the Jewish customs only too well, the public were quick to catch the joke, and a roaring peal of laughter rocked the courtroom.

Ettinger could not speak Russian, and his testimony was given through an interpreter. He was asked questions of which he certainly had never dreamed before. He was asked whether he was a tzadik, whether he ate the ultra-Orthodox shmura matzah, whether he partook of the afikomen, and similar theological riddles. He shrugged his shoulders perplexedly, but answered the questions patiently. The whole procedure apparently smacked to him somewhat of an insane asylum, but he was willing to go through with it. His statements were immediately translated into Russian.

The prosecutor, Vipper, who had built up the whole indictment on the tzadikim allegation, became quite nervous when he heard the testimony. It did not fit to Mr. Vipper’s taste, and why should this young gentleman deny being a tzadik and eating shmura matzah? Vipper got up and turned upon the witness with asperity. “Now, tell the truth; I also am German and understand everything.”

Vipper clearly wanted to create the impression with the jury that Ettinger was giving false testimony. Since the prosecutor came out with an open accusation to that effect, the jury was likely to be impressed accordingly, and in fact, the peasants commenced to exchange glances between themselves.

The thought struck me: How could those plain farmers realize that a dashing young man, spending his nights in chorus girls’ parties, could not at the same time be a tzadik, wrapped up in a tallis, and eating shmura matzah? I could hardly restrain my tears from anxiety and fear. When Vipper saw that, he started to laugh, and the more he looked at me, the more pleased his laughter sounded.

..

Chapter 25 (“The ‘Tzadikim’”), p. 140:

An important witness, Shakhovsky the lamplighter, was called to the stand. The advocates and the public were ready for another sensation. This witness was one of the props of the prosecution, for the indictment rested on him in large part.

“What can you tell us about this case?” inquired the presiding judge.

To the astonishment of all, Shakhovsky said: “I know nothing.”

Nothing! The records were brought up and the previous statement of the witness was read aloud, wherein he had claimed that on that Saturday morning, at 9:00 a.m., he had seen the tzadikim in Beilis’s house – skull caps, tallesim, prayers and all. How was it possible that he knew nothing?

He gave a straightforward answer: “Now I tell you the truth. I told it differently before, but then I was drunk. The detective Polishchuk plied me with vodka. I was angry at Beilis, for he had threatened to have me arrested for stealing wood from the factory yard. Well, I did say all that stuff against him. I was not under oath at that time. Now I have sworn, and must tell the truth. I am a Christian and fear God. Why should I ruin an innocent man who knows nothing about the charges brought against him?”

..

Chapter 28 (“The Verbal Battle”), p. 154:

The prosecutor addressed the jury in approximately the following manner: “I have spent about thirty years in the Czar’s service. It is my task now to prove, on the basis of facts, that this man, Mendel Beilis, who is now sitting on the defendant’s bench, murdered the boy Yushchinsky, and I shall demonstrate it so clearly that there will be no doubt left whatever. The world must know the truth. The world is awaiting the truth, and to my lot it falls to demonstrate that very truth. And you gentlemen of the jury, you also are facing a great task. It is your duty to consider and to weigh all these truths and testimonies. You must decide what shall be the fate of a man who has committed so horrible a crime.

“I am not telling you that all the Jews are guilty and that pogroms should be instituted against them, but it is true that there is a religious sect among the Jews, the so-called Hasidim-Tzadikim, who commit their crimes in secret so that the non-Jewish world never becomes aware of them. It is they who are murdering Christian children, and Mendel Beilis belongs to that criminal sect.”

The foregoing passages are excerpted with permission from The Story of My Sufferings, by Mendel Beilis, translated by Harrison Goldberg and Jeremy Simcha Garber and published in Blood Libel: The Life and Memory of Mendel Beilis (2011), edited by Jay Beilis, Jeremy Simcha Garber, and Mark S. Stein.

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