Sunday, November 3, 2013

Mendel Beilis -- The Muzhik Revolt

This is the summary of the 27th day of the Mendel Beilis trial, which occurred on 21 October, 1913 on the Julian calendar, 3 November, 1913 on the Gregorian calendar.

This day occupies pages 343 through 388 of Volume II of the transcript.
See the translation of the transcript for day 27. 

Pranaitis continues testifying at the start of this day. 

The defense scriptural experts had no idea what they would be testifying about, unless they read the indictment; they basically had one day to prepare while Pranaitis was on the stand, and they were present in the courtroom the whole time he was talking.  The material they had to cover in their answers uses up well above 20,000 folio pages; the Chabad website posted a picture (#10) showing a pile of books higher than a man and twice as wide, that the defense witnesses cited from.  The only times they refuse to answer – well, that Kokovtsov refuses to answer – is when he refuses to comment on supposed quotes on day 28 that he rightly suspects are mistranslated.  Pranaitis had a year to prepare for his testimony and screwed the pooch. 

Professor Troitsky is much more knowledgeable than Pranaitis, of course.  He only has one problem: his entire view of Jewish scripture is in relation to Christian scripture.  That is where his mistaken notion comes from that there is some kind of trinity in Kabbala, and why he mistakenly connects this to the conversion of some Jews to Christianity.  There’s a difference between a text saying something, and somebody interpreting a text as saying something, the chronic problem with Pranaitis.  There is a difference between a text persuading somebody to convert, and somebody reading a text and then converting.  To decided that the text caused the conversion, in the case of the Zohar, is a case of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. 

The other problem with Troitsky is that he doesn’t really know how to answer questions.  He has excellent opportunities for accurate and honest answers that would stop the prosecution cold, but he doesn’t use them.  It could be age, it could be memory, but he doesn’t have all the answers he needs.

Kokovtsov does an excellent job with question 25, showing that the things Pranaitis said about it all, first, come from Rohling who was denounced as an ignorant perjurer by Josef Bloch (whom Rohling sued for slander and then withdrew the charge because he couldn’t win) and second, either pervert the meaning of words or add words that aren’t even there.  His real contribution, however, is to give citations of everything he uses, citations Pranaitis couldn’t come up with.

Zamyslovsky does not cover himself with glory.  He admits to Troitsky’s description of Frankist polemic as intellectually dishonest but continues trying to make Troitsky (who is Christian) responsible for the intellectual dishonesty of the Frankists.  What’s more, I find that his rhetoric sounds increasingly hysterical, similar to Kosorotov’s behavior on day 24 when he was contradicted by the psychiatrists as well as the surgeons.

The quotes that Shmakov throws to Troitsky are irrelevant.  They are either non-existent or mistranslated.  Shmakov got them from the anti-Semitic material in his library that supports his obsession with the blood libel. 


Judge:  Fyodor Boldyrev 

            Criminal Prosecutor, Oscar Vipper
            Civil Prosecutor Georgy Zamyslovsky
            Private Civil Prosecutor Aleksey Shmakov

            Oscar Gruzenberg
Nikolay Karabchevsky
Dmitry Grigorevich-Barsky
Alexandr Zarudny
Vasily Maklakov
To "The Baba Bathra Question?"

Justinas B. Pranaitis
Finishes his testimony
Ivan Gavrilovich Troitsky
St. Petersburg Religious Academy professor
Defense witness
Jury revolt against lengthy scriptural testimony
Pavel Konstantinovich Kokovtsov
Imperial Russian Orthodox Palestinian Society
Defense witness


© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved



  1. Thank you for the good work and interesting read!
    Would you happen to know an answer to the question of discrepancy in Mr. Beilis' birth dates? His official birth year is 1874, but his gravestone says "1862-1934." Couldn't find anything about that on the web. Thanks!

  2. that's a good one and I know somebody I can ask. Will get back to you as soon as I can.

  3. OK I've held a consultation and I have two answers for you. (You're never going to get just one answer from me or any other Jew LOL) FIRST and most important, if you look at the day 2 transcript, in the indictment it says Beilis was 39 years old. That indictment was published in May 1913. Do the arithmetic, you get 1874 which his official birth year. SECOND why it says 1862 on the headstone, which you can see clearly in the picture on Wikipedia, neither my source nor I know, but I'm sure people have made mistakes on headstones before 1934. It's not a one-year difference, which I could understand if it was carved in autumn when the Jewish calendar goes to its next year. A 12-year difference -- somebody misinterpreted a date written in Hebrew letters? Neither of us know.

    1. Thank you. Yes, the 1874 date seems most likely.
      As you probably know, however, any discrepancy is sure to stoke a conspiracy theory. The reason I asked, actually, was a proposition of such a theory that I've accidentally read about. It is implied that in that grave in NY lies another Mr. Beilis (as it is asserted that it is, allegedly, against Jewish faith to knowingly inscribe an incorrect birth date; and that an accidentally wrong date would have been changed already for sure, especially for a person of Mr. Beilis' fame and stature). It piqued my interest and a cursory search on the web only brought up same answer as you offered: "no one knows."

    2. Conspiracy theories abound in the Beilis case. If you read some of the testimony you may find footnotes from me saying "classic conspiracy theory stuff." Especially with Sikorsky's testimony on day 24.

      I generally reject information without attribution because 40 years of experience shows me that this behavior tends to involve the fallacy called "reliance on misleading authority".

      And reliance on misleading authority is how all bigotry gets started in the first place.

      Unnamed sources are the bread and butter of conspiracy theory and misquoted sources are the bread and butter of the charges against Beilis, especially when it comes to Pranaitis.
      The OB (see signature) in me asks you to honor Beilis' memory by refusing to propagate information without a correct citation by name and author.

    3. I certainly did not mean any disrespect to Mr. Beilis. If anything, I'd rather contend that having an error on his gravestone for that many years is disrespectful.
      The only information that was "propagated" in my question was that of the discrepancy in birth dates, which, as you confirmed, is correct, and inexplicable. Notice, however, that this discrepancy has nothing to do with Mr. Beilis' case per se.

    4. This is why quoting sources is so important. Your source should have quoted the halakhah about gravestones. Without that quote, such information should not be propagated. I know you didn't see anything special in it because people do it all the time. But people need to train themselves out of it because it can lead to lots of bad consequences. One bad consequence it led to was holding the trial at all, let alone adding the ritual murder charge, which was based on misquotes, mis-citations, and garbage from people who were at best careless in what they wrote, which was used by people with evil intent. Anybody who thinks I'm making too much of this needs to carefully consider that this habit put Beilis in jail and under torture, along with his family, for over two years.

    5. I agree it was my mistake to follow the question with an explanation of how I came upon that question. I rescind that follow-up. It has no value and I, personally, would not regard the author of that conjecture as a "source" with regards to possible explanations of the discrepancy in question.
      The fact that the discrepancy exists, however, is easily verifiable. Seeking explanations for a discrepancy may certainly have an evil intent, or, as likely, a good one, or, perhaps, just as likely, be driven by pure curiosity.