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Germany in WW2
Crusades

What was the first holy war that Christians undertook during the crusades?

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February 26, 2011 9:45PM

The First Crusade was not the first Holy War undertaken by the Christians, but perhaps the most famous. For its leaders, the First Crusade had three real objectives: to defeat the Muslims in the Holy Land, to kill or convert Jews wherever they were found, in Europe or elsewhere, and to enrich themselves by whatever means possible. Godfrey of Bouillon swore "to go on this journey only after avenging the blood of the crucified one by shedding Jewish blood and completely eradicating any trace of those bearing the name 'Jew,' thus assuaging his own burning wrath." Some of the earliest battles of the First Crusade occurred within Europe, as separate groups began rampaging against Jews and anyone else unable to stand in their way.

Beginning in Saxony, the crusade of the priest Folkmar persecuted Jews in Magdeburg and later, Prague. Folkmar and his Saxons were wiped out by the Hungarians after they began pillaging villages in Hungary.

The monk Gottschalk led a crusade from the Rhineland and Lorraine into Hungary, occasionally attacking Jewish communities along the way. In late June 1096, his crusader mob was welcomed by King Coloman of Hungary, but they soon began plundering the countryside and causing drunken disorder. Once their weapons had been removed, the enraged Hungarians attacked and destroyed the entire army.

Not all the Christian leaders supported the attacks on the Jews. Catholic bishops frequently spoke out against forced conversions, and Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV moved to protect the Jews.