NBC’s Friday night series “Grimm” is a fantasy show, but for reasons I cannot fathom the program’s writers chose to mine that most heinous relic of Mittel-Europa: the story of the seemingly good and kind Jew who is really a demonic creature underneath for last week’s episode “Organ Grinders.”
A brief history of blood libels, courtesy of Wikipedia:
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• In England in 1144, the Jews of Norwich were accused of ritual murder after a boy was found dead with stab wounds in the woods. This was followed by similar accusations elsewhere, leading to massacres in London and York. In 1190, “the Norwich Jews were butchered in their homes.”
• In France in 1171, a similar accusation against the Jewish community of Bloise led to the massacre by ﬁre of some 40 Jews.
• In Germany, a boy’s body was found in the Lauter river. Based on “miraculous” evidence that “proved” the Jews had hung the boy by the feet and had opened every artery in his body to obtain the blood, the Jews were executed.
• In Russia in 1820, a Jew in Zverki is accused of kidnapping a six year old boy, draining his blood for nine days and dumping his body. In 1997, “Belorussian state TV showed a ﬁlm alleging the story is true.”
This is the gist of the blood libel: the belief that Jews kidnap children to drain them of their blood. It didn’t die with the Nazis. It is still in currency today. You have only to turn on Syrian or Egyptian television to see. But American TV? (Spoilers Ahead)
The Feb. 3 episode of “Grimm” began with the body of a teen being found in a river, the corpse drained of three-fourths of its blood. The culprit? A “Geier” named Dr. Levine, who has been kidnapping street kids to kill them for their organs and blood.
Does the name “Geier” sound familiar? Sometime toward the end of the 18th century, Central European governments required Jews to adopt surnames. So at a time when Jews were restricted to marginal occupations, some Jewish money-lenders and merchants were made to take the pejorative name Geier, or vulture: a term used then, as now, to reference avarice or greed.
And what does “Geier” mean in the “Grimm” world?
Here, via Wikipedia’s “Creatures of Grimm“: “Geier are vulture-like creatures. Highly sadistic almost on a satanic level, infamous for harvesting human organs and blood, [they are] the most vile creatures of all.”
And, in case we don’t get the connection between blood and money, here’s this bit of dialogue from the episode to hammer it home:
Capt. Renard: “Well, whichever way you look at it, it’s cannibalism.”
Sgt. Wu: “Uh, I think it’s pronounced ‘capitalism’.”
Good one, Sgt. Wu. You go get those vulture capitalists. I’m sure you and the National Socialists will be great friends. But why rely on words when pictures will do?
Behold: a screenshot from “Grimm” of a cannibalistic “Geier,” left, beside an anti-Semitic cartoon of a cannibalistic Jew, right:
A “Grimm” drawing of birdlike Geiers tormenting a man, left, next to a detail of birdlike demons tormenting the damned, right. Note the clawed hands and feet in both images, and the claw-like hands in the cartoon above.
Medieval illuminations portraying both Jews and demons as rapacious and bird-like, left. Often Jews were depicted as demons, and demons as Jews, right.
And once again Grimm’s “vulture,” left, beside the Nazi’s Jew, right.
So: am I saying that the “Grimm” writers, rather than coming up with a fresh and unique twist on one of the Grimm Fairy Tales, instead recycled the most vile antisemitic tropes to come out of Europe?
1) Based on the choice of the name “Geier,” a pejorative label of a name bestowed upon Jews in Europe, and the pointed reference to vile proﬁt from others’ pain.
2) Based on how closely the appearance of Grimm’s mythical Geier hews to portrayals of demonic Jews in Medieval paintings, as well as to modern anti-Semitic caricatures of Jews.
3) Based on how closely the plot of the story parallels that of the blood libels, including the medieval blood libel of blood-draining, and the modern blood libel of Jewish surgeons as organ thieves (as seen in the anti-Semitic, anti-American Turkish ﬁlm, “Valley of the Wolves: Iraq“)
4) And based on how, for no other reason, the doctor-who-is-a-Geier still bears the thrice-mentioned, explicitly Jewish name of Levine, in spite of a Latina (Valerie Cruz) being cast in the role.
Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes.
No matter how the writers will insist — up, down and sideways — that some of their best friends are Jewish. No matter how they or their employers insist that their skin color or heritage or gender or sexual preference or height or weight or allergies makes it impossible for them to have created an anti-Semitic display.
And no matter how they are shocked, shocked to learn that mean racist people, for at least nine hundred years, have used “vulture” as an epithet for “Jew.”