Jewish History

, Volume 26, Issue 3–4, pp 327–342 | Cite as

Jewish Students and Christian Corpses in Interwar Poland: Playing with the Language of Blood Libel

  • Natalia Aleksiun
Open Access


This article focuses on the antisemitic discourse that surrounded the controversy over the provision of cadavers to medical departments in the Second Polish Republic. In the pages of the student press and at student rallies, activists argued that Jewish medical students should be barred from dissecting Christian corpses. They demanded that Jewish communities provide corpses for dissection on a regular basis as a condition for continued training of Jewish doctors. The discourse surrounding the cadaver affair combined nationalist language with religious vocabulary, suggesting that the affair was motivated as much by religious concerns as by nationalist ones. Drawing on notions of Jewish criminality and arrogance, allegations of a Jewish sense of religious superiority and disregard for Christian values, and fears of Jewish exploitation of Christians to fulfill their own collective needs, the cadaver affair played with concepts reminiscent of blood libel.


Antisemitism Autopsy Blood libel Interwar Poland Kraków L’viv Medical students Numerus clausus Vilnius Warsaw 

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2012

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and the source are credited.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Touro CollegeNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Instytut Historii Polskiej Akademii NaukWarsawPoland

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