Black Death, Switzerland history, Pogroms, persecution of Jews


When the Black Death approached the Swiss states in 1348, the news of the approaching pestilence traveled faster than the Plague. This gave the Swiss time to react and try to prevent its arrival. The Swiss did not know what caused the Black Death, but they feared that the Jews were poisoning water wells in order to cause the plague. At Chillon and elsewhere, Jews were tortured for confessions, which were clearly worthless. In a climate of fear and severe prejudice, Jews were killed in numerous communities including Basel, Bern, Zurich, and Kyburg by being burned to death. Execution by burning people to death was a punishment usually used on heretics, not murderers, leaving the impression that the Jews were killed because of their religion and not for what they had supposedly done.

Original Publication Citation

Winkler, A. (2007). The Approach of the Black Death in Switzerland and the Persecution of Jews, 1348–1349. Swiss American Historical Society Review, 43(3), 4-23.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Masthof Press




Harold B. Lee Library