Count Emicho (not to be confused with Bishop Emicho of Leiningen), was a count in the Rhineland in the late 11th century and the leader of the "German Crusade" in 1096. He is also commonly referred to as Emicho of Leiningen or Emich of Flonheim.
The original idea for the First Crusade that had been preached by Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont in 1095 had already turned into a much different popular movement, led by Peter the Hermit. Peter's preaching of the Crusade spread much more quickly than the official versions of Urban's call. Peter's version, influenced Emicho, who spread his own story that Christ had appeared to him. And infused with the teachings of the Gospel of Luke he was chosen to fulfill the "end of times" Prophecy. Emicho envisioned that he would march on Constantinople and overcome the Forces there, taking over the title of "last World Emperor" in accordance with Canonical prophetic tradition. All Christian armies, Latin & Greek, would then unite and march to seize Jerusalem from the Saracens thus prompting the Second Coming and denouement with the Antichrist. Inspired by such exulting promises, a few thousand Franks and Germans merged and marched east in April of 1096.
He did so, and in the first half of 1096 he gathered an army, which arrived at Speyer in May. Emicho, or his followers in separate groups, also went to Worms, Mainz, Cologne, Trier, and Metz, where they forcibly converted the Jewish communities, and massacred those who resisted. Eight hundred Jews were murdered at Worms and another seven hundred at Mainz (where, according to Albert of Aachen in his 12th century chronicle of the Crusades, around two hundred escaped this horde's knives and swords by slaying members of their family and themselves). The mob massacred communities in other cities as well.
Emicho was apparently motivated by greed, as he needed money to finance his army, and the Jewish communities were thought to be wealthy. He also seems to have felt that the Jews were just as much enemies of Christ as the Muslims in Syria, but the Jews were more familiar and closer to home. The Jews in the cities along the Rhine at first attempted to pay Emicho to make him go away, but although he accepted their money, he still converted or killed them. As one of the crusaders explained to a rabbi: "You are the children of those who killed the object of our veneration, hanging him on a tree; and he himself had said: 'There will yet come a day when my children will come and avenge my blood.'"
In some communities, mothers were said to have killed their own children to avoid conversion. The Christian bishops of the cities often attempted to protect their Jewish subjects but, except at Speyer, they did not succeed. In Mainz, Emicho was resisted by Archbishop Ruthard of Mainz and Jews were given shelter in the archbishop's personal residence. Nevertheless, Emicho eventually attacked the episcopal palace and massacred Jews sheltering there.
Emicho's army attracted many unusual followers, including a group who worshipped a goose they believed to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The army continued down the Rhine until they reached the Danube, which they followed to Hungary. Here, after having run out of money and food, they began to pillage. Much of the army was killed by the Hungarians; the rest split up to join the other Crusader armies, and Emicho went back home to his family, where he was scorned for not fulfilling his vow to capture Jerusalem.
- Toussaint, Ingo: Die Grafen von Leiningen. Jan Thorbecke Verlag, Sigmaringen 1982. ISBN 3-7995-7017-9 and among the Chroniclers of the first Crusade, Albert of Aachen.
- Chronicler Albert of Aachen.
- Corliss K. Slack (2013). Historical Dictionary of the Crusades. Scarecrow Press. pp. 108–9.
- Madden, Thomas F. The New Concise History of the Crusades. Rowman & Littlefield: New York, 2006.
- Weidenkopf, Steve (2014). The Glory of the Crusades. El Cajon, CA: Catholic Answers Press. pp. 54–56. ISBN 978-1-941663-00-4.
- Terrible Outbreak of Antisemitism
- JewishEncyclopedia.com - CRUSADES, THE:
- Albert of Aachen, Historia Ierosolimitana, ed. and trans. S. Edgington (Oxford: Oxford Medieval Texts, 2007), bk. I, ch. 30, pg. 59.