Catholic priest abducts Jewish girl, Cluj 1792

Last week was a bit of a dry spell in the Sibiu archives, nothing really jumped out at me as particularly noteworthy. To make up for it, Monday morning began with a 70 page file dealing with a bizarre and tragic case of abduction and illegal baptizing of a Jewish child by a Catholic priest in 1792.

I had read about this story years ago but could not remember all the strange details and assumed moreover that the relevant documents would be in Cluj, where the Jewish family lived, or else Vienna or Budapest, since the subsequent lawsuits reached the highest authorities. But a thick file of legal pleas and responses is also to be found in the Sibiu national archives, unhelpfully titled “Religion issues: Jews.”

The basic gist of the story is that Löbl Deutsch, a Jewish merchant, received permission to live in Cluj (Kolozsvár, Klausenburg) in 1792. At that time, Jews were only officially allowed to reside in the town of Alba Iulia, though certain exceptions were made for other towns and many were to be found throughout the villages. Deutsch and his family were apparently the first Jews with legal residence in Cluj and not everyone was pleased. According to the documents, a Catholic priest lured Deutsch’s 11 year old daughter into his house and kept her there, with the intention to baptize her forcefully. Deutsch went to the authorities, who sided with him and ordered that the girl be returned to her family. Unfortunately this was just the beginning of a horrible power struggle lasting years between the religious authorities and the state. The Catholic church not only refused to comply but repeatedly sidestepped the rulings of the government by undertaking certain irreversible actions culminating in the marriage of the girl, whose baptized name was Karolina, to a Christian man. The entire story can be found here (pgs. 2-4). 

The first image above is a cover page of sorts entitled “Israelites in Transylvania” and then “Documents regarding the baptism and abduction of the daughter of the Jew Löbl Deutsch, against the latter’s will, by the bishop Batthyon.” Then the document inventory numbers are listed. The second image is an example of the rest of the material.

Though the case is mentioned in the (few) history books dealing with Jewish Transylvania, nowhere do we find out what that poor girl’s fate eventually was – did she remain married to the Christian man for the rest of her life? Did she never see her family again? Did her descendants have any idea of her traumatic story? What did she tell them and did they tell their children?