German Jews: Modern German States

Figure 1.--."

Germany did not coalese into a nation state as it emerged from the Medieval era. This occurred in large measure because the conflict between the pope and emperor restrained the power if the emperor. Rather several important and many minor principalities emerged. The two most important became Austria and Prussia. Severe repression of Jews continued in many states and eras. Jews suffered terribly during the Refoirmation and 30 Years War. Martin Luther after launching the Reformation attempted to convert the Jews. When he failed, he denounced them which was taken as a justification for repression and physical attacks. Jews in many areas were expelled. In other areas burdensome taxes were imposed. The rise of nationalism in the 17th century had an impact on German Jews. Rulers began to look on building state power as religious passions cooled. Monarchs less influenced by religious concerns began to see Jews as an assett. Rulers in various Germnan states and principalities (Prussia, Hamburg, Bradenburg, Pomerania, and others) became more acceopting of Jews. There were restrictions imposed upon Jews which varied from sr=tate to state. Basically these restrictiobns were designed to extract as much value as possible and limit competition with important sections of the state and that the Jewish pooulation not beconme too large. Taxes were imposed. Limits were place on economic activity. Jewish life was restricted in various ways (family life, marriage, residency and communal affairs). One historian points to the philosopher, Moses Mendelssohn, who as a boy of 14 entered Berlin through a gate restricted livestock and Jews. [Elon] (He was the grandfather of the famous composer, Felix Mendelssohn.) Even so attacks and wholescale expullsions became less common as legal systems became more established. he situation of the Jews varied among the different German states although there were many similarities. No where in Germany Jews enfranchized in Germany until the French Revolution and Napoleonic armies began to introduce liberal ideas.


Elon, Amos. The Pity of It All: A History of Jews in Germany, 1743-1933 (New York, Metropolitan Books, 2002).


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Created: 6:55 AM 1/24/2005
Last updated: 5:43 PM 1/24/2005