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Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Short History of the Jews of Munich, Germany

A Short History of the Jews of Munich [1]

In the second half of the 13th century Munich appears to have had a sizable Jewish community; the Jews lived in their own quarter and possessed a synagogue, a ritual bath, and a hospital.

On Oct. 12, 1285, in the wake of a blood libel, 180 Jews who had sought refuge in the synagogue were burnt to death; the names of 68 of the victims are listed in the Nuremberg Memorbuch, which dates from 1296.

The Jews obtained permission to rebuild the synagogue in 1287, but for several centuries they remained few in number and suffered from various restrictions, which from time to time were further exacerbated (e.g., in 1315 and 1347).

During the Black Death (1348/49) the community was again annihilated. However, by 1369 there were Jews in the city once more, and in 1375 Duke Frederick of Bavaria granted them (and the other Jews resident in Upper Bavaria) the privilege of paying customs duties at the same rate as non-Jews.

The remission of debts owed to Jews ordained by Emperor Wenceslaus (1378–1400) resulted in Munich Jews losing all their assets. They also suffered severely in 1413, when they were accused of desecration of the Host.

In 1416 the small community was granted some privileges, including permission to acquire a lot for a cemetery; in 1432, when Duke Albert III sought to impose a special tax on Munich Jews, the results were disappointing.

The clergy succeeded in having all the Jews of Upper Bavaria expelled in 1442, and eight years later they were also driven out of Lower Bavaria, where they had taken temporary refuge. Duke Albert gave the Munich synagogue (in the modern Gruftgasse) to Johann Hartlieb, a physician, and it was subsequently converted into a church.

For almost three centuries Jews were excluded from Munich and Bavaria (although there may have been some periods when their residence was permitted, as may be deduced from a renewal of the ban announced in a 1553 police ordinance).

During the Austrian occupation, Jews were readmitted to Bavaria and some of them presumably found their way to Munich. At any rate, a new decree issued on March 22, 1715, again ordered them to leave the country.

Some ten years later, a few Jews who had business dealings with the Bavarian count began to settle in Munich, and by 1728 several Jews resided in the city. In 1729 (or 1734) the Court Jew, Wolf Wertheimer, took up residence there and was joined by his family in 1742; in 1750 all Court Jews and Jews in possession of passes granting them freedom of movement were excepted from the general ban on Jewish entry into the city. A community was formed by Jews who maintained connections with the court. Of the 20 of them in 1750, there was only one woman and a single child, which attests to the temporary and migratory nature of the settlement.

Except for these Schutzjuden, the only Jews permitted to reside in the city were those who had been commissioned as purveyors or who had made loans to the state; all others were permitted to stay in the city for a short while only and had to pay a substantial body tax (Leibzoll).

This situation continued for most of the 18th century, and it was not until 1794 and 1798 that the number of women and children in the city was commensurate with the number of heads of families. In 1794 there were 153 Jews, including 27 heads of families, 28 women, and 70 children; in 1798 the respective figures were 35, 33, and 98. Up to the end of the 18th century, Jewish women had to go to Kriegshaber to give birth to their children, and it was not until 1816 that Jews were permitted to bury their dead in Munich rather than transport them to Kriegshaber for burial.

At this time Munich Jews earned their livelihood as contractors for the army and the royal mint (see mint-masters), merchants dealing in luxury wares and livestock, moneylenders, and peddlers. Since there was no legal basis for their residence in Munich, they did not have the right to practice their religion, and every year they had to pay a special tax to enable them to observe Sukkot.

In 1805 a "Regulation for Munich Jewry" was issued (it formed the basis for the Bavarian Judenmatrikel of 1813); among other privileges, the Jews were permitted to inherit the right of domicile, to conduct services, and to reside in all parts of the city.

During the Napoleonic Wars, the number of Jews was augmented by immigrants, and by 1814 there were 451 Jews in the city. Two years later, the Jewish community was formally organized. In the same year the community was given permission to establish a cemetery, and in 1824 a permit was issued for the construction of a synagogue (dedicated in 1827).

The first Jewish religious school was founded in 1815 and a private one in 1817. The community played a leading part in Bavarian Jewry's struggle for civil rights, which lasted up to the founding of the German Reich (1871); delegates of the Bavarian communities frequently met in Munich (1819, 1821) to make common representations to the government. In the second half of the century the community grew further (from 842 in 1848 to 4,144 in 1880, and 8,739 in 1900) as a result of increased immigration from the smaller communities (especially in the last few decades of the 19th century).

By 1910, some 20% of Bavarian Jews lived in the capital (11,000). There was also a steady immigration of Jews from Eastern Europe, mainly from Galicia, which lasted up to World War I.

Jews were prominent in the cultural life of Munich, a center of German arts, in the late 19th and 20th centuries, as well as being more equally represented in Bavarian political affairs than in other German states. After World War I a revolutionary government on the Soviet model was formed, in which Kurt Eisner, Eugene Levine, and Gustav Landauer were prominent. It was routed by counterrevolutionary forces, and a "White Terror" against Communists, Socialists, and Jews was instigated.

In the postwar years of economic and political upheaval, Munich was a hotbed of antisemitic activity and the cradle of the Nazi party; many Jews from Eastern Europe were forced to leave Munich. Sporadic antisemitic outbursts characterized the years until the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, when Reinhold Heydrich and Heinrich Himmler took control of the police; the first concentration camp, Dachau, was erected near Munich.

At the time, the community numbered 10,000 persons, including an independent Orthodox community and many cultural, social, and charitable organizations. Munich Jewry was subjected to particularly vicious and continuous acts of desecration, discrimination, terror, and boycotts but responded with a Jewish cultural and religious revival.

Between 1933 and May 15, 1938, some 3,574 Jews left Munich. On July 8, 1938, the main synagogue was torn down on Hitler's express orders. During the Kristallnacht, two synagogues were burnt down, 1,000 male Jews were arrested and interned in Dachau, and one was murdered. The communal center was completely ransacked.

During the war a total of 4,500 Jews were deported from Munich (3,000 of them to Theresienstadt); only about 300 returned; 160 managed to outlive the war in Munich. A new community was founded in 1945 by former concentration camp inmates, refugees, displaced persons, and local Jews. In the following five years, about 120,000 Jews, refugees, and displaced persons passed through Munich on their way to Israel. In 1946 there were 2,800.

The community increased from 1,800 persons in 1952 to 3,522 in January 1970 (70% of Bavarian Jewry). In 1966 a Jewish elementary school was opened, the second in Germany, but the postwar community was repeatedly troubled by acts of desecration and vandalism (against synagogue and cemetery). In March 1970 the Jewish home for the aged was burned down and seven people lost their lives.

During the Olympic games, which took place in Munich in 1972, Palestinian terrorists took eleven Israeli sportsmen as hostages. All of them died.

The Jewish community numbered 4,050 in 1989, 5,000 in 1995, and 9,097 in 2004, making it the second largest Jewish community in Germany. The increase is explained by the immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union.

1 comment:

Gilad said...

Hello from an Atheist Jew in Israel.
I'm a cultural Jew, I really liked the article "In Praise of Jewish Atheism".
On the other hand, I would like better grounds to see myself as Jewish, rather then because I like it or simply choose to be Jewish.