Capital of the Prussian province of Saxony; situated on the Elbe. It has a population of 229,633, of whom about 2,000 are Jews. There were Jews at Magdeburg as early as the tenth century. The district occupied by them lay without the city and was called "Judendorf zu Magdeburg" (Hagedorn, in "Geschichtsblätter für Stadt und Land Magdeburg," xx. 93). Politically as well as geographically they belonged to the archbishopric of Magdeburg rather than to the town; probably they never lived within the city itself. The first inflow of Jews to Magdeburg is supposed to have been from the Rhine district, but the date when this took place is unknown. The earliest mention of them there occurs in a document of Otto the Great, dated July 9, 965, in which the "Jews and other traders" living in the city are placed under the exclusive control and jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Magdeburg (Aronius, "Regesten zur Gesch. der Juden in Deutschland," p. 55). The way in which Jews are described in this and in a similar document of Otto II. dated June 4, 973 (Aronius, l.c. p. 56), justifies the inference that even at that period they formed a community of fair size and were of such importance commercially that they contributed materially to the prosperity of Magdeburg. If Westberg's view is correct that the word "Maznbrgh," found in an Arabic source, is a corruption of "Magdeburg," it was there that the Judæo-Arabic traveler Ibrahim ibn Ya'ḳub "the Israelite" appeared in 965 at the court of Otto the Great, perhaps as a member of an embassy from Cordova, and obtained from the emperor valuable information concerning the Slavs, which he used in the account of his travels, written in Arabic.Early Middle Ages.
The history of the Jews in Magdeburg in the succeeding centuries resembles in all respects the record of other Jewish communities in Germany during the Middle Ages. It may be inferred that they were prosperous from the fact that many Jews of Magdeburg accompanied the funeral procession of Archbishop Walthard in 1012 and manifested their grief in lamentations (see Aronius, l.c. p. 61). On the other hand, the First Crusade (1096) is said to have caused the expulsion of the Jews from the Judendorf (Aronius, l.c. p. 93; comp. p. 111). In a communication from Pope Innocent III. to the clergy of the archbishopric of Magdeburg, dated Dec. 31, 1199, in which they are urged to come to the assistance of the Christians in the Orient, there is the provision that the secular arm shall compel the Jews to release their Christian debtors from paying interest and that, until they shall have done so, they shall not be permitted to have any intercourse with Christians (Aronius, l.c. p. 155). How far this regulation was observed is unknown.Judendorf Destroyed 1213.
Archbishop Albrecht of Magdeburg, although friendly to the Jews, could not prevent the destruction of the Judendorf in 1213 by the troops of Otto IV. (A. Levy "Gesch. der Juden in Sachsen," p. 8, Berlin, 1900). In 1261, on the Feast of Tabernacles of that year, when Jews from other cities were in the Judendorf, Archbishop Robert, finding it necessary to refill his empty coffers, seized their money and valuables, and held the richest of them for high ransoms. He seems to have done the same at Halle; no less than 100,000 silver marks are said to have been extorted from the Jews of the two cities (Aronius, l.c. p. 281; M. Spanier, "Zur Gesch. der Juden in Magdeburg," in "Zeitschrift für die Gesch. der Juden in Deutschland," v. 273). His successor as archbishop, Conrad of Sternberg, was unfriendly to the Jews on religious grounds.Persecutions, 1301 and 1348.
The religious fanaticism awakened by the Crusades and the desire of the cities for independence found vent at this time in wholesale persecutions of the Jews. When in 1301 a Christian girl from the Judendorf circulated the rumor that the Jews had nailed an image of Jesus to a cross, recrucifying him in effigy, the citizens fell upon the ghetto, plundered it, and killed some Jews and drove others a way. A document of 1312 has been preserved, according to which the Jews bought four fields for the extension of their cemetery. At the time of the Black Death (1348) the citizens and peasants of the vicinity again fell upon the Judendorf, pillaged it, and burned many Jews in their houses. This time, however, Archbishop Otto and the magistrate Von Vorn took the Jews under their protection, so that the uprising gained little headway, although during it the rabbi of the community, Rabbi Shalom, died the death of a martyr (see Salfeld, "Martyrologium," p. 247; comp. p. 284). A tombstone in the old Jewish cemetery also names a martyr, Samuel, of the year 1356. Between 1361 and 1367 Archbishop Dietrich employed a Jewish court banker, Schmoll or Shemuel. In 1385, according to a document, the cemetery was again enlarged. This fact, together with the names mentioned in this record, justifies the conclusion that the community was growing considerably at that time through additions from other cities.Banished 1492.
In 1410 Archbishop Günther issued a patent to the Jews of Magdeburg, assuring them of his protection for six years, in return for which they were to paya tax of 40 silver marks in half-yearly payments. This patent, however, which contains benevolent provisions regarding the legal status of the Jewish community, was not meant seriously, for in the following year Günther would have extorted money from the Judendorf had not the citizens of Magdeburg frustrated his design lest they should lose the securities they had deposited with the Jews. When Ernst von Sachsen entered the city as archbishop in the year 1476, the Jews also did homage to him; but in 1492 the archbishop, yielding to the inflamed passions of the citizens and the clergy, decreed the banishment of the Jews from Magdeburg on account of an unimportant altercation between two Jews and two monks. The edict was enforced nine months later after the councilor Von Sudenburg had paid the Jews the equivalent of their houses and goods. More than 1,400 emigrated. The synagogue of the Judendorf was turned into a chapel in honor of the Virgin Mary and named "Marienkapelle," and the name "Judendorf" was changed to "Mariendorf" (see H. A. Erhard, "Das Judendorf bei Magdeburg und der Erzbischof Ernst zu Magdeburg, Judenverfolgung im Jahre 1493," in Ledebur's "Archiv für die Geschichtskunde des Preussischen Staates," 1830, i. 318).
Of the internal life of the community up to the time of its banishment very little is known. It submitted religious questions to Meïr Rothenburg (d. 1293; Responsa, No. 32, ed. Cremona, 1557) and to various French scholars. At the time of Isaac ben Moses of Vienna (1200-70) there lived in Magdeburg a Rabbi Hezekiah ben Jacob, with whom the former was in correspondence (Steinschneider, "Hebr. Bibl." viii. 2). In the fifteenth century Jacob Mölln mentions a scholar, Rabbi Isaac, of Magdeburg ("Minhagim," Hilkot Ḥanukkah). At that time the community seems to have been active and flourishing and to have had a yeshibah which was attended also by students from other places, who were assured of safe-conduct by a patent of protection issued in 1410.Permission to Return.
After the banishment (1493) no Jew was allowed the right to settle in Magdeburg, whose magistrate, in a letter to the king dated Sept. 14, 1711, speaks of that right as "a high royal favor." It was not until 1720 that a Jew, Gumpert by name, obtained permission to reside in the Altstadt of Magdeburg, and up to 1806 only one protected Jew at a time enjoyed this privilege. If Jews attempted to remain in the Neustadt, the council of the city was soon forced to expel them, as is seen from the case of Lewin Bauer (see M. Spanier, l.c. pp. 392 et seq.).
The present community did not come into existence until the third decade of the nineteenth century. Its first preacher, who was also the principal of the newly founded religious school of the community (the first of its kind in North Germany), was Ludwig Philippson, who was rabbi from 1833 to 1862 (Kayserling, "Ludwig Philippson," pp. 47 et seq., Leipsic, 1898). Philippson, in his reminiscences, speaks of an old rabbi named Salme, to whom he was for a time assistant. Philippson was succeeded as rabbi by M. Güdemann (1862-66) and M. Rahmer (1869-1904). During Rahmer's illness Grzymisch was his substitute. A new synagogue was built in 1850-51. The community has a burial association, institutions for the support of invalids, widows, and orphans, various other benevolent foundations, a Jewish women's society, and a society for Jewish history and literature.
- Güdemann, Zur Gesch. der Juden in Magdeburg, Breslau, 1866 (= Monatsschrift, xiv. 241 et seq.);
- Statistisches Jahrbuch des Deutsch-Israelitischen Gemeindebundes, 1903, p. 46.