Prussian manufacturing town, in the province of Saxony. The earliest mention of Jews at Nordhausen occurs in a document signed by Rudolph I. of Habsburg and dated Oct. 30, 1290. In the oldest extant statutes of the city, belonging to the year 1300, the Jews are mentioned only in connection with money-lending; the city council tolerated them only because they could not do without them. Still the "Liber Privilegiorum" mentions several Jews who became residents of Nordhausen; as, for instance, the Jew Joseph, 1318; another Jew Joseph, with his son-in-law Abraham, and the Jew Jacob of Elrich, in 1320. In 1323 King Louis the Bavarian declared the Jews of Nordhausen to be his special "Kammerknechte." They had a cemetery outside of the town, on the Frauenberg, but the existing tombstones are not older than the first half of the fifteenth century. During the time of the Black Death (1349) the Jews of Nordhausen shared the fate of their brethren elsewhere. Margrave Frederick of Meissen, eager for Jewish money, wrote to the city council of Nordhausen (May 2, 1349) that he had ordered all the Jews on his estates to be burned, and that the citizens of Nordhausen might follow his example. It can not be said with certainty how far this terrible hint was acted upon, although the German documents speak of the Jews as having been "destroyed," and Salfeld's "Martyrologium" indicates that some of them were burned at the stake, their rabbi, Jacob b. Meïr, being among the number. There is also a legend that the martyrs went to the pyre dancing. At any rate, the people of Nordhausen at that time came into possession of much plunder, which was wrested from them partly by the neighboring counts and partly by King Charles IV. In 1350 Charles IV. transferred all the property of the Jews of Nordhausen to Count Henry of Honstein, with the understanding that the citizens of Nordhausen might purchase from the count anything they desired. The king also quashed the proceedings brought against the citizens for the murder of the Jews. On March 9, 1391, King Louis the Bavarian issued an order that the inhabitants of Nordhausen might, by paying a certain sum into the royal treasury, be released from their debts to the Jews. Half of any money which they borrowed from them after that date must be paid into the royal treasury. Further, every Jew or Jewess over twelve years of age was required to pay an annual tax of one gulden pfennig (see Opferpfennig).Regulations Against Jews.
In the fifteenth century several Jews of Nordhausen appeared before the vehmgericht, though its authority was not recognized by the citizens of Nordhausen. In 1439 Abraham of Magdeburg summoned the council and citizens of Nordhausen before the vehmgericht presided over by Judge Manegoltat Frauenhagen, Hesse. In 1538 the authorities of Nordhausen decreed that: (1) no Jew may appear before the court without an attorney; (2) strange Jews must have an escort and must pay the capitation tax; (3) Jews on the council, who, with their children, are under the protection of the country, shall enjoy the rights granted every citizen, but nothing further. A later decree, of July 14, 1539, orders that the Jews must wear a badge (a brass ring) on the sleeve, that they may stay only in Jewish houses (that is, in the Judengasse), that they may not carry on any commerce without the permission of the burgomaster, and that they may not deal in drugs. A decree of the Collegium Seniorum March 19, 1546, forbids strange Jews the exercise of any trade at Nordhausen. They were subject to arrest and a fine of 12 marks if they came to the city without an escort and without showing their badges. It is narrated that a rich Jew of Nordhausen, named Färber (according to another account, Jochem), in the presence of the deacon of St. Nicolai spoke unseemly words concerning Jesus. The deacon thereupon reported the matter to the chancery, with the result that Färber, with his family, was ordered to leave the city immediately and forever. Still later accounts state that he was required only to pay a fine.
Soon afterward the council of Nordhausen, having complained to Charles V. that the usurious dealings of the Jews ruined the citizens, the king granted May 21, 1551, permission to the council to refuse at will to any Jew permanent residence at Nordhausen. This privilege was confirmed later by Emperor Ferdinand Aug. 14, 1559, at Augsburg, with the addition that Jews were forbidden to lend money on any property, whether inside or outside Nordhausen. Thus, Nordhausen Jews were compelled to remove to the neighboring towns, and were permitted only occasionally in Nordhausen, where they were subjected to the vexatious laws against strange Jews. In the same year the council of Nordhausen decreed that its citizens should have no dealings with the Jews and that those of the latter who came into town, whether on foot or on horseback, must wear a circular yellow badge. From that time onward the residence of Jews at Nordhausen depended on the caprice of the council; on very rare occasions some Jewish family was allowed to settle there, but even then their stay was of short duration. Indeed, the town did not admit any Jews to permanent residence as long as it was a free city, and even for some years thereafter Prussia, which annexed the city in 1802, respected its privilege in this regard. Thus it was not until 1807, when Nordhausen became part of the kingdom of Westphalia, that Jews were allowed to settle there. When in 1813 Nordhausen was ceded to Prussia, the Jews resident there became subject to the provisions of the edict of March 11, 1812, which granted the Prussian Jews freedom of residence.
In 1903 the total population of Nordhausen was 28,500, of whom 489 were Jews. The latter have a religious school, a synagogue, a charity society, a poor-aid society (in connection with a literary society), a ḥebra ḳaddisha, and a synagogal singing society.
- Carmoly, in Der Israelit, vii., Nos. 4-8;
- Förstemann, in Neue Mittheilungen aus dem Gebiete Historisch-Antiquarischer Forschungen, xi. 272-281, Halle, 1866;
- Salfeld, Martyrologium, pp. 248 et passim;
- Statistisches Jahrbuch, 1903, p. 47.