Elector of Saxony, and as such Frederick Augustus II., king of Poland; son of Augustus II., "the Strong"; born at Dresden Oct. 17, 1696; died there Oct. 5, 1763. Like his father, he was brought up in the Protestant religion, but secretly embraced Catholicism in 1712, although he did not formally announce his conversion until 1717. Without the abilities of his sire, he inherited his passions, and, following his example, distinguished himself by the splendor of his feasts and the extravagance of his court. Like his predecessors, he continued the privileges of the Jews in Poland; but under him they became but a dead letter. Neither he nor his favorite, Count Brühl—who was the actual ruler of both countries—did anything to protect the Jews from the attacks of the Catholic clergy and the Christian merchants.
Soon after Augustus had ascended the throne (April 4, 1733), he issued an edict, levying, almost without distinction of age, sex, or state, a special tax (Leibzoll) on every Jew passing through Dresden (Codex Augustus, iii. 10). Only on a petition of the Jews of Dresden, presented by their delegate, Elias Berend Lehmann, children under ten years of age were exempted by virtue of an edict issued Sept. 24, 1733. In Poland, in the same year, the synod of Plotzk endorsed the medieval dictum, "that the Jews ought to be tolerated in Christian countries only to remind us of the torments of Christ, and with their wretched position of slaves to serve as an example of God's just chastisement of the unbelievers."
The reign of Augustus was very unfortunate for the Jews of Poland. Blood-accusations and destruction of Jewish property, synagogues, and cemeteries were of frequent occurrence; and in the courts the cunning lawyers of the Catholic Church always succeeded in convicting the innocent victims of the Jesuits. In vain Baruch Yavan, agent of Count Brühl, appealed to that obdurate statesman for aid in behalf of the unfortunate Polish Jews. The minister made liberal promises, but referred Yavan to the nuncio of the pope. From 1758 to 1760 the pontiff repeatedly instructed his representatives in Poland to prevent the spread of these accusations (the falsehood of similar ones had been stated as early as the thirteenth century by a bull of Innocent IV.); but it proved easier to inculcate such prejudices in the masses than to root them out.
During this reign the Frankists appeared in Poland, and caused great disturbances among the Jews, enjoying the protection of the clergy, and even of the king himself. At the same time Dembovski, archbishop of Lemberg, with the aid of the clergy, police, and the Frankists, began to confiscate copies of the Talmud and works of rabbinical literature, which were gathered in Kamenetz-Podolsk, and burned by the thousands. This hostility to the Talmud, which extended throughout the country as far as Lemberg, lasted till Dembovski's death (Nov. 17, 1757). In Dresden an order was issued Aug. 16, 1746, restricting their right to trade in that city and prohibiting them from building synagogues and from meeting in any place for prayer. See Frankists.
- Alphonse Levy, Gesch. der Juden in Sachsen, pp. 63-66, Berlin, 1901;
- Sidori, Gesch. der Juden in Sachsen, p. 73;
- E. Vehse, Gesch. der Höfe des Hauses Sachsen, vi. Hamburg, 1854;
- S. M. Dubnow, Yevreiskaya Istoriya (after Bäck and Brann) ii. 360 et seq., Odessa, 1897;
- Grätz, Gesch. der Juden, x. 428, Leipsic, 1882.