By: Joseph Jacobs
Emperor of Germany; born July 9, 1578; elected Aug. 28, 1619; died Feb. 15, 1637. On the whole his reign was favorable for the condition of the Jews in the empire, even though they were subjected to the vicissitudes of the Thirty Years' war, which began during his reign. He permitted the erection of the synagogue at Hamburg in 1627, perhaps, however, merely with the view of obtaining similar privileges for the Roman Catholics of that city, of whom he was a protector (Schudt, "Jüdische Merckwürdigkeiten," i. 373). Nevertheless he gave the same permission to the Jews of Vienna, who were allowed by an edict issued December, 1624, to build a synagogue on the payment of 17,000 florins. He also issued a decree to his military officials, ordering them to take particular care of the Jews (Wolf, "Ferdinand II. und die Juden," Beitrag xiii.). For this immunity the Bohemian Jews paid 40,000 gulden per annum, an amount which Wallenstein raised in 1628 to 48,000. When the municipal council of Vienna petitioned for the expulsion of the Jews from that city, the emperor settled them in fourteen houses on the other side of the river, in the present Leopoldstadt; for this he demanded of them 10,000 florins, of which only 4,000 was paid. Similarly, he demanded between 40,000 and 50,000 florins for the privilege he granted them of dispensing with the badge; but after bargaining they obtained the immunity for 20,000 florins. When the Jews were driven out of Mantua, he ordered them, at the request of three influential Austrian Jews, to be reinstated.
It was Ferdinand II. who introduced the formal appointment of court Jews, and in 1622 he raised Jacob Bassevi of Prague to the nobility. The only anti-Jewish action of a marked character taken by Ferdinand was the order given in 1630 to the Jews of Prague and Vienna to attend conversionist sermons on every Sunday. The Jews, however, managed to make the order nugatory. After he died the Viennese Jews had to pay his widow 2,500 florins yearly.
- Grätz, Gesch. x. 18, 36, 41-44;
- Wolf, Gesch. der Juden in Wien, pp. 42-46, Vienna, 1876;
- D. Kaufmann, Die Letzte Vertreibung der Juden aus Wien, pp. 1-32;
- G. Wolf, Ferdinand II. und die Juden, Vienna, 1859.