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Expression for the political condition of the Jews in the German empire, signifying that the revenue derived from them was a royalty of the emperor and belonged to his private treasury ("camera"). Consquently the emperor not only possessed jurisdiction over them, but was also bound to grant them protection. The first mention of the "Kammerknechtschaft" occurs in the document (1157) in which Frederick I. ratifies the charter granted to the Jews of Worms by Henry IV. in 1090; in this document he confirms their privileges "cumad cameram nostram attineant" ("Mon. Germaniæ, Scriptores," xvii. 178; "Zeitschrift für die Gesch. der Juden in Deutschland," i. 139). The same expression is used by Frederick in a privilege granted to the church of Arles in 1177, and in a charter granted (1182) to the Jews of Regensburg ("qui ad imperialem cameram nostram dinoscuntur pertinere"). His grandson Frederick II. was the first to use the expression "servi cameræ nostræ," in a charter granted to the Jews of Sicily in 1234 and in one granted to the Jews of Vienna in 1238 (Scherer, "Die Rechtsverhältnisse der Juden in den Deutsch-Oesterreichischen Ländern," p. 135). From that time on the expression was commonly used in speaking of the political condition of the Jews, authority over whom the emperors claimed, notwithstanding the opposition of the feudal lords.

Duke Frederick II. (the Warlike) of Austria, in his charter of 1244, was the first to claim this jurisdiction (see Jew. Encyc. ii. 322-323, s.v. Austria). Similarly, Albert I. issued an order to the citizens of Dortmund, in 1299, to receive the Jews, who were under his, not under the city's, jurisdiction ("cum vos noscatis, ipsos Judeos esse camere nostre servos"; "Zeit. für die Gesch. der Juden in Deutschland," iii. 245). Charles IV. declared in 1347 that all Jews came under his jurisdiction ("all Juden mit Leib und mit Güt in unser Kameren gehören"; Scherer, l.c. p. 80). As, however, Charles, in his "Golden Bull," granted to the electors the control of the Jews (ib. p. 375), and as such grants became more and more frequent, whereas previously they had been exceptional (e.g., as a compromise by Louis III., in 1331, when the Austrian dukes recognized him as German king), the condition of Kammerknechtschaft gradually became merely a nominal one. It was treated as an actual one only at the Diet of Augsburg, in 1550, when it was decided that no state should have the right to expel the Jews when the latter had received the privilege of residence from the imperial authorities. Otherwise, the Kammerknechtschaft meant that the Jews paid taxes to the German emperor in addition to the taxes they paid to local territorial authorities.

With the gradual decline of the imperial jurisdiction even the term fell into oblivion, although it was used occasionally by the territorial powers; e.g., Frederick the Warlike, of Saxony, in a document dated 1425, speaks of the Jews as his "Kammerknechte" (Levy, "Gesch. der Juden in Sachsen," p. 32, Berlin, 1901). As the Jews ceased to be Kammerknechte, and their political condition was determined by the local authority which gave them protection, they were called Schutzjuden of this or that state ("Oettingen-Wallersteinsche Schutzjuden," for example); and their status as such was abolished only through modern liberal legislation, in some instances not until the second half of the nineteenth century.


The medieval state was based on the feudal principle by which every one was a member of an order first and a citizen of the state next. The Jews, being of no recognized class or order, were aliens, and as such the property of the king, like wayfaring foreigners or wild game. On this principle, most likely, the Frankish kings had granted safe-conducts to individual Jews, copies of which are preserved in the books of "Formultæ" dating from the time of Louis I. (le Débonnaire; 814-840), who took certain Jews under his protection ("sub mundebordio et defensione nostro suscepimus"; Roziéres, "Recueil Général des Formules Usitées dans I'Empire des Francs," i. 41-43, Paris, 1859; Simson, "Jahrb. des Fränkischen Reichs Unter Ludwig dem Frommen," i. 393-396). Later on the historic argument was adduced that the German king, possessing the title of Roman emperor, and being the political heir of the Roman emperors, was lord over all Jews, inasmuch as his predecessor Vespasian had taken them captive. In this sense, according to a somewhat legendary report, Albert I. (1306) claimed jurisdiction over the Jews of France (Grätz, "Gesch." vii. 244). There was, however, no derogatory meaning connected with the word "Kammerknechtschaft," contrary to the opinion of many people unacquainted with medieval terminology.

  • Stobbe, Die Juden in Deutschland, pp. 8 et seq., Brunswick, 1866;
  • Sebröder, Lehrbuch der Deutschen Rechtsgesch. p. 451, Leipsic, 1889;
  • Aronius, Ueber das Alter der Allgemeinen Kammerknechtschaft in Deutschland, in Zeitschrift für die Gesch. der Juden in Deutschland, v. 269;
  • Scherer, Die Rechtsverhältnisse der Juden in den Deutsch-Oesterreichischen Ländern, pp. 69-80, 143-144, Leipsic, 1901;
  • Grätz, Gesch. vii. 90.
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