Earliest References.

Kingdom in southern Germany. The settlement of Jewish merchants in Bavaria dates from the very earliest times. The legend that they dwelt in certain cities—as, for instance, Regensburg and Augsburg—before the Christian era, is undoubtedly fictitious; having been invented to prove that their ancestors had not been among those Jews who killed Jesus. For, while the old Germanic legislation of the sixth and seventh centuries abounds with regulations concerning the Jews, there is not the slightest trace of such laws in the "Leges Bajuvariorum" of the same period. The oldest known document mentioning Jews is an ordinance in the "Leges Portoriæ" of the year 906 concerning the toll in Passau. It is not until the eleventh century that they appear in the arena of history. The founder of the present royal house, Duke Otto I. of Wittelsbach, allowed Jewish settlers, who had advanced him money for the erection of the city of Landshut, certain privileges of asylum in recognition of their public spirit. But it must be confessed that there is no other kingdom in Germany where religious hatred has raged so furiously against the Jews as Bavaria, and that nowhere else has exceptional legislation against them been so persistently maintained. In the Bavarian hereditary provinces, where the Jews lived exclusively in cities, they were more frequently exposed to sudden outbreaks of popular fury than in the Franconian bishoprics and free cities; while their existence was comparatively undisturbed in the lowlands, where many Jews lived in the domains of free lords and under their semipatriarchal government.

Repeated Massacres and Expulsion.

The first Jewish martyrs in Bavaria fell at the time of the Crusades; but while only a few separate communities—particularly those on the Main—suffered then, in 1276 Louis the Strict banished all Jews residing in the country. This was the first banishment of Bavarian Jews, but it could not have lasted long, for nine years later 180 Jews, accused of a ritual murder in the synagogue, were committed to the flames. The outbreak of 1298, which arose from a charge of insulting the host, and extended over all the district from Franconia to the Austrian frontier, chiefly affected the congregations of Bavaria. Mordecai ben Hillel, the well-known author of a halakic compendium, together with his family, was among the 628 victims who fell in Nuremberg on one day (Aug. 1, 1298). Driven from the country again by Louis the Bavarian in 1314, the Jews were soon permitted to return, but only to experience further misfortune. In 1338, on a charge of insulting the host, the whole Jewish population of Deggendorf was massacred, and the agitation spread thence over all Bavaria. The murderers at Deggendorf and Straubing were not only pardoned by the duke, but were honored by an edict of commendation; and a memorial church was erected upon the spot, to which, until recently, pilgrimages were made from all parts of Bavaria. The whole episode was actually dramatized, and a representation of the play was given in Regen as late as the year 1800. At the same time (1336-38) the communities in Franconia and Swabia were attacked by the peasants led by Armleder, who claimed to have received a divine call to massacre Jews.

Ten years later about 10,000 Jews in Bavaria fell victims to the bloody epidemic of superstition which accompanied the Black Death. Salfeld's recently published "Martyrologium des Nürnberger Memorbuchs" enumerates nearly eighty Bavarian congregations which suffered almost complete extinction at that time. Numerous churches consecrated to the Virgin are to-day the standing relics of former synagogues, upon the ruins of which they were erected. It was not very long, however, before the dearth of capital in the country made itself felt so severely that Duke Louis, who had not hesitated to pounce upon the possessions of the murdered Jews, felt himself constrained to issue a special proclamation that Jews thenceforth settling in Bavaria would receive particular marks of his favor and protection.

The Era of Expulsions.

In the fifteenth century it would be difficult to indicate any region where the Jews were not treated as outlawed aliens. When, in 1442, Duke Albrecht, surnamed for this act "the Pious," banished them from forty towns and villages of Upper Bavaria, they found refuge in Lower Bavaria under Henry of Landshut, who, with his well-known reputation for accepting gifts from all sides, welcomed the Jews and their not inconsiderable contributions: indeed, he is said to have boasted of these "chickens that laid golden eggs." Under his successor, Louis the Wealthy—sometimes called "the enemy of kindness and of the Jews"—their condition became worse. Louis conceived the idea of their wholesale conversion to Christianity; but, after detaining them for four weeks in various prisons, and fining them 32,000 florins, he banished them outright (Oct. 5, 1450). The same fate was metedout to the numerous congregations of the Franconian bishoprics and free cities, as a result of the inflammatory sermons preached by Capistrano and the baptized Jew Peter Schwartz.

But Jews found even more stringent conditions elsewhere; and, in spite of all they had suffered, they again made their way back to their Bavarian homes. Only the edict of 1551 demanded by the estates and issued by Albrecht V. had any lasting effect,—when the Jew Josel of Rosheim, representing the German congregations, had to guarantee that Jews would never again set foot upon the soil of Upper or Lower Bavaria—an example followed in 1555 by the upper Palatinate and placed upon the statutebook. An honorable exception to all this prejudice was afforded by the town of Sulzbach, celebrated with Wilhelmsdorf and Fürth for the large number of Hebrew books printed there. Its duke, Christian August, a great admirer of the Cabala, invited the Jews who had been expelled from Vienna to settle on his domain, and accorded them certain privileges, which, in view of their services rendered on the occasion of the Austrian invasion of 1541, were repeatedly confirmed and augmented.

Meanwhile Upper and Lower Bavaria were for nearly two centuries free from Jews. When, during the Spanish war of succession, Jews had again surreptitiously entered the country, and had made themselves indispensable by their financial connections, the elector Maximilian Emanuel failed in compassing their expulsion, although he alleged that "it would accord with Bavaria's inherited zeal for religion and deliver his subjects from evident harm." The municipal authorities told him plainly that it could not be done, because they had guaranteed immunity to the Jews in return for the employment of their funds. In 1756 the county of Sulzbach thus harbored Jewish families, limited in number, however, to thirty; and when the union of the provinces in 1777 drew the attention of the government to this class of their population, it had already dawned upon the authorities that the time had come for ideas more in keeping with the age, and that Jews might be made useful subjects of the state.

Jewish Disabilities.

The history of the Jews in Bavaria thus presents the curious spectacle of a well-defined body of subjects toward whose material ruin both Church and state conspired for the space of nearly a thousand years. The same spectacle, however, modified here and there by particular enactments, is presented by the history of the Jews throughout all Germany. The Jew was not permitted to hold public office; admission to schools and universities was denied him; he was deprived of the honor of bearing arms and of all burgher rights; and outside of the ghetto walls he was made conspicuous by a badge. He could not help feeling himself a foreigner in a home which persistently treated him as one. Those who should have protected him—whether the emperor, whose "serf" he was called through medieval times, or the duke or other authority, who "owned" him—considered him simply as an object of financial consideration and as a source of revenue. Soon, however, the Jews of Bavaria came to exert considerable influence in the sphere of finance to which their circumstances limited them. Members of the flourishing congregation of Fürth (1719) held the most intimate financial relations with various German courts, and busily engaged in trade and manufacture. Capital was for the greater part in their hands; finance and banking—the source of their prosperity, as also of their misfortunes—were quite generally controlled by them.


A perverted legislation thus made them the benefactors of, and at the same time, as it were, parasites upon, the communities in which they dwelt. For, whereas the treaty in 1244 and that of 1255, between the dukes and bishops of Bavaria, decreed that Christians might borrow from Jews at 43⅓ per cent interest, the Augsburg law, which was adopted by Munich and Ingolstadt, declared that every Jew was obliged to lend upon pledges when they were of higher value than the loan asked. Such peculiar circumstances could not fail to lead to economic troubles of various kinds, to remedy which further unwise legislation was invoked. Thus the Jews suffered repeatedly from extortion by the official cancellation of debts due to them, or by arbitrary reduction of the rate of interest. In this connection the frequent financial operations of Emperor Wenzel, between 1385 and 1390, need only to be mentioned.

Spiritual Life.

There were, however, departments other than that of commerce in which the Jews of Bavaria distinguished themselves, in spite of all their unfavorable circumstances. It is even said that a Bavarian Jew, Tipsiles of Augsburg, invented gunpowder. Many masters of the mint were Jews; physicians are found in the service of lords and even prelates. The troubadour Suesskind von Trimberg is said to have served at one time in the Würzburg leper hospital; and in 1516 a complaint was made in Regensburg that people insisted upon engaging Jewish physicians.


But the special field of Jewish scholarship was theology. That dialectical treatment of the Talmud, known as "pilpul," had its origin in Bavaria. Speyer became a seat of this learning and the home of a school of Tosafists; while the rabbis of Regensburg were celebrated as early as the twelfth century. There, too, labored the celebrated mystic Judah he-Ḥasid, author of the "Sefer Ḥasidim," whose contemporary, Samuel of Babenberg, was a Tosafist and the teacher of Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg. In the fifteenth century, besides Israel of Nuremberg, whom Emperor Ruprecht in 1407 appointed as "Hochmeister [chief] over all rabbis, Jews, and Jewesses of the German empire," there lived the following scholarly authors of responsa. Jacob Weil, in Nuremberg and Augsburg; Israel Bruna, in Regensburg; and Moses Minz, in Bamberg.

In the sixteenth century, besides the author of "Tosafot Yom-Ṭob," who was also a Bavarian, lived Samuel Meseritz, the author of "Naḥlat Shiba'," and Elijah Levita of Neustadt, the celebrated grammarian, and instructor of learned Christians in Hebrew and the Cabala. In the seventeenth century there were, of first importance, Enoch Levi of Fürth, who was intimate with Wagenseil, professor at theuniversity in the neighboring city of Altdorf, and his nephew, Bärman Fränkel, rabbi of Ansbach. Both of these were of the Frankel family, which rose into prominence as favorites at the court, and the most celebrated member of which, Elkan, a favorite of the margrave of Ansbach, known by his rivalry with the court Jews of the Model family in Fürth, met with such a tragic fate. In the eighteenth century lived the celebrated ichthyologist Marcus Eliezer Bloch, and the court painter Judah Pinḥas. In their religious affairs the congregations of Bavaria, in which an ascetic form of piety prevailed, were autonomous; and they had their own courts for the adjudication of civil disputes among Jews. In some districts, such as Würzburg and Ansbach, these congregations were united into a corporation ruled by a chief rabbi, who was regarded as their representative by the outside world.

The nineteenth century saw the Jews of Bavaria approaching nearer to their desire—that of being recognized as full citizens of the country which they longed to call their fatherland. On Nov. 10, 1800, the elector Max Joseph announced that thenceforward adhesion to the Catholic Church would no longer be held an essential requisite for residence in Bavaria. Unfortunately, however, this act of tolerance was declared (Sept. 21, 1801) not to apply to Jews, because, it was alleged, the ordinances of Judaism contain many observances incapacitating Jews from civil rights. The ungenerous barriers of the age could only be removed piecemeal. In 1804 Jews were admitted to the schools; in 1805 they were allowed to bear arms; in 1808 the Jewish polltax was abolished.

Modern Legislation.

In the new possessions, which formerly belonged to Franconia or Brandenburg and were afterward annexed to Bavaria, the Jews remained under the old laws of these territories. The great increase, however, of the Jewish population necessitated a uniform legislation, which was first attempted in the "Religionsedict" of 1809. Under this law the Jews were considered as a religious society (Privat-Kirchengesellschaft), and its conditions were regulated by various orders, which later on were comprised in the edict of June 10, 1813. This edict pronounced the Jews full citizens of Bavaria as regarded their duties; but as concerned their rights, they were only half-citizens. It contained many enactments in the vein of the new spirit of liberality; but side by side with them were survivals of the narrowest medievalism. An example of this latter was the "Matrikel-Gesetz" (registration-law), in effect an echo of the old Pharaonic law against Jewish increase in numbers. Whoever had no "Matrikel" (license) could found no family, or, as it was commonly expressed, for such a one "the path to the wedding-canopy led only over the coffin of one who had already been registered." Exceptions were made in favor of agriculturists, artisans, and manufacturers; the government desiring to turn the Jews away from commercial pursuits. Similarly, freedom of residence was restricted. The result of all this was that one-half of the Jewish youth of Bavaria emigrated to the United States, where a great many acquired wealth and at the same time laid the foundation for the more comfortable circumstances of the Jews of Bavaria in the period next ensuing.

Efforts for Emancipation.

While Rhenish Bavaria enjoyed the liberty dating from the French occupation, in the other parts of the country the edict of 1813 remained in force. In 1819, when the first Bavarian Diet assembled, the larger congregations sent prominent men to Munich, under the leadership of Samson Wolff Rosenfeld, rabbi in Uehlfeld and Bamberg, author of many pamphlets on "Emancipation," to work for the complete enfranchisement of the Jews; and their efforts were not altogether unsuccessful. The delegates themselves expressed the desire for a revision of the laws governing the Jews, and the Diet promised compliance with their request. Unfortunately, however, the succeeding Diet allowed itself to be influenced by the "Hephep" cries of Würzburg, which spread over all Franconia and beyond the frontiers of Bavaria; and it declared, May 13, 1822, that the time for the emancipation of the Jews had not yet arrived. Statistics of the day show that of 53,402 Jewish souls, there were 252 families supporting themselves by agriculture, 169 artisans, and 839 factory hands.

It was not until the revolution of July that, following the lead of other south German states, the Bavarian Diet in 1831 again took up the Jewish question. These debates were immortalized by the tribute paid to them by Gabriel Riesser ("Werke," ii. 373); viz., that throughout the whole of them not one voice was raised in hatred against the Jews. The Diet unanimously called for unrestricted emancipation of the Jews; but the Abel ministry allowed the matter to drag along until the Jewish claims were buried in the general reaction which followed. A convention of Jewish scholars and congregational representatives, called by the state in 1836, to frame a general constitution, produced no results. Successive diets took up the Jewish question, only to dismiss it after a little random discussion. The Jews meanwhile had not been idle among themselves. An association for industrial and humanitarian pursuits, founded in Hürben in 1836, did not accomplish much; but a society for the furtherance of the professions and manual labor in Munich, which is still active to-day, was more successful. In 1844 there were 4,813 artisans and 1,216 agriculturists among the Bavarian Jews. In 1846 the legislative chamber again expressed itself most warmly in favor of a revision of the still effective edicts, and of the abolition of all exceptional laws.

The Revolution of 1848.

The Revolution of 1848 benefited the Jews not only by giving them the right of suffrage, but also by causing the presentation of an emancipation law to the Diet in that year, and the adoption of the same as a part of the constitution. But the Upper House refused to pass it (Feb. 16, 1850). Under Maximilian II., however, the remaining barriers were thrown down. A resolution of the Diet, Nov. 10, 1861, abolished all restrictions with regard to residence and occupation; but the final decision of the ministry (June 29, 1863) contented itself with the most necessary regulation of the ecclesiasticalaffairs of the Jews, who were still looked upon as merely a tolerated private religious society. It was not until the federal law of July 3, 1869, enacted in Bavaria, April 22, 1872, that the legal enactment of equal rights for all took place. It is true the realization of such rights in state and social life still leaves much to be desired, in spite of the energetic stand taken by King Ludwig II. against anti-Semitism, and in spite of the fact that, during all this long period of struggle, the Jews of Bavaria have attained eminent positions in society and in the various departments of mental and material activity.

Jewish Services to Bavaria.

In 1812 the court banker A. E. Seligmann of Munich, in consideration of services to the crown extending over a period of forty years, was raised to the hereditary barony under the title of "Von Eichthal." In 1819 the court banker and landowner Jacob Hirsch of Königshofen, near Würzburg, who in the revolutionary war had raised and armed a battalion at his own expense, was also raised to the barony, as was later his son and successor, Joseph von Hirsch of Gereuth (1805-85), father of the celebrated philanthropist of that name. In 1820 the banker Westheimer of Munich placed 300,000 florins at the disposal of the city to improve the water-supply. The first Jewish attorney in Bavaria, Dr. Grünsfeld of Fürth, was appointed by King Ludwig I. in 1834 by mere accident; but in 1849 Dr. Karl Feust and Counselor Berlin of Fürth were regularly appointed, and both of them later received the Order of St. Michael. A nephew of the last-mentioned, Dr. Max Berlin, in Nuremberg, was the first Jew appointed a judge (1872). In the army were Major Marx and Captain Henle; while a banker, Obermaier of Augsburg, has become major-general of the "Landwehr" (reserve); and a notary, Dr. Ortenau of Fürth, is auditor of a reserve regiment. Non-hereditary nobility has been conferred upon the two brothers Henle, who occupy high positions in railroad administration, and also upon Consul von Wilmersdörfer and on "Justizrath" Jacob Haussmann of Munich.

Among the more eminent Bavarian Jewish families mention may be made of the philanthropic house of the banker Königswarter of Fürth, and of Dr. William Königswarter (1809-87), honorary citizen of that town, who constituted it, on his death, sole heir to his fortune. Among parliamentarians were the manufacturer Dr. Morgenstern (1814-82) of Fürth, who was the first Jew in Bavaria to be elected to the Diet in 1849—singularly enough, from a district in which no Jews resided. In the Diet he successfully defended Jewish rights, with the result that a proposition to withdraw the suffrage from them was rejected by a large majority. Fischel Arnheim (1812-64), a lawyer of Bayreuth, was another representative who valiantly defended his coreligionists in debate, and also succeeded in securing the passage of many laws of general utility. Wolff Frankenburger (1827-89) of Nuremberg, for twenty years a member of the Bavarian, Diet, and leader of the Liberal party, was distinguished as an orator and as an authority upon railroad and military affairs. It was through him that the Jewish poll-tax, formerly paid to the Church, was abolished. He was also for four years a member of the Reichstag. Other members of the Bavarian Diet were Maison, a manufacturer of Munich, and Judge Gunzenhäuser of Fürth.

Jewish Scholarship.

Among Bavarian scholars are the following: David Ottensosser of Fürth, well known as exegete and Bible translator; Aaron Wolfsohn (1754-1835) of Fürth, belonged to the school of the "Meassefim," and was a founder of the institution known as "Society of Friends" in Berlin; Jacob Herz (1816-71), who was for twenty-nine years privat-docent at the University of Erlangen before he received his appointment as the first Jewish professor in Bavaria, was a celebrated surgeon. He so distinguished himself in two great wars by his humanity, unselfishness, and skill, that to him was accorded the honor of a statue erected by public subscription, the first statue to a Jew in all Germany.

It is a remarkable fact that from the celebrated yeshibah of the strictly Orthodox rabbi Wolf Hamburger in Fürth (1770-1850), a number of distinguished scholars have proceeded, who have become celebrated as eloquent representatives of Reform. Of these may be mentioned David Einhorn, M. Lilienthal, H. Hochheimer, Von Schwabacher in Odessa, Loewi in Fürth, Stein in Burgkundstadt and Frankfort-on-the-Main, Gutmann in Redwitz, Joseph Aub in Berlin, Adler in Kissingen and Cassel, Löwenmeyer in Frankfort-on-the-Oder, Grünebaum, author of the "Ethics of Judaism," in Landau, and others. From the same circle proceeded likewise a pillar of Orthodoxy, Seligman Beer Bamberger, successor of Abraham Bing and founder of the Teachers' Seminary in Würzburg. Outside of it stood Max Grünbaum (died 1898 in Munich), at one time in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum in New York, and author of a Jewish-German and a Jewish-Spanish chrestomathy; also Raphael N. Rabbinowicz, author of the monumental "Diḳduḳe Soferim." The latter can not be mentioned without grateful reference to his Mæcenas, Abraham Merzbacher. In quite recent times Perles in Munich, and H. Gross in Augsburg, author of "Gallia Judaica," have distinguished themselves by scholarship. The brothers Emil and Philip Feust, prominent as journalists, may also be mentioned. In art, Hermann Levi of Munich has labored successfully for the popularization of Wagnerian music; and Toby Rosenthal and Israel, as painters of Oriental subjects, occupy acknowledged positions among Bavarian artists.

Jewish Industries.

It is, however, especially in industries that the Jews of Bavaria have earned recognition. Fürth, sometimes called "Little Jerusalem," owes its prosperity to its Jewish inhabitants. Here Gosdorfer founded his mirror-factory, George Benda his bronzefoundry, both of which export largely to the United States. Ullmann (died 1898) founded a large business in toys and hardware. The royal lumber industry of the Bavarian and Alpine forests was also organized by a Regensburg Jew of the name of Loewi. The Jews of Nuremberg, Fürth, and Bamberg control the hop business: in the first-named town, indeed, general export trade has in reality only existed since the Jewish settlement there.The cattle trade is entirely in the hands of the country Jews.

The 356 Jewish congregations of the kingdom contain 53,750 souls, or about 1 per cent of the total population.

  • Aretin, Gesch. der Juden in Bayern, Landshut, 1803;
  • Gotthelf, Historisch-Dogmatische Darstellung der Rechtlichen Stellung der Juden in Bayern, Munich, 1851;
  • idem, Die Rechtsverhältnisse der Juden in Bayern auf Grundlage der Neuesten Bayerischen Gesetzgebung, Munich, 1853;
  • Beiträge zur Gesch. der Juden in Bayern, in Die Geöffneten Archive für die Gesch. des Königreichs Bayern, Speziell für Oettingen, 2d series, 1822-23, p. 260;
  • Taussig, Gesch. der Juden in Bayern, Munich, 1874;
  • Heimberger Die Staatskirchenrechtliche Stellung der Israeliten in Bayern, Freiburg and Leipsic, 1893;
  • Himmelstein, Die Juden in Franken, in Archiv des Historischen Vereins von Unterfranken und Aschaffenburg, xii. 125 et seq., Würzburg, 1853;
  • Heffner, Die Juden in Franken, Nuremberg, 1855;
  • Haenle, Gesch. der Juden im Ehemaligen Fürstenthum Ansbach, Ansbach, 1867;
  • Wuerfel, Nachrichten von der Judengemeinde Nürnberg, Nuremberg, 1755;
  • Barbeck, Gesch. der Juden in Nürnberg und Fürth, Nuremberg, 1878;
  • Ziemlich, Die Israelitische Gemeinde (Kultusgemeinde) Nürnberg, Nuremberg, 1900;
  • Eckstein, Gesch. der Juden im Ehemaligen Fürstbistum Bamberg, Bamberg, no date;
  • idem, Nachträge zur Gesch. der Juden im Ehemaligen Fürstbistum Bamberg, Bamberg, 1899;
  • Pfeifer, Kulturgeschichtliche Bilder aus dem Jüdischen Gemeindeleben zu Reckendorf, Bamberg, no date;
  • Zustände und Kämpfe der Juden, mit Besonderer Beziehung auf die Bayerische Rheinpfalz, Mannheim, 1843;
  • Die Bürgerliche Stellung der Juden in Bayern: Ein Memorandum, der Hohen Kammer der Abgeordneten Ehrerbietigst Vorgelegt von Dr. Adler, Distriktsrabbiner in Kissingen, Munich, 1846;
  • Stigelmayer, Die Bürgerliche und Staatsbürgerliche Gleichstellung der Israeliten mit den Uebrigen Staatsbürgern, Munich, 1848;
  • L. Müller, Aus Fünf Jahrhunderten, Beiträge zur Gesch. der Jüdischen Gemeinden in Riess, Augsburg, 1899, Kramer, Zur Geṣch. der Juden in Baiern, in Achawa, 1865.
D. A. E.