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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in Wuerttemberg

Settlement in the Middle Ages - impoverishment an expulsion decree of 1521 - new settlements and equality - Holocaust

from: Wuerttemberg; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971), vol. 16

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)

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<WUERTTEMBERG, state in [[South West]] Germany.

[Jewish settlement in the Middle Ages - impoverishment due to heavy taxation in the 15th century - ban from towns - expulsion decree of 1521 and expulsions]

There is evidence that the Jewish community of *Heilbronn in Wuerttemberg was one of the earliest in Germany. An inscription bearing the name of "Nathan the Parnes", on the entrance of the mikveh [[ritual bath]], apparently dates from the latter half of the 11th century.

Information on Jewish settlement in Wuerttemberg becomes more definite in the early 13th century. Jews are known to have settled in 65 localities there before the *Black Death persecutions. These settlements suffered during the *Rindfleisch massacres of 1298 and against in the *Armleder uprising of 1335-37 but soon recovered. At that time the more important Jewish communities were centered in Heilbronn, *Ulm, *Esslingen, and Schwaebisch Gmuend.

At first the Jews paid their taxes directly to the (col. 675)

king, the count of Wuerttemberg, or to a nobleman to whom the king had granted taxing privileges; from the middle of the 14th century, however, most cities acquired taxation rights over the Jews living within them. Jews in positions of financial responsibility were helpful to many cities during a period of territorial expansion in the 14th century.

During the 15th century, however, many Jews in Wuerttemberg became impoverished due to heavy taxation and the official cancellation of debts that were owed to them. Throughout the 15th century the Jews were alternately enabled to settle and expelled by the nobles, and by the end of the century they had been banished from most of the towns. In 1521 a decree was issued expelling the Jews from the entire duchy. Nevertheless, some of them managed to remain in many of the small villages during the 16th and 17th centuries.

[New Jewish settlement since 18th century - commerce - more liberal regulations step by step]

Jewish settlement in Wuerttemberg was substantially renewed only in the 18th century when Jews were first allowed to visit fairs and trade in cattle; later they were allowed to settle permanently in the duke's private lands and several other limited areas. With the aid of Joseph Suess *Oppenheimer several Jews were granted residence in *Stuttgart and Ludwigsburg.

The dukes subsequently enacted more liberal regulations concerning Jewish settlement, such as the Hochberg Regulation of 1780. During the 18th century they retained a number of *Court Jews who aided significantly in the economic development of the duchy.

[Napoleon times with new rights - development of equality (1828) and autonomy (1912)]

When Napoleon added large areas to to Wuerttemberg in 1806 the Jewish population rose from 534 to 4,884, and by 1817 there were 3,256 Jews living in 79 localities. Jews were permitted to live in cities such as Ulm, from which they had previously been excluded. The body tax (*Leibzoll) was abrogated and Jews were accepted in the army.

The improved attitude toward the Jews did not deteriorate after Napoleon's downfall. In 1828 a law was issued obliging Jewish children to receive a secular education; this, however, applied only to shopkeepers and craftsmen and discriminated against peddlers, cattle traders, brokers, and moneylenders. The law recognized the organization of local communities, and in 1831 a central Jewish executive was created in Stuttgart that functioned under governmental supervision. The constitutions of the local communities were drawn up along similar lines to those applied to the Christian communities. The chief rabbi was a government official; but when the chief rabbi Joseph Meir, who was of Reformist bent, tried to introduce the 60 Hymns of Israel, mostly of his own composition, into the traditional liturgy, most congregations refused to adopt the proposal, although it came from an official source.

However, the Jews did not gain full civil equality in Wuerttemberg until April 25, 1828, and their religious life still remained subject to governmental supervision. Full autonomy was granted in 1912, and supplemented by additional legislation approved in 1924.


The Jewish population increased from 8,918 in 1928 to 11,916 in 1925, organized in 51 communities. By 1933 the number had dwindled to 10,023, in 43 communities.

Holocaust Period.

[Anti-Semitism - boycott day - emigration of many Jews, partly to Palestine - deportation of Jews in 1938 - deprivation - deportations]

Anti-Semitism was already a significant political factor in Wuerttemberg at the end of the 19th century. With the growth of Nazism from 1925 to 1933, the party became increasingly active in its propaganda campaign against the Jews  [[financed mostly by foreign persons as a gift against Communism]].

After the rise of the Nazis to power [[on 31 January 1933]] the boycott of Jewish goods as well

[[there was a boycott day, but the worldwide Jewish organizations organized a big counter boycott against Germany all the time from 1933-1945. Many Germans followed the boycott day but went to make their purchases the day after]]

as general harassment led many Jews to emigrate from Wuerttemberg, and 9,000 left there in 1935. While the [[racist]] Zionist movement had not been generally strong in Wuerttemberg, 200 Jews from the village of Rexingen emigrated to Palestine in 1939 to found the settlement of *Shavei Zion.

[[The emigration was well organized by the Jewish organizations in collaboration with the Nazis. The Jews could bring German goods to Palestine, see *Haavara. But at the end Palestine was projected to be occupied by the Nazi troops and the Jews would have been victims again...]]

In October 1938 Jews of Polish extraction were deported back to Poland. On Nov. 9-16, 1938, 18 synagogues in (col. 674)

Wuerttemberg were burned to the ground, and 12 others severely damaged; 875 Jews were imprisoned. Jewish enterprises were "aryanized"

[[the Hitler regime gave the enterprises to his political "friends" in Germany and abroad, also in "neutral" Switzerland]]

and a systematic plan put into action to rid Wuerttemberg of its Jewish communities.

From 1941 to 1945, 12 deportations totaling 2,500 Jews deported from Stuttgart; 260 committed suicide before deportation. Only 180 survived the war; 200 Jews who had intermarried were spared deportation.


After the Holocaust a few Jews returned to Wuerttemberg. The community of Stuttgart was reconstituted and a new synagogue built;for the most part what is left of the Jewish community in Wuerttemberg are unused synagogues and abandoned cemeteries.


-- P. Sauer: Die juedischen Gemeinden in Wuerttemberg und Hohenzollern [[The Jewish communities in Wuerttemberg and Hohenzollern]] (1966)
-- Germ Jud, 2 (1968), 928
-- L. Adler, in: YLBI (1960), 287-98
-- Juedische Gotteshaeuser und Friedhoefe in Wuerttemberg [[Jewish prayer houses and cemeteries in Wuerttemberg]] (1928)
-- A. Taenzer: Die Geschichte der Juden in Wuerttemberg [[The history of the Jews in Wuerttemberg]] (1937).

[Z.AV.]> (col. 675)

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Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Wuerttemberg,
                    vol. 16, col. 673-675
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Wuerttemberg, vol. 16, col. 673-675

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