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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in Austria 01: Middle Ages

How the "Christian" kings and the church played with the Jews with settlement and expulsion

Encyclopaedia Judaica: Austria, vol.3, col.890,
                  first Jewish tombstone of 1130
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Austria, vol.3, col.890, first Jewish tombstone of 1130: Austria's oldest Jewish tombstone records the death in 1130 of shabbethai ha-Parnes. Klagenfurt, Carintia national museum (Landesmuseum Kärnten)

from: Austria; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 3

presented by Michael Palomino (2007)

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<AUSTRIA,
country in Central Europe.

Middle Ages.

Jews lived in Austria from the tenth century. However the history of the Jews in Austria from the late Middle Ages was virtually that of the Jews in *Vienna and its environs. In the modern period, Austrian Jewish life was interwoven with that of other parts of the Hapsburg Empire. Austria's position as the bulwark of the Holy Roman Empire against the Turks, as a transit area between Europe and the Middle East, and later as a center attracting East European Jewry, conferred on Austrian Jewry, and on legal formulations of their status, an importance far beyond its size and its national boundaries.

Encyclopaedia Judaica: Austria, vol.3, col.889,
                    Raffelstatten, first mentioning of Jews in Austria
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Austria, vol.3, col.889, Raffelstatten, first mentioning of Jews in Austria: Page of the Raffelstatten customs
ordinance which makes the first mention of Jews in Austria (c. 903-906); Munich, public record office, convent of Dessau

[Legend about Judeisaptan - first Jews brought by Roman legions - Jewish charter since 1238]

According to legend, a Jewish kingdom named *Judeisaptan was founded in the territory in times before recorded history. Jews apparently arrived in Austria with the Roman legions. They are mentioned in the Raffelstatten customs ordinance (c. 903-06) among traders paying tolls on slaves and merchandise. The earliest Jewish tombstone in the region, found near St. Stephan (Carinthia), dates from 1130. The first reliable evidence of a permanent Jewish settlement is the appointment (1194) of Shlom the Mintmaster. (col. 887)

During the reign of Frederick I of Babenberg (1195-98) there was an influx of Jews from Bavaria and the Rhineland. A synagogue is recorded in Vienna in 1204. By then, Jews were also living in *Klosterneuburg, *Krems, Tulln, and *Wiener Neustadt.
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Austria, vol.3, col.891,
                    gift of territory 1204
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Austria, vol.3, col.891, gift of territory 1204: This deed of gift of a parcel of land, dated 1204,
is the first Austrian document in which a Jews is mentioned by name. It identifies the land as formerly
belonging to "the Jew Zlomus." Vienna, public record office (Haus-Hof- und Staatsarchiv).


In the 13th century, Austria became a center of Jewish learning and leadership for the German and western Slavonic lands. Prominent scholars included *Isaac b. Moses, author of Or Zaru'a, *Avigdor b. Elijah ha-Kohen, and Moses b. Hasdai *Taku. At that time, Jews held important positions, administering the taxes and mints, and in trade. *Frederick II of Hohenstaufen granted the Jews of Vienna a charter in 1238. In 1244 Duke Frederick II of Babenberg granted the charter known as the "Fredericianum" to the Jews in the whole of Austria. It became the model for similar privilegia granted to the Jews of Bohemia, Hungary, and Poland during the 13th century. *

Encyclopaedia Judaica: Austria,
                  vol.3, col.892, privileges of 1244: The
                  "Fredericianum" of 1244, the charter of
                  privileges for Austrian Jews, Vienna, library of the
                  P.P. Serviten (Bibliothek der P.P. Serviten)
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Austria, vol.3, col.892, privileges of 1244: The "Fredericianum" of 1244, the charter of privileges
for Austrian Jews, Vienna, library of the P.P. Serviten (Bibliothek der P.P. Serviten)

Rudolph of Hapsburg confirmed the charter in 1278, in his capacity as Holy Roman Emperor.
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Austria, vol.3, col.893,
                    confirmation
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Austria, vol.3, col.893, confirmation of the Jewish privileges: Rudolf of Hapsburg's decree confirming
the "Fredericianium" in 1277. Vienna public record office (Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv).


It was ratified by the emperors Ludwig IV of Bavaria in 1330 and Charles IV in 1348.
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Austria, vol.3,
                    col.893-894, Jewish confirmation of 1337: A Hebrew
                    promissory note drawn up in Vienna in 1337 is
                    witnessed by R. Moses ben R. Gamaliel. Vienna public
                    record office (Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv).
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Austria, vol.3, col.893-894, Jewish confirmation of 1337: A Hebrew promissory note drawn up in Vienna
in 1337 is witnessed by R. Moses ben R. Gamaliel. Vienna public record office (Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv).

[Anti-Semitic Church agitating against the Jews - and the kings are taking anti-Jewish measures - also stakes]

Although Jews were excluded by the charter from holding public office, two are mentioned as royal financiers (comites camerae) in 1257. Immigration from Germany increased in the second half of the 13th century, but meanwhile the Jews encountered growing hostility, fostered by the church (for example, by the ecclesiastical Council of Vienna, 1267). Four instances of *blood libel occurred. The massacres of Jews in Franconia instigated by *Rindfleisch spread to Austria.

Some protection was afforded by Albert I, who in 1298 endeavored to suppress the riots and imposed a fine on the town of St. Poelten. However, in 1306, he punished the Jews in *Korneuburg on a charge of desecration of the *Host.

Frederick I (1308-30) canceled a debt owed by a nobleman to a Jewish moneylender, thus introducing the usage of the pernicious *Toetbrief. He also prohibited Jews in his domains from manufacturing of selling clothes.

Under *Albert II wholesale massacres of Jews followed the host libel in *Pulkau. A fixed Jewish tax is mentioned for the first time in 1320.

Rudolph IV (1358-65), who unified all the legal codes then extant, retained the former enactments granting Jewish judicial autonomy, and took measures to prevent Jews from leaving Austria.

The position of the Jews became increasingly precarious during the reigns of *Albert III and Leopold III. Cancelation of debts owed to Jews, confiscations of their (col. 888)

property, and economic restrictions multiplied. In consequence, they became greatly impoverished.

Their wretchedness culminated when *Albert V ordered the arrest of all the Jews after the host libel in Enns (1420); 270 Jews were burnt at the stake that year, a calamity remembered in Jewish annals as the *Wiener geserah. the rest were expelled and the property of the victims was confiscated. Austria became notorious among Jewry as "Erez ha-Damim" ("The bloodstained land").

Encyclopaedia Judaica: Austria,
                  vol.3, col.901: Jewish booklet of Scheff street
                  (Scheffstrasse): Page of the "Judenbuch der
                  Scheffstrasse", a register of transactions
                  between Jews and non-jews of this quarter of vienna,
                  1389-1420. Vienna, national public record office
                  (Österreichisches Staatsarchiv).
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Austria, vol.3, col.901: Jewish booklet of Scheff street (Scheffstrasse): Page of the "Judenbuch der Scheffstrasse",
a register of transactions between Jews and non-jews of this quarter of vienna, 1389-1420. Vienna, national public
record office (Österreichisches Staatsarchiv).

[Reconstruction of Jewish communities in Austria]

Jewish settlement was subsequently renewed, and despite the persecutions, Austria became a center of spiritual leadership and learning for the Jews in southern Germany and Bohemia. The teachings of its sages and usages followed in its communities were accepted by Jews in many other countries. Austrian usage helped to determine the form of rabbinical ordination (*semikhah), mainly owing to the authority of R. *Meir b. Baruch ha-Levi. His colleague R. Abraham *Klausner compiled Sefer Minhagim, a Jewish custumal, which was widely used.

[Expulsion of almost all Jews under Ladislaus]

During the reign of Ladislaus (1440-57), the Franciscan John of *Capistrano incited popular feeling against the Jews, leading to the expulsion of almost all of them from Austria proper.

[New Jewish life under Frederick III in Styria and Carinthia]

Under *Frederick III (1440-93) the position improved; with papal consent he gave protection to Jewish refugees and permitted them to settle in *Styria and *Carinthia. Yeshivot [[Jewish religion schools]] were again established, and under the direction of Israel *Isserlein, the yeshivah in Wiener Neustadt provided guidance for distant communities.

[Expulsion under Maximilian - and settlement in Marchegg and Eisenstadt a.o.]

Hostility to the Jews on the part of the Estates caused Emperor *Maximilian I (1493-1519) to expel the Jews from Styria and Carinthia in 1496, after receiving a promise from the Estates that they would reimburse him for the loss of his Jewish revenues. However, he permitted the exiles to settle in Marchegg, *Eisenstadt, and other towns then annexed (col. 889)

from Hungary. A few Jews, including Meyer *Hirshel, to whom the emperor owed money, settled in Vienna.

[Ferdinand I drives the Jews into the mint - and the first yellow badge]

*Ferdinand I (1521-64) agreed only in part to requests by the Estates to expel the Jews, ordering their exclusion only from towns holding the "privilege" de non tolerandis Judaeis, i.e., the right to exclude Jews. Ferdinand employed a Jew in the mint. In 1536 a statute regulating the Jewish status (Judenordnung) [[Jewish order]] was published, which included a clause enforcing the wearing of the yellow *badge on their garments.> (col. 890)

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Sources
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Austria,
                              vol. 3, col. 887-888
vergrössernEncyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Austria, vol. 3, col. 887-888
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Austria,
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vergrössernEncyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Austria, vol. 3, col. 889-890
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vergrössernEncyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Austria, vol. 3, col. 893-894
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vergrössernEncyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Austria, vol. 3, col. 895-896
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Austria,
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vergrössernEncyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Austria, vol. 3, col. 897-898
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vergrössernEncyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Austria, vol. 3, col. 899-900
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vergrössernEncyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Austria, vol. 3, col. 901-902
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vergrössernEncyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Austria, vol. 3, col. 903-904



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