views updated May 18 2018


STRASBOURG. Founded in 16 c.e., the Alsatian city of Strasbourg owed its subsequent prosperity and influence to its situation on the left (western) bank of the Upper Rhine, where it commanded the last bridge over that river before its mouth. The city's trading network extended north and south along the Rhine, as well as east deeper into the Holy Roman Empire, and west into France. Though an annual fair was held beginning in 1228 and the city became a regional banking center by 1500, it failed to develop an indigenous manufacturing sector beyond cheap woolen goods known as "Strasbourg gray." The city remained vulnerable to external pressures that threatened to disrupt its livelihood and food supply.

The most important of these pressures was the local prince-bishop, who initially controlled the city, but was ejected by its inhabitants in 1262 and took up residence in Dachstein castle, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) to the west. Though the city was now a self-governing free city, the bishop still exercised jurisdiction over its clergy, convents, and the huge cathedral that was never finished. The bishop was a prince of the empire with a voice in imperial institutions and his own territory extending across 276 square miles (715 square kilometers) of land to the west, south, and southeast and populated by around sixty thousand people by the late eighteenth century. Strasbourg itself had sixteen thousand inhabitants in 1444, rising to between twenty and twenty-five thousand by the early sixteenth century. The population thereafter remained stable, reflecting the city's declining influence and economic stagnation that set in from the 1550s. There were another ten thousand or more peasants outside the walls who lived under the city's jurisdiction.

Urban government was transformed by a series of violent protests between 1332 and 1449 that secured representation through the city's twenty guilds, but the patriciate gradually hardened into a new oligarchy of thirty to forty families who controlled the key decision making committees. This process was not yet complete by 1522 when many councillors accepted the Reformation. Strasbourg intellectual life had been stimulated by local humanist scholars, including Jacob Wimpfeling (14501528), Johann Geiler von Kaysersberg (14451510), and Sebastian Brant (1458?1521), who helped make the city an important publishing and educational center. However, their attempt to reform local spiritual life contributed to the already strong tradition of anticlericalism left by the earlier struggles against the bishop. The Reformation was introduced with popular support but passed swiftly into the hands of the magistrates, who ensured a moderate course after 1529. The chief reformer was Martin Bucer (14911551), who sought a theological compromise between North German Lutheranism and Swiss Zwinglianism; in this Bucer complemented the council's strategy, guided by its leader Jacob Sturm (14891553), of negotiating a broad Protestant urban alliance. The city was drawn into the Schmalkaldic League and suffered from its defeat by Emperor Charles V in 1547. Conservatives controlled the council until 1562, when Calvinist influence grew and radicals again called for a more energetic external policy, culminating in armed intervention in the bishop's affairs in 15931594. Moderates regained control and reaffirmed orthodox Lutheranism in 1598. Though Strasbourg joined the Protestant Union in 1608, it remained neutral after 1618 and avoided further political ambitions. Johannes Sturm (15071589) made a lasting impact on Protestant German education and also founded a grammar school in 1538 that became the University of Strasbourg in 1621. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a student there and received a law degree, but the university was closed by the French revolutionaries in 1793 and not reopened until 1872.

New defenses, built 16331680, failed to save Strasbourg from French annexation in 1681 as the magistrates surrendered rather than face a bombardment. The bishop also acknowledged French jurisdiction over his lands west of the Rhine and was allowed to return to the city. Sébastian Le Prestre de Vauban strengthened the fortifications 16821690, and Strasbourg became a major French garrison, held by ten thousand mainly German-speaking soldiers. Urban self-government remained while the economy revived, and the population grew to fifty thousand by 1789. French became the second language, and half the population converted to Catholicism. Strasbourg became a symbol for early German national sentiment, but little effort was made to recover it, although in 1697 the French were obliged to surrender the small fort of Kehl, built at the eastern end of the Rhine bridge between 1683 and 1688. The empire failed to maintain Kehl, which the French periodically recaptured (17031714, 17331735), and the place was abandoned in 1754. The bishopric remained formally part of the empire, but in 1682 the emperor refused to acknowledge the election of the French candidate, Wilhelm Egon von Fürstenberg, and his successors after 1704 were appointed from Paris. Strasbourg's full incorporation within France only came after 1789, while the bishopric maintained a precarious existence in its lands east of the Rhine until these were annexed by the state of Baden in 1803.

See also Brant, Sebastian ; Free and Imperial Cities ; Holy Roman Empire ; Reformation, Protestant ; Schmalkaldic War (15461547) .


Abray, Lorna Jane. The Peoples' Reformation: Magistrates, Clergy and Commons in Strasbourg 15001598. Ithaca, N.Y., 1985.

Brady, Thomas A., Jr. Protestant Politics: Jacob Sturm (14891553) and the German Reformation. Atlantic Highlands, N.J., 1995.

. Ruling Class, Regime and Reformation at Strasbourg 15201555. Leiden, 1978.

Chrisman, Mariam Usher. Strasbourg and the Reform: A Study in the Process of Change. New Haven and London, 1967.

Ford, Franklin L. Strasbourg in Transition 16481789. Cambridge, Mass., 1958.

Livet, Georges, and Francis Rapp, eds. Histoire de Strasbourg des origines à nos jours. Vol. 2, Strasbourg des grandes invasions au XVe siècle. Vol. 3, Strasbourg de la guerre de Trente Ans à Napoléon, 16181815. Strasbourg, 1981.

O'Connor, John T. Negotiator out of Season: The Career of Wilhelm Egon von Fürstenberg, 1629 to 1704. Athens, Ga., 1978.

Rapp, Francis. Réformes et Réformation à Strasbourg: Église et société dans le diocese de Strasbourg (14501525). Paris, 1974.

Wunder, Gerhard. Das Strassburger Gebiet: Ein Beitrag zur rechtlichen und politischen Geschichte des gesamten städtischen Territoriums vom 10. bis zum 20. Jahrhundert. Berlin, 1965.

Peter H. Wilson


views updated Jun 27 2018


STRASBOURG (Ger. Strassburg ), capital of the department of Bas-Rhin, Alsace, E. France. The earliest conclusive evidence on the presence of Jews in Strasbourg dates from 1188. During the anti-Jewish persecutions connected with the Third Crusade, the Jews fled from the town and a number of other towns, but they appear to have returned after a short while. The statutes of the town (from about 1200) mention the Jews, who were by then living in a special quarter. At the beginning of the 13th century at the latest, they already owned a cemetery; the oldest remaining epitaph belongs to the year 1213. The synagogue is not mentioned until 1292. The size of the Jewish community, as well as its economic power, is reflected in the fact that in 1242 it paid the highest tax of all the Jewish communities of the empire. Until about 1260, the Jews of Strasbourg were subjected to the authority of the bishop. From the first half of the 13th century, some Christians bore the surname of "Jew" (Jude), which probably attests to their Jewish origin. In spite of demographic losses due to conversions, the number of Jews in Strasbourg was constantly on the rise as a result of immigration from other Alsatian localities, as well as other Germanic localities, so that in 1306, with additional arrivals from France, the Jewish population numbered about 300. *Moneylending appears to have been their sole economic activity, their customers including Christian religious institutions and noblemen. Loans ran as high as 6,000 livres.

In his account of the massacre of the Jews of Strasbourg after they had been accused of propagating the *Black Death, a local chronicler points out that the real poison by which the Jews of Strasbourg had perished was usury. In addition, the Jews also suffered as a result of the battle for municipal power between the patricians and the master craftsmen. The patrician municipality sought to protect the Jews, and at the end of 1348, when rumors spread that the Jews were poisoning the wells in order to spread the plague, it preferred to refrain from any action until an inquiry had been conducted in the localities where similar accusations had been voiced (including *Lausanne, *Chillon, *Berne, *Colmar, *Cologne, and *Freiburg in Breisgau). Although the guilt of the Jews was taken for granted almost universally, the council of Strasbourg remained convinced of their innocence and even took up their defense. On Feb. 9, 1349, however, Mayor Peter Swarber and two counselors were compelled by the craftsmen to resign. On February 13, the new council decided to burn the Jews. According to tradition, the decision was enforced on Saturday, February 14, when 2,000 Jews perished. The only ones spared were those who accepted baptism; however, a number of those converts were the victims of a new persecution in the summer of 1349, when the plague actually reached the town and took a heavy toll of lives. On Sept. 12, 1349, Emperor Charles iv officially pardoned the town for the massacre of the Jews and the plunder of their possessions. Until the French Revolution, two calls upon a horn, played nightly, perpetuated the memory of the supposed treason of the Jews.

In spite of the town's decision to prohibit the settlement of Jews for a period of 100 years, a number of Jews were authorized to reside there from 1369 onward, though against the payment of extremely high fees. They numbered at least 25 families when they were again expelled from Strasbourg at the end of 1388, on this occasion "forever." Those banished established themselves in surrounding villages, from where they continued to maintain commercial relations with the inhabitants of Strasbourg. Magistrates frequently intervened (e.g., in 1570) to prohibit these relations completely or reduce them to a minimum. From at least 1512, and probably much earlier, the Jews who wished to enter the town were required to pay an expensive toll. In time, this admission fee was increased by an additional payment to the municipal servant who accompanied each Jew in all his movements and supervised the lawfulness of his activities. When the exceptional Jew was authorized to spend the night in Strasbourg – normally at the Corbeau Inn or at the Ours-Noir Hotel – he had to pay a double toll, that is, the fee which he would have paid had he returned the next day. On certain occasions, such as in 1639, this supervision was accompanied by an interrogation and a search at the gates of the town to determine the goods which the Jews brought and the persons with whom they intended to establish contact. The Jews endeavored to circumvent both the payment of toll rates and humiliating treatment by concluding their transactions outside the town. The municipality, in order to protect its handsome income, would then intervene against such practices. In 1648, for example, it prohibited the sale of horses at any site other than the horse market of the town.

Relations between the Jews and the Council of Strasbourg were not always hostile. Joseph Joselmann b. Gershom of Rosheim, in particular, succeeded through his diplomatic talents in obtaining the council's support. In 1537 he obtained a letter of recommendation to the prince-elector of Saxony, and in 1541 called the attention of the council to the anti-Jewish pamphlet of the Strasbourg preacher M. *Bucer, and in 1543 to the writings of M. *Luther, "Concerning the Jews and Their Lies" and "Concerning the Shem ha-Meforash" (Tetragrammaton). He thereby succeeded in obtaining an order against new publications of these writings.

Once the town came under French sovereignty (1681), the severity of the anti-Jewish measures was eased or they were even temporarily suspended, such as in time of war to enable the Jews of the surrounding area to take refuge in the town. The minister R.L. de Voyer Marquis d'Argenson, however, was compelled to intercede in favor of Moses Blim, a purveyor of the army, and his Jewish partners to enable them to reside in Strasbourg until 1748. Again, the intervention of the royal authorities was required in 1767 to permit *Cerfbeer, also an army purveyor, to reside in Strasbourg during the winter and, from 1771, during the entire year. The numerous members of Cerfbeer's family and the persons engaged in his service also benefited from this personal authorization, so that in 1785 he occupied three or four houses with 60–70 people. In the letters patent of 1785, which abolished the "corporal toll," a special mention was made of Strasbourg, where "the Jews are subjected to a corporal tax which reduces them to the level of animals… a levy which appears to debase humanity." In spite of the king's commitment to indemnify the town for the loss of income, Strasbourg was reluctant to apply this edict.

A few years later there was almost unanimous opposition to granting the rights of citizenship to the Jews. Immediately after the National Assembly had done so, however, many Jews established themselves in Strasbourg. In the revolutionary year ii, it was especially the Jews who became the target of the antireligious campaign. A contradictory situation resulted: it was the Republic which revived medieval practices by seizing, together with religious objects, all the Jewish books, particularly those of the Talmud, to be burned in an immense auto-da-fé. In 1806 seven delegates represented the 1,500 Jews of Strasbourg at the *Assembly of Notables. Immediately after the constitution of the Consistories, Joseph David *Sinzheim, until then chief rabbi of Strasbourg, became chief rabbi of the Central Consistory. The community, which was constantly growing, soon developed exemplary institutions. In addition to the synagogues, it supported a vocational school from 1825, an old age home called "Elisa" from 1853, and a rabbinical seminary for a short while from 1885. The German annexation of 1871 was responsible for the departure of a number of Jews for France. There was a particularly rapid numerical growth between the two world wars. Immigration from abroad was much lower than in other towns. In 1931, of almost 8,500 Jews living in Strasbourg, over 60% were born in France.

[Bernhard Blumenkranz]

Hebrew printing

In 1504 Johann Grueninger published in Strasbourg G. Reysch's Margarita Philosophica, which included a Hebrew grammar by Pelican, a Hebrew alphabet, and other Hebrew texts, all printed by woodblocks. In 1541 Paul *Fagius was appointed professor of Hebrew at Strasbourg University, and this led to the production of Hebrew textbooks for his students by the press of Johann Knobloch (or his successors). Fagius' own edition of parts of Targum Onkelos appeared in these texts in 1546, probably together with reprints of other texts, which he and Elijah Levita had published at Isny and Konstanz in the preceding years. In 1589 Elias Schadaeus set up a Hebrew press for which he himself prepared the Hebrew type, and in 1591 printed an edition of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs.

It was only toward the end of the 18th century that Hebrew printing resumed in Strasbourg, with the publication of Bezalel Ashkenazi's Shitah Mekubeẓẓet on Ketubbot and Solomon Algazi's Leḥem Setarim, by Jonah Lorenz in 1777. This printing venture was inspired and financed by Cerfbeer and his brother-in-law, David Sinzheim. The auxiliary personnel were experienced typesetters, correctors, etc. from other printing centers, such as Hanau.

Holocaust Period

With the outbreak of World War ii in September 1939, the entire population of Strasbourg was evacuated to the southwest of France. After the French capitulation (June 1940), the Jewish community succeeded in making basic provisional arrangements in southwestern France – setting up a synagogue and a welfare bureau in Périgueux and a synagogue in Limoges. As a result, a large number of Jews from Strasbourg were able to survive the war. Chief Rabbi René *Hirschler, mobilized in 1939, continued in his post as an itinerant rabbi after the defeat and Nazi occupation, and visited the Strasbourg Jewish community dispersed in more than 50 localities south of the Loire. In Strasbourg proper, the Nazis set fire to the Quai Kléber synagogue erected in 1898 and systematically destroyed all traces of the structure. Strasbourg Jews played a major role in educational work, welfare, sanitation, and in armed resistance. They set up agricultural schools and helped to direct them in the framework of the Jewish French scouting movement (Eclaireurs Israélites de France). Under the auspices of *ose, they helped open clinics and children's homes. They also organized flight to Switzerland or to Palestine (via Spain) for infants and older children and joined in the armed resistance. As a result of their participation in these activities, Rabbis Hirschler, Robert Brunschwig and Elie Cyper, along with youth leader Léo Cohn, were arrested and deported to death camps. Rabbis Samy Klein and Aron Wolf were also killed in the course of their resistance work.

Contemporary Period

About 10,000 Jews lived in Strasbourg on the eve of World War ii. Eight thousand came back after the liberation, 1,000 died in concentration camps, and another 1,000 decided to settle elsewhere. In 1965 there were 12,000 Jews in Strasbourg (4.5% of the total population). This increase was the result of natural growth (300), immigration from smaller Alsatian centers (1,200), immigration from Central Europe (500), and settling of refugees from North Africa (2,000). The Jewish population had been diminishing since 1955; however, in the late 1960s the birthrate was 7.5% and the mortality rate 12%; the number of mixed marriages increased by 40% between 1960 and 1965. Nevertheless, the community was strengthened by the absorption of an independent Polish-rite group in 1948 and North African Jews, for whom oratories were built or arranged in several neighborhoods. By the turn of the century the Jewish population had increased to around 15,000. Strasbourg Jewry was one of the most active communities on the continent of Europe after World War ii. Institutions created since 1945 stress Jewish education, contrary to the trend prevalent before. They included a kindergarten, a full-time school, two boarding houses for high school and university students, two yeshivot, a monthly bulletin, and a weekly radio program. The University of Strasbourg had a chair of Jewish studies held by André *Neher. The Synagogue of Peace was inaugurated in 1958. It includes a large community center, which has often been the site of national and international Jewish congresses. The latent antisemitism of the Alsatian population was expressed by the establishment of organizations to prevent the return of Jewish property (confiscated in 1940) to the owners, and later to prevent the erection of a synagogue on city land.

[Lucien Lazare]


Germ Jud, 1 (19632), 367–72, 552; 2 (1968), 798–805; A. Glaser, Geschichte der Juden in Strassburg (1924 Strasbourg2); I. Loeb, in: Annuaire de la Société des études juives, 2 (1883), 137–98; H. Bresslau, in: zgjd, 5 (1892), 115–25, 307–34; La Révolution Française, 52 (1907), 553–4; E. Schnurmann, La statistique de la population juive de Strasbourg (1935); P. Hildenfinger, in: rej, 58 (1909), 112–28; M. Ginsburger, ibid., 79 (1924), 61–78, 170–86; 80 (1925), 88–94; A. Hermann and L. Weil, Les oeuvres sociales israélites privées à Strasbourg (1922); La synagogue de la Paix (1958); A nos martyrs (1951). Printing: A. Marx, Studies in Jewish History and Booklore (1944), 318ff.; L. Rostenberg, in: Journal of Jewish Bibliography, 2 (1940), 47ff.; B. Friedenberg, Toledot ha-Defus ha-Ivri… Eiropah … (1937), 93–94; A. Hertzberg, French Enlightenment and the Jews (1968), 171 n.82.


views updated May 17 2018

Strasbourg City on the River Ill, capital of Bas-Rhin department and commercial capital of the Alsace region, e France. Known in Roman times as Argentoratum, the Huns destroyed the city in the 5th century. In 923, it became part of the Holy Roman Empire and developed into an important commercial centre, becoming a free imperial city in 1262. Strasbourg was a centre of medieval German literature, and of 16th-century Protestantism. France seized the city in 1681, Germany regained it after the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71), but France recovered it at the end of World War I. German troops occupied the city during World War 2. The European Parliament sits in Strasbourg's Palais de l'Europe. Industries: metallurgy, oil and gas refining, machinery. Its port, on the Rhine, is France's chief grain outlet. Pop. (1999) 267,051.


views updated Jun 11 2018

Strasbourg a city in NE France, in Alsace, close to the border with Germany, annexed by Germany in 1870, and returned to France after the First World War. It is the headquarters of the Council of Europe and of the European Parliament.
Strasbourg goose a goose fattened in such a way as to enlarge the liver for use in pâté de foie gras.