views updated May 18 2018


THURINGIA , state in Germany. Jewish merchants are recorded in Thuringia as early as the 10th century. Jewish communities, however, appeared relatively late. *Erfurt, the oldest Jewish settlement, dates from the 12th century. It became the religious and social center of Thuringian Jewry and constituted one of the largest Jewish communities in Germany in the 13th and 14th centuries. In 1287 *Rudolf i of Habsburg gave jurisdiction over Thuringian Jewry to the archbishop of Mainz. Emperor Louis of Bavaria (1314–47) transferred the jurisdiction to Landgrave Frederick ii in 1330. This act, confirmed by *Charles iv (1347–78) in 1350, did not affect the majority of the Jews concentrated in the cities, who did not recognize the landgrave's authority. The southern parts of Thuringia suffered during the *Rindfleisch persecutions (1298). In 1303 Landgrave Frederick i, the Peaceful, personally led the massacre of 126 Jews in Weissensee. Frederick ii, the Grave (1323–49), who was deeply in debt to Jewish moneylenders, sent letters to *Dresden, *Meissen, *Nordhausen, and *Muehlhausen during the *Black Death persecutions (1348–49) urging them to massacre the Jews and confiscate their property. The Jewish communities in Thuringia rapidly recuperated, however, and in 1368 Frederick's son extended his protection to the Jewish community. In 1391 a rabbinical assembly took place in Erfurt. That same year the Jews of Eisenach, *Gotha, Langensalza, Jena, Weimar, and Weissensee were freed for six years on the annual payment of 40 gulden from attending the ecclesiastical court of the archbishop of Mainz. In 1416 Rabbi Heller of Erfurt was nominated "Judenmeister" of Thuringian Jewry, with the power of excommunication. In this period, Isaac the Rich of Jena, a moneylender, was agent of Duke Frederick of Saxony, who bought up and annexed estates of nobles who were hopelessly in debt to Isaac.

During the Middle Ages Thuringia produced many scholars who contributed significantly to Jewish learning. Among them were Alefaden b. Isaac ha-Kohen (killed in Erfurt in 1349); Abraham ha-Kohen, rabbi in Erfurt at the end of the 14th century and author of the halakhic work Kelalot Issur ve-Hetter (Basle, 1599); and Israel b. Joel Susskin, author of a dirge on the martyrs of the Black Death persecution. In the mid-15th century Thuringia passed to *Saxony. The position of the Jews deteriorated through the expulsions of Jews from Arnstadt (1441), Erfurt (1458), and other cities, and through the preaching of John of *Capistrano (1452). John Frederick the Brave, a fervent supporter of the *Reformation, ordered the total expulsion of Jews in 1536, but this was not enforced finally until 1559. The order was reissued in 1556 and regularly thereafter.

The landgravate of Thuringia subsequently went through a period of disintegration and emerged divided into a large number of minor duchies and principalities, the most important of which were Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach and Saxe-Meiningen-Hildburghausen. Though Jews were prohibited from living in the cities, they were allowed in the latter half of the 17th and in the 18th centuries to settle on the estates of the nobility. In 1737 the duke of Saxe-Weimar was induced by C.F. August, an apostate rabbi and teacher at the University of Jena, to allocate the city of Doenburg for the use of Jews requesting Christian instruction. The former rabbi absconded after a successful tour to raise funds for this project. The *Leibzoll ("body tax") was abolished in 1808, through the influence of Israel *Jacobson. In 1823 the Jews of the duchy received a charter wherein the office of *Landrabbiner was established, general education made compulsory, and the use of German in services obligatory. The Landrabbiner at the time was Mendel *Hess, publisher of the pro-Reform Der Israelit des 19 Jahrhunderts (1840–48). The situation of the Jews of Saxe-Meiningen-Hildburghausen was typical of all the Thuringian principalities (see *Meiningen).

The various principalities granted protection to *court Jews and rich merchants while poor Jews, mostly peddlers, lived on the country estates of the nobility where they constituted between a quarter and a fifth of the population. The cities jealously guarded their privilege of not tolerating Jews. A Jewish charter in 1811 contained modern and medieval elements; the Jews became subjects of the state but citizenship was granted sparingly. In 1833 the Jews numbered 1,524 (of whom only 11 were citizens) and constituted 10 percent of the total population; their decline to 1,487 in 1905 was caused by backward conditions, as well as antisemitism, which encouraged Jewish emigration. The Burschenschaft (see *Students Associations) movement was founded at the University of Jena by J.F. *Fries; emancipation became law only with the North German Constitution (1869).

The Thuringian principalities were amalgamated into one state, Thuringia, after World War i. The Jewish population remained stable: 3,335 in 1895 and 3,600 (0.2 percent of the population) in 1932. Thuringia was the first German state where Nazis achieved ministerial office. Dr. Wilhelm Frick (sentenced and executed in 1946) became minister of the interior in 1930. He nominated notorious antisemites and racists to the universities and proposed anti-Sheḥitah laws and the dismissal of all Jews from the state bureaucracy. The principal Jewish communities of Thuringia were in *Gotha, Arnstadt, Aschenhausen, Eisenbach, Altenburg, and *Meiningen. These, and many rural Jewish settlements, were annihilated during World War ii. After the war a few Jews resided again in Thuringia, East Germany, and there was a synagogue in Erfurt. In 1945 there were 227 Jews living in Thuringia. The membership of the Jewish community declined continuously. It numbered 65 in 1969; 40 in 1982; and 26 in 1990. However, owing to the immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union, the membership increased to 180 in 1994 and 633 in 2004. Most of the members live in Erfurt.


Israelitische Annalen, 3 (1841), 316–7, 324–5, 333–4, 341–2, 349–5, 357–9; L. Geiger, in: mgwj, 48 (1904), 641–60; S. Neufeld, Die Juden im thueringisch-saechsischen Gebiet waehrend des Mittelalters, 2 vols. (1917–27); idem in: mgwj, 69 (1925) 283–95; J. Jacobson, in: mgadj, 6 (1920), 66–97; T. Oelsner, in: jsos, 4 (1942), 253–64, 358–74; Germania Judaica, 1 (1963), index; 3 (1987), 2063 – 73; 2 (1968), 819–21. antisemitic literature: A. Human, Geschichte der Juden im Herzogtum Sachsen-Meiningen-Hildburg hausen (1892); G. Buchmann, Rudolstaedter Judengeschichte (1939); idem, Jenaer Judengeschichte (1940). add bibliography: T. Bahr (ed.), Beitraege zur Geschichte juedischen Lebens in Thueringen (Zeitschrift des Vereins fuer Thueringische Geschichte. Beiheft, vol. 29) (1996); M. Kahl, Denkmale juedischer Kultur in Thueringen (Kulturgeschichtliche Reihe, vol. 2) (1997); S. Wolf, Juden in Thueringen 19331945. Biographische Daten. Vol. 1 + 2 (2000 + 2004); Litt, Stefan: Juden in Thueringen in der Fruehen Neuzeit (15201650) (Veroeffentlichungen der Historischen Kommission fuer Thueringen. Kleine Reihe, vol. 11) (2003); U. Goedde, Spurensuche nach juedischem Leben in Thueringen (Materialien/Thueringer Institut fuer Lehrerfortbildung, Lehrplanentwicklung und Medien, vol. 65) (2004).

[Henry Wasserman /

Larissa Daemmig (2nd ed.)]


views updated May 29 2018

Thuringia Historic region of central Germany. Its rulers became powerful princes with the Holy Roman Empire in the 11th century. Thuringia was reconstituted as a state (Land) in 1920 under the Weimar Republic, but lost its separate identity in 1952. The main economic activities are manufacturing and cereal cropping. Area: 16,176sq km (6244sq mi). Pop. (1999) 2,449,082.