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 1933 – 1945. Biographische Daten. Vol. 1 + 2 (2000 + 2004); Litt, Stefan: Juden in Thueringen in der Fruehen Neuzeit (1520 – 1650) (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.)]
Thuringia (thŏŏrĬn´jə), Ger. Thüringen, state (1994 pop. 2,533,000), 6,273 sq mi (16,251 sq km), central Germany. It is bordered on the south by Bavaria, on the east by Saxony, on the north by Saxony-Anhalt and Lower Saxony, and on the west by Hesse. The region of Thuringia extends to the foot of the Harz Mts. in the north and is crossed by the Thuringian Forest, Ger. Thüringer Wald, which stretches from the Werra River in the west to the Thüringer Saale River in the southeast and rises to an altitude of 3,222 ft (982 m) in the Grosser Beerberg. Erfurt (the capital), Weimar, Jena, Gotha, Eisenach, Gera, Altenburg, Mühlhausen, and Suhl are the chief cities.
The ancient Thuringians, a Germanic tribe occupying central Germany between the Elbe and the Danube, were conquered by the Franks during the 6th cent. AD and were converted (8th cent.) to Christianity by St. Boniface. Charlemagne made Thuringia a march (frontier country) against the Slavs in the 9th cent., but it passed under the control of the Saxon dukes in the 10th cent.
In the 11th cent. the landgraves of Thuringia, with their seat at the celebrated Wartburg, emerged as princes of the Holy Roman Empire and ruled over much of the territory that is modern Thuringia. When Landgrave Louis IV died (1227) on a Crusade, Louis's widow, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, was expelled by his brother and successor, Henry Raspe, who later was antiking to Conrad IV. Although the succession to Thuringia was long contested after Henry's death in 1247, the major part eventually fell to the house of Wettin, i.e., to the margraves of Meissen, who in 1423 became electors of Saxony.
The division (1485) of the Wettin lands left most of the Thuringian territories in the hands of the Ernestine branch of the family, which also received the electoral title. Thuringia was split, under the Ernestines, into several duchies (see Saxe-Altenburg; Saxe-Coburg; Saxe-Gotha; Saxe-Meiningen; Saxe-Weimar). Principalities situated in Thuringia but not ruled by any of the branches of the Ernestine line were those of Reuss and Schwarzburg. Among the Ernestine duchies (which underwent several redivisions in the 17th, 18th, and 19th cent.) the most important, both politically and culturally, was Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (see under Saxe-Weimar).
All the Thuringian territories except Saxe-Meiningen sided with Prussia in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. The Thuringian states had been members of the German Confederation from 1815; they joined the North German Confederation in 1866 and the German Empire in 1871. Their rulers were expelled in 1918, and in 1920 the state of Thuringia was founded under the Weimar Republic by the union of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (without the city of Coburg, which went to Bavaria), Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, Saxe-Altenburg, Saxe-Meiningen, the two sister principalities of Reuss, and the two sister principalities of Schwarzburg.
As constituted in 1946 under Soviet military occupation, Thuringia consisted of the prewar state of Thuringia with the addition of former Prussian enclaves and border areas, notably Erfurt and Mühlhausen. In 1952 the state was abolished as an East German administrative unit, and Thuringia was split into the districts of Erfurt, Suhl, and Gera. It was reintegrated as a state shortly before German reunification in Oct., 1990. It is the smallest but most densely populated of the new German states. The heavily industrial region began to experience economic hardship by the 1990s; many of its largest industrial concerns went out of business.