Bern or Berne (bĕrn), canton (1990 pop. 937,365), 2,658 sq mi (6,883 sq km), W central Switzerland. The second most populous and second largest canton of the country, Bern comprises three sections—the Bernese Alps, or Oberland [Ger.,=highlands], with many resorts and peaks, notably the Finsteraarhorn and Jungfrau, and with meadows and pastures in the valleys; the Mittelland [midlands], in the fertile northern foothills of the Alps, and including the Emmental; and the lake region around Biel. The Jura canton to the north was until 1979 a part of Bern canton. Tourism, cattle raising, dairying, and hydroelectric power generation are the chief means of livelihood in the Oberland. The Mittelland is the most industrialized region of the canton and a fertile agricultural region. The lake region has a thriving vine culture. The population of the canton is predominantly Protestant and German-speaking.
Bern or Berne (1990 pop. 136,338), the capital, is also the capital of Switzerland. Situated within a loop of the Aare River, the city is a university, administrative, transportation, and industrial center. Its manufactures include precision instruments, textiles, machinery, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, and chocolate. It is also the seat of numerous international agencies, notably the Universal Postal Union (since 1875), the International Telecommunication Union (since 1869), and the International Copyright Union (since 1886).
Bern was founded, according to tradition, in 1191 by Berchtold V of Zähringen as a military post. It was made (1218) a free imperial city by Emperor Frederick II when Berchtold died without an heir. Bern grew in power and population and in 1353 joined the Swiss Confederation, of which it became the leading member. Its conquests included Aargau (1415) and Vaud (1536), besides numerous smaller territories. The area was governed until 1798 by an autocratic urban aristocracy. Bern accepted the Reformation in 1528. When Switzerland was invaded (1798) by the French during the French Revolutionary Wars, Bern was occupied, its treasury pillaged, and its territories dismembered. At the Congress of Vienna (1815), Bern failed to recover Vaud and Aargau, but received the Bernese Jura (the former Bishopric of Basel). A liberal constitution was adopted in 1831, and in 1848 Bern became the capital of the Swiss Confederation.
The city is largely medieval in its architecture. It has a splendid 15th-century town hall, a noted minster (begun 15th cent.), and numerous other historic structures. There are many picturesque patrician houses and old guild halls. An elaborate medieval clock tower and a pit in which bears (Bern's heraldic animal for seven centuries) are kept are well known to tourists. More modern buildings include the 19th-century federal parliament building, many fine museums (including one devoted to Paul Klee), and the university (1834).
BERNE (Ger. Bern), capital of Switzerland. Jews in Berne, engaged in moneylending, are first mentioned in a document of 1262 or 1263. In 1293 or 1294 several Jews were put to death there in consequence of a *blood libel, and the remainder expelled from the city. However, an agreement was made with the citizenry through the intervention of Adolf of Nassau permitting the Jews to return, against a payment of 1,500 marks and a moratorium on debts owed to them. During the *Black Death (1348) the Jews in Berne were accused of poisoning the wells, and a number were burnt at the stake. The Jews were expelled from Berne in 1392 after Christians were permitted to engage in moneylending (1384). Although between 1408 and 1427 Jews were again residing in the city, the only Jews to appear in Berne subsequently were transients, chiefly physicians and cattle dealers. After the occupation of Switzerland by the French revolutionary armies and the foundation of the Helvetian Republic in 1798, a number of Jews from Alsace and elsewhere settled in Berne. They required a special license to engage in commerce and were obliged to keep accounts in German or French instead of their customary Alsatian Judeo-German. These restrictions were removed in 1846. An organized Jewish community was officially established in 1848: a synagogue was consecrated in 1855, and a cemetery in 1871. In 1906 a beautiful Moorish-style synagogue was built, which was still in use at the beginning of the 21st century. For some 30 years, there was a separate East European Jewish community. Berne University was one of the first German-speaking universities (1836) to allow Jewish lecturers without requiring a change of professed faith, and many Jews subsequently held academic positions there. The university was attended by numerous students from Russia and Hungary before World War i, including Chaim Weizmann. The first Jewish woman lecturer in Switzerland, Anna Tumarkin, was active at Berne University. The famous trial in which evidence was brought that the Protocols of the Learned *Elders of Zion was a forgery was held in Berne in the 1930s. In the 1990s the Jewish communities of Berne and *Biel were jointly granted state recognition. In 2000 there were 807 Jews in the canton of Berne.
M. Kayserling, in: mgwj, 13 (1864), 46–51; Tobler, in: Archiv des historischen Vereins des Kantons Bern, 12 (1889), 336–67; Festschrift zur Jahrhundertfeier der juedischen Gemeinde zu Bern (1948), add. bibliography: E. Dreifuss, Juden in Bern. Ein Gang durch die Jahrhunderte (1983).
[Zvi Avneri /
Uri Kaufmann (2nd ed.)]
Berne, Switzerland: see Bern.