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Eisenmenger, Johann Andreas°


EISENMENGER, JOHANN ANDREAS ° (1654–1704), author of a work which had a formative influence on modern antisemitic polemics. Eisenmenger, born in Mannheim, studied Hebrew while at Heidelberg University. During a visit to Amsterdam in 1680–81 he was shocked when three Christians adopted Judaism, and also by the criticism of Christianity expressed by David *Lida, rabbi of the Ashkenazi community in Amsterdam. Eisenmenger therefore set out to examine Jewish writings to find material that would deter Christians from turning to Judaism. For 19 years he studied talmudic and midrashic literature with Jews, pretending that he wished to become a proselyte. In 1686 he was appointed lecturer at Heidelberg University, and, in conjunction with Johann *Leusden, published in 1694, at Frankfurt, an unvocalized edition of the Bible to which David *Gruenhut wrote an introduction describing Eisenmenger as a man of great learning. However, in 1699 the Frankfurt Jews learned that Eisenmenger was about to publish a work denouncing Judaism, titled Entdecktes Judenthum ("Judaism Unmasked"). As it was in German and not in Latin, they feared that it would inflame popular feelings against the Jews (especially as anti-Jewish riots occurred in Franconia, and in particular in *Bamberg in 1699). The Frankfurt Jews turned to Samson *Wertheimer in Vienna, and he and Samuel *Oppenheimer persuaded the emperor to forbid the publication of the book, which had been printed in 2,500 copies. A Protestant professor from Giessen, a Jesuit from Mainz, and six rabbis from Frankfurt were asked to study Eisenmenger's book and comment on it. In the meantime, the king of Prussia asked the emperor to allow the publication of the book and the elector of the Palatinate also intervened in Eisenmenger's favor. However the pleas of the Jews for its suppression were supported by the archbishop of Mainz, since Eisenmenger had also offended Catholic susceptibilities, as well as by the elector of Hanover. Eisenmenger, who had invested all his money in the printing, died suddenly in 1704. His heirs again induced the king of Prussia to intervene with the emperor to allow the book to be issued, but without success. The king of Prussia, therefore, permitted them to publish a second edition of 3,000 copies in Berlin in 1711. On the title page the place of publication is given as Koenigsberg, a city outside the emperor's jurisdiction. The city council of Frankfurt, the elector of the Palatinate, and the king of Prussia, meanwhile, made continual efforts to obtain permission for publication of the first edition; this was granted only in 1741. Eisenmenger's heirs claimed damages from the Jews of Frankfurt; their claim was finally quashed in 1773. In this book of two volumes, with over 2,000 pages, Eisenmenger had assembled passages to suit his argument from 182 books written in Hebrew, 13 in Yiddish, and eight written by apostates who had converted to Christianity. They were mostly extracts from talmudic literature, beginning with the Mishnah and concluding with commentaries, codes, and notes of the rishonim and aḥaronim. He cited them in the original language, providing a translation alongside. The translations are erroneous in places and often intentionally distorted. Eisenmenger's charges against the Jews include the *blood libel and poisoning of wells. Possibly Eisenmenger did believe in what he wrote, although his negotiations with the Jews, and the fact that he was prepared not to publish his book against a certain price, cast some doubt on this assumption. An English edition was published in 1732–33. Among a number of other German and Austrian antisemites, A. *Rohling quoted Eisenmenger, often inaccurately, in his venomous Talmudjude (1871), as Franz *Delitzsh decisively proved. Entdecktes Judenthum was re-published in 1893.


Graetz-Rabbinovitz, 8 (1899), 320–6; D. Kahana, Rosh Petanim (1883); Dubnow, Weltgesch, 7 (1928), 321–3; G. Wolf, in: mgwj, 18 (1869), 378–84; M. Wiener, in: mwj, 6 (1879), 48–63; L. Loewenstein, ibid., 18 (1891), 209–40; S. Stern, Der Preussische Staat und die Juden, 2 (1962); Akten, nos. 178, 179, 181, 183, 185, 186, 216; H.L. Ehrlich, in: K. Thieme (ed.), Judenfeindschaft (1963), 209ff.

[Zvi Avneri]

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