Frankfurt on the Main

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FRANKFURT ON THE MAIN (Heb. פרנקפורט דמיין; abbr. פפד״מ), city in Germany with an ancient and important community.

Early History

Reports and legends about Jews residing in Frankfurt go back to the earliest period in the city's history. Frankfurt was an important trading center, and Jewish merchants probably visited its annual fall fairs. In 1074 Emperor Henry iv mentions Frankfurt among the towns where the Jews of *Worms were permitted to trade without having to pay customs dues. During the 12th century Frankfurt had an organized and flourishing community, though still numerically small. Financial transactions and tax payments by Frankfurt Jews at that time are frequently mentioned: *Eliezer b. Nathan of Mainz makes repeated reference to the presence of Jewish merchants in Frankfurt. In 1241 the Jewish houses were demolished by the populace and over three-quarters of the approximately 200 Jews of Frankfurt were massacred. Among the victims were three rabbis, including the ḥazzan; many of the survivors accepted baptism. A special prayer for the martyrs has been retained in the liturgy for the Ninth of Av of the West German congregations. Subsequently Frederick ii appointed a commission of inquiry, since the outbreak was an infringement of his imperial prerogative and interests. It apparently originated in a dispute over the forced conversion of a Jew. The city of Frankfurt was ultimately granted a royal pardon. The safety of the Frankfurt Jews was guaranteed and heavy penalties were ordered against Jew-baiters.

By around 1270 Frankfurt had again become a busy center of Jewish life. Two Jewish tombstones dated 1284 were found under the altar of the cathedral in 1952. During the following decades all the customary Jewish institutions developed in Frankfurt. The medieval community had a central synagogue ("Altschul"), a cemetery, a bathhouse, hospitals for local Jews and migrants, a "dance house" for weddings and other social events, and educational and welfare institutions. During the first half of the 14th century the financial burden on the Frankfurt community, exploited by both the city and the crown, grew steadily greater, but the profit derived from the Jews protected them against the current waves of persecution. However, the surge of bloodthirsty hatred aroused by the *Black Death engulfed them along with almost all the other communities in Europe. In 1349, shortly after Emperor *Charles iv had transferred his "Jewish rights" to the city against a substantial consideration, the community was completely wiped out, many of its members setting fire to their own homes rather than meet death by the mob. In 1360 Frankfurt reopened its gates to Jews. Their economic function was still vital to the flourishing city of merchants and craftsmen. However, the terms of resettlement imposed drastic changes. Jews had to apply individually for the privilege of residence, which usually had to be renewed annually in return for payment of heavy taxes and other dues. A set of statutes (Staettigkeit) regulated relations between the city and the community. Rabbis and communal leaders of note in the 14th century included Suesskind Wimpfen, who redeemed the body of *Meir b. Baruch of Rothenburg for ritual burial; and *Alexander Susslin ha-Kohen.

15th to 17th Centuries

During the first half of the 15th century, the Jewish community consisted of no more than 12 tax-paying families on the average. The expulsion of the Jews, or their relocation to a remote part of the city, was considered by the city council from the 1430s. From the 1450s the Jews were forced to wear a distinctive badge, and Christians were forbidden to visit Jewish festivities. After repeated interventions on the part of the emperor, and despite their strong resistance, the Jews of Frankfurt were finally forced to settle in a specially constructed street (Judengasse) outside the old city ramparts in 1462. Although existence in this ghetto entailed severe physical and social hardship to the community, its inner life developed even more intensively. There were 110 registered inhabitants of the ghetto in 1463, 250 in 1520, 900 in 1569, 1,200 in 1580, 2,200 in 1600, and about 3,000 in 1610. Since the ghetto was never permitted to expand beyond its original area, the existing houses were subdivided, and back premises and additional storeys were erected. The communal organization became stronger and more diversified. Religious and lay leaders (Hochmeister and Baumeister) were elected by the Jewish taxpayers, and a continual flow of takkanot laid the basis for powerful and jealously guarded local traditions in all spheres of religious, social, and economic life. Outstanding among the rabbis of the 15th century was Nathan Epstein. Johannes *Pfefferkorn confiscated some 1,500 Hebrew books from Frankfurt Jews. The Peasants' War and religious wars of the 16th century repeatedly endangered the community, and the guilds made serious inroads into their economic activities. Nevertheless, conditions were favorable to commercial enterprise, and by means of heavy financial contributions and skillful diplomacy the Frankfurt Jews managed to safeguard their privileges. By the end of the 16th century the community reached a peak period of prosperity. It had become a center of Jewish learning, and students from far away flocked to the yeshivot of Eliezer Treves and Akiva b. Jacob Frankfurter. The Frankfurt rabbinate and rabbinical court had become one of the foremost religious authorities in Germany. Decisions were made by the presiding rabbi in conjunction with the "members of the yeshivah" (dayyanim). General *synods of rabbinic and lay leaders were held at Frankfurt in 1562, 1582, and 1603.

However, economic and social antagonisms had long been simmering between the wealthy patrician families of the city and the guild craftsmen and petty traders, many of whom were in debt to Jews. The struggle flared into open rebellion when in 1614 the rabble, led by Vincent *Fettmilch, stormed the ghetto and gave vent to their anger by plundering the Jewish houses. The Jews were all expelled from the city, but the emperor outlawed the rebels, and their leaders were arrested and put to death (1616). Subsequently the Jews were ceremoniously returned to the ghetto, an event annually commemorated on Adar 20th by the Frankfurt community as the "Purim Winz" ("Purim of Vincent"). Possibly a group of wealthy Frankfurt Jews, among them Simeon Wolf, father of the celebrated Court Jew Samuel *Oppenheimer, used their influence at the imperial court to bring about this result. Among those who did not return to Frankfurt after the Fettmilch rebellion was Isaiah *Horowitz, the celebrated author of Shenei Luḥot ha-Berit, who had occupied the rabbinate from 1606. Other leading rabbis of the period included his son Shabbetai *Horowitz, ḥayyim Cohen, grandson of *Judah Loew (the Maharal) of Prague, and Meir b. Jacob ha-Kohen *Schiff, a native of Frankfurt. Joseph Yuspa *Hahn recorded the ritual customs of the Frankfurt community in his Yosif Omeẓ. These were a source of special pride to the Frankfurt Jews, known for their local patriotism. Joseph Solomon *Delmedigo was for some years employed as communal physician. Aaron Samuel*Koidonover and his son Ẓevi Hirsh *Koidonover were also members of the Frankfurt rabbinate. The community did not grow numerically during the 17th century owing to the unhealthy conditions of their overpopulated quarter and the excessive taxes imposed upon them during the Thirty Years' War. In addition, the terms of residence were designed to keep their number stationary, allowing a maximum of 500 families and 12 marriage licenses annually. At the end of the 17th century the community made successful efforts to prevent Johann *Eisenmenger from publishing his anti-Jewish book.

18th Century

In 1711 almost the entire Jewish quarter was destroyed by a fire which broke out in the house of the chief rabbi, Naphtali b. Isaac *Katz. The inhabitants found refuge in gentile homes, but had to return to the ghetto after it had been rebuilt. J.J. *Schudt gave a detailed account of Jewish life at Frankfurt in this period. The importance of the Frankfurt Jewish community of that era is indicated by the official recognition of its representatives ("Residenten") in Vienna from 1718. The penetration of Enlightenment found the community in a state of unrest and social strife. Communal life had long been dominated by a few ancient patrician families, some of whom were known by signs hanging outside their houses, like the *Rothschild ("Red Shield"), Schwarzschild, Kann, and Schiff families. The impoverished majority challenged the traditional privileges of the wealthy oligarchy, and the city council repeatedly acted as arbitrator between the rival parties. Controversies on religious and personal matters such as the *Eybeschuetz-*Emden dispute further weakened unity in the community. Nevertheless, there was no decline in intellectual activity, and the yeshivot of Samuel Schotten and Jacob Joshua b. Ẓevi Hirsch *Falk attracted many students. The movement for the reformation of Jewish education fostered by the circle of Moses *Mendelssohn in Berlin found many sympathizers in Frankfurt, especially among the well-to-do class who welcomed it as a step toward *emancipation. Forty-nine prominent members of the community subscribed for Mendelssohn's German translation of the Bible (1782), but the chief rabbi, Phinehas *Horowitz, attacked the book from the pulpit. When in 1797 a project was advocated for a school with an extensive program of secular studies, Horowitz pronounced a ban on it. He was supported by most of the communal leaders, though many had their children taught non-Jewish subjects privately. The ban had to be withdrawn by order of the magistrate. Some years previously, Horowitz had acted similarly against the kabbalist Nathan *Adler. Meanwhile the French revolutionary wars had made their first liberating impact on Frankfurt Jewry. In 1796 a bombardment destroyed the greater part of the ghetto walls, and in 1798 the prohibition on leaving the ghetto on Sundays and holidays was abolished.

19th and 20th Centuries

The incorporation of Frankfurt in Napoleon's Confederation of the Rhine (1806) and the constitution of the grand duchy of Frankfurt (1810) gradually changed the status of the Frankfurt Jews, bringing them nearer emancipation. In 1811 the ghetto was finally abolished, and a declaration of equal rights for all citizens expressly included the Jews, a capital payment of 440,000 florins having been made by the community. However, the reaction following Napoleon's downfall brought bitter disappointment. The senate of the newly constituted Free City tried to abolish Jewish emancipation and thwarted the efforts made by a community delegation to the Congress of *Vienna. After prolonged negotiations, marked by the "*Hep-Hep" anti-Jewish disorders in 1819, the senate finally promulgated an enactment granting equality to the Jews in all civil matters, although reinstating many of the old discriminatory laws (1824). The composition and activities of the community board remained subject to supervision and confirmation by the senate. Meanwhile the religious rift in the community had widened considerably. Phinehas Horowitz's son and successor, Ẓevi Hirsch *Horowitz, was powerless in face of the increasing pressure for social and educational reforms. He did in fact renew his father's approbation of Benjamin Wolf *Heidenheim's edition of the prayer book which included a German translation and a learned commentary. However, this first stirring of *Wissenschaft des Judentums could not satisfy those in the community desiring reform and assimilation. In 1804 they founded a school, the Philanthropin, with a markedly secular and assimilationist program. This institution became a major center for reform in Judaism. From 1807 it organized reformed Jewish services for the pupils and their parents. In the same year a Jewish lodge of *Freemasons was established, whose members actively furthered the causes of reform and secularization in the community. From 1817 to 1832 the board of the community was exclusively composed of members of the lodge. In 1819 the Orthodox ḥeder institutions were closed by the police, and the board prevented the establishment of a school for both religious and general studies. Attendance at the yeshivah, which in 1793 still had 60 students, dwindled. In 1842 the number of Orthodox families was estimated to account for less than 10% of the community. In that year, a Reform Association demanded the abolition of all "talmudic" laws, circumcision, and the messianic faith. The aged rabbi, Solomon Abraham Trier, who had been one of the two delegates from Frankfurt to the Paris *Sanhedrin in 1807, published a collection of responsa from contemporary rabbis and scholars in German on the fundamental significance of circumcision in Judaism (1844). A year later a conference of rabbis sympathizing with reform was held in Frankfurt. A leading member of this group was Abraham *Geiger, a native of Frankfurt, and communal rabbi from 1863 to 1870. The revolutionary movement of 1848 hastened the emancipation of the Frankfurt Jews, which was finally achieved in 1864. The autocratic regime of the community board weakened considerably. A small group of Orthodox members then seized the opportunity to form a religious association within the community, the "Israelitische Religionsgesellschaft," and elected Samson Raphael *Hirsch as their rabbi in 1851. The Rothschild family made a large donation toward the erection of a new Orthodox synagogue. When the community board persisted in turning a deaf ear to the demands of the Orthodox minority, the association seceded from the community and set up a separate congregation (1876). After some Orthodox members, supported by the Wuerzburg rabbi, Seligmann Baer *Bamberger, had refused to take this course, the community board made certain concessions, enabling them to remain within the community. A communal Orthodox rabbi, Marcus *Horovitz, was installed and a new Orthodox synagogue was erected with communal funds. From then on the Frankfurt Orthodox community, its pattern of life and educational institutions, became the paradigm of German Orthodoxy. The Jewish population of Frankfurt numbered 3,298 in 1817 (7.9% of the total), 10,009 in 1871 (11%), 21,974 in 1900 (7.5%), and 29,385 in 1925 (6.3%). During the 19th century many Jews from the rural districts were attracted to the city whose economic boom owed much to Jewish financial and commercial enterprise. The comparative wealth of the Frankfurt Jews is shown by the fact that, in 1900, 5,946 Jewish citizens paid 2,540,812 marks in taxes, while 34,900 non-Jews paid 3,611,815 marks. Many civic institutions, including hospitals, libraries and museums, were established by Jewish donations, especially from the Rothschild family. The Jew Leopold *Sonnemann was the founder of the liberal daily Frankfurter Zeitung, and the establishment of the Frankfurt university (1912) was also largely financed by Jews. Jewish communal institutions and organizations included two hospitals, three schools (the Philanthropin and the elementary and secondary schools founded by S.R. Hirsch), a yeshivah (founded by Hirsch's son-in-law and successor Solomon *Breuer), religious classes for pupils attending city schools, an orphanage, a home for the aged, many welfare institutions, and two cemeteries (the ancient cemetery was closed in 1828). Frankfurt Jews were active in voluntary societies devoted to universal Jewish causes, such as emigrant relief and financial support for the Jews in the Holy Land (donations from Western Europe to the Holy Land had been channeled through Frankfurt from the 16th century). The year-book of the Juedisch-Literarische Gesellschaft was published in Frankfurt, and the Orthodox weekly Der Israelit (founded in 1860) was published in Frankfurt from 1906. The Jewish department of the municipal library, headed before World War ii by the scholar A. Freimann, had a rare collection of Hebraica and Judaica. During the first decade of the 20th century additional synagogues were erected, among them a splendid one situated at Friedberger Anlage. In 1920 Franz *Rosenzweig set up an institute for Jewish studies, where Martin *Buber, then professor at the Frankfurt university, gave popular lectures. Two additional yeshivot were established, one by Jacob Hoffman, who in 1922 succeeded Nehemiah Anton *Nobel in the Orthodox rabbinate of the community. Others prominent in Frankfurt Jewish life include the writer Ludwig *Boerne; the historian I.M. *Jost; the artists Moritz *Oppenheim and Benno *Elkan; the biochemist Paul *Ehrlich; the economist and sociologist Franz *Oppenheimer; rabbis Jacob *Horowitz and Joseph *Horowitz (Orthodox); Leopold Stein, Nehemiah Bruell, Caesar *Seligmann (Reform); and the Orthodox leaders Jacob *Rosenheim and Isaac *Breuer.

[Mordechai Breuer /

Stefan Rohrbacher (2nd ed.)

Holocaust Period

After a number of attacks on individual Jews and the occupation of the famous Institut fuer Sozialforschung on March 5, 1933, the official Nazi action against the Jews began on April 1, 1933, with a boycott of Jewish businesses and professionals, followed on April 7 by the dismissal of Jewish white-collar workers, university teachers, actors, and musicians. State and party pressure subsequently resulted in the closing or "aryanization" of almost all Jewish-owned firms, while local sa units and Nazi students terrorized Jewish citizens. Though originally prohibited, these arbitrary actions were in later years legalized by the Reich government which helped to organize and coordinate them. The Jewish community reacted by expanding existing services, establishing new agencies for economic aid, reemployment, occupational training, schooling, adult education, and emigration. All institutions were under strict surveillance by the Gestapo.

On Nov. 10–11, 1938, the big synagogues of the two Jewish communities, situated at Friedberger Anlage, Dominikanerplatz (formerly Boerneplatz), Grosser Wollgraben (formerly Boernestrasse), and Freiherr-vom-Stein-Strasse were burned down. Community buildings including the Jewish Museum (Museum juedischer Altertuemer), the Jewish homes, and stores were stormed and looted by the sa, the ss, and mobs they had incited. More than 2,600 Jewish men were arrested and sent to the *Buchenwald concentration camp and around 530 to the *Dachau concentration camp. Members of the Orthodox Religionsgesellschaft were compelled to combine with the general community to form a single community organization which the Nazis named Juedische Gemeinde. In 1939 this autonomous community was forcibly merged into the state-supervised Reichsvereinigung. Jewish leaders were compelled to enter into Judenvertraege, transferring communal property to municipal ownership. Welfare foundations taken over by the municipal authorities in December 1938 were placed under direct Gestapo control in May 1940. Gestapo Officer Ernst Holland, who was also a city official, supervised until 1943 Jewish welfare and emigration, later organizing labor recruitment and "orderly proceedings" before deportation.

The Frankfurt community decreased by emigration from 26,158 in 1933, to 10,803 in June 1941, although there was an influx of Jewish families from the countryside. Deportations to Lodz began on October 19, 1941, and were followed by deportations to *Minsk, *Majdanek, *Kovno (Kaunas), *Theresienstadt, and other camps. In September 1943, after large-scale deportations stopped, the Jewish population in Frankfurt totaled 602, including half-Jews. The last deportation to Theresienstadt took place on March 15, 1945, only two weeks before the U.S. army occupied the city and liberated around 150 Jews and so-called Mischlinge.

[Eleanor Sterling-Oppenheimer /

Jens Hoppe (2nd ed.)

After World War ii

After the war, a new community was organized, consisting of those who had outlived the war in Frankfurt, survivors from concentration camps, and displaced persons, totaling 1,104 in 1952. They were joined by a number of pensioners and Israelis, and the community increased to 2,566 by 1959 and 4,350 by 1970, to become the largest in West Germany (excepting that of Berlin); the average age of its members was 45.4, and two thirds were aged over 40. One of the large synagogues was rebuilt, and by 1970 five prayer rooms were also in use. The first postwar Jewish elementary school in Germany was opened there in 1965, and a communal periodical Frankfurter juedisches Gemeindeblatt commenced publication in March 1968. A 200-bed home for the aged was opened in 1968. Due mainly to the immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union, the number of community members rose from 4,842 in 1989 to 7,063 in 2003. The community has four synagogues. The Philanthropin was reopened as an elementary school in 2004. A Jewish museum was inaugurated in 1988 in the former palatial residence of the Rothschild family, with a branch opened in 1992 on the site of the Judengasse. The Frankfurt municipal and university library holds one of the most important collections of Judaica books and manuscripts in Germany.

[Henry Wasserman]


The book fairs of Frankfurt were visited by Jewish printers and booksellers as early as 1535. Some Hebrew printing was carried on in Frankfurt as early as the 16th century; in 1512 the brothers Murner published "Grace after Meals." Hebrew printing seriously developed in Frankfurt in the 17th century. The earliest work, Megillat Vinẓ (Fettmilch), was published by Isaac Langenbuch after the Fettmilch riots (see above). From 1657 to 1707 Balthasar Christian Wust and later his son (?) Johann issued a great number of Hebrew books. For this part of their work they employed Jewish printers and other Jewish personnel, and found Jewish financial backing. (As Jews could not obtain printing licenses, they used Christian firms as a front.) They printed mainly liturgical items, but also a Pentateuch with a German glossary (1662), and bibles (1677, 1694); and Wallich's Yiddish Kuhbuch (1672). Several other Hebrew printers published books in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. An important publisher was Johann Koellner, who in 20 years of printing was responsible for about half of the books issued in Frankfurt. Among his more important publications were the Arba'ah Turim (5 vols., 1712–16), and an excellent Talmud edition (1770–23). Soon after the completion of the latter, the whole edition was confiscated and was only released 30 years later. In the first half of the 19th century the names of seven non-Jewish printing houses are known. Subsequently Jewish printers emerged for the first time. Among them were J.H. Golda (1881–1920), E. Slobotzki (from 1855), and the bookseller J. Kauffmann, who took over the *Roedelheim press of M. Lehrberger in 1899. Hebrew printers were active in places like *Homburg, *Offenbach, *Sulzbach, Roedelheim, and others in the neighborhood of Frankfurt, because Jewish printers were unable to establish themselves in Frankfurt.


The liturgical music and *ḥazzanut of the Frankfurt community represent the archetype of the western Ashkenazi tradition. It can be traced to the 15th-century codifier Jacob *Moellin (Maharil), and is marked by an adherence to tradition which made any deviation from the customary melodies (some of which were credited with divine origin, "*mi-Sinai") a religious offense. Thus the principal qualification required of cantors was a precise acquaintance with the details of musical custom (minhag). Liturgical poems (piyyutim) had a place of prime importance, especially as some of them were linked with the history of the community, and little scope was given to the cantor's capacity for musical invention or improvization. When at the beginning of the 16th century, the Sabbath hymn Lekhah Dodi came into vogue in many communities, it caused sharp controversy among Frankfurt Jews, and though finally accepted, it had to be chanted for many years by an assistant cantor in order to stress its non-compulsory character. Every special event in the Jewish year was marked by a festive, solemn, or plaintive tune, as the occasion demanded. Every month and every festival had an appropriate melody of its own, which was intoned by the cantor at the Blessing of the New Moon. Thus the liturgical music served as a "musical calendar." When a festival or New Moon fell on a Sabbath, the cantor had to give each its musical share ("me-inyono"). This was achieved mainly by mingling variants of the Kaddish melodies, of which there existed more than 25. On Simḥat Torah the "Year's Kaddish" recapitulated the whole range of the "musical calendar." Great stress was laid on correct reading and cantillation of the Bible, and many verses of special importance were chanted to particularly solemn tunes. In spite of the strict traditionalism, many Frankfurt melodies show the influence of German folksong; the one employed for the *Priestly blessing on the High Holidays is derived from the popular Frankfurt "Fassbaenderlied" (Coopers' song). The melody sung in the synagogue on the annual celebration of Purim Winz (see above) was derived from the march tune of the military escort that led the Jews back to the Frankfurt ghetto after the riots of 1616. In the 19th century the Reform movement installed an organ in the main Frankfurt synagogue, whereupon the Orthodox congregation introduced a male choir in their own synagogue with I.M. *Japhet as musical director.

[Mordechai Breuer]


HISTORY: I. Kracauer, Geschichte der Juden in Frankfurt a.M., 2 vols. (1925–27); A. Freimann and F. Kracauer, Frankfurt (Eng., 1929); H. Schwab, Memories of Frankfurt (1955); M. Horovitz, Frankfurter Rabbinen, 4 vols. (1882–85); J. Rosenheim, Zikhronot (1955), 9–111; E. Mayer, Frankfurter Juden (1966); Germ Jud, index; D. Andernacht and E. Sterling (eds.), Dokumente zur Geschichte der Frankfurter Juden (1963); D. Andernacht (ed.), Das Philanthropin zu Frankfurt am Main (1964): hj, 10 (1948), 99–146; J. Katz, Freemasons and Jews (1970), index; M. Eliav, Ha-Ḥinnukh ha-Yehudi be-Germanyah bi-Ymei ha-Haskalah ve-ha-Emanẓipaẓyah (1960). add. bibliography: S. Scheuermann, Der Kampf der Frankfurter Juden um ihre Gleichberechtigung (1933); P. Arnsberg, Bilder aus dem juedischen Leben im alten Frankfurt (1970); idem, Geschichte der Frankfurter Juden seit der Franzoesischen Revolution, 3 vols. (1983); R. Heuberger, Hinaus aus dem Ghetto. Juden in Frankfurt 1800–1850 (1988); I. Schlotzhauer, Das Philanthropin 1804–1942 (1990); D. Andernacht, Regesten zur Geschichte der Juden in Frankfurt am Main 1401–1519, 5 vols. (1996–2002); G. Heuberger (ed.), Wer ein Haus baut, will bleiben (1998); M. Kingreen, Nach der Kristallnacht (1999); H. Thiel, Die Samson-Raphael-Hirsch-Schule (2001); K. Meier-Ude, Die juedischen Friedhoefe in Frankfurt (2004). holocaust: pk Germanyah; P. Friedman (ed.), Bibliografyah shel ha-Sefarim ha-Ivriyyim al ha-Sho'ah ve-al ha-Gevurah (1960), index; N. Bentwich, in: ajr Information, 25 (Aug. 1970), 8. printing: B. Friedberg, Ha-Defus ha-Ivri be-Merkaz Eiropah … (1935); 62ff. add. bibliography: Juedisches Museum Frankfurt am Main (ed.), "Und keiner hat fuer uns Kaddisch gesag …," in: Deportationen aus Frankfurt am Main 1941 bis 1945 (2004). music: I.M. Japhet, Schirei Jeschurun (19224); S.Z. Geiger, Divrei Kehillot (1862); S. Scheuermann, Die gottesdienstlichen Gesaenge der Israeliten fuer das ganze Jahr (1912); F. Ogutsch, Der Frankfurter Kantor (1930).