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MERSEBURG , city in Germany. The Jewish community of Merseburg was one of the oldest in Germany. As early as 973 Emperor Otto ii granted Bishop Gisiler authority over "the Jews, the merchants, and the mint in the city." King Henry ii renewed this privilege in 1004. In 1234 three Jews lent 80 silver marks to the burgrave of Merseburg. In 1269 the convent of Pegau sold properties to repay debts to Merseburg Jews. In this period R. Ezekiel of Merseburg addressed a number of halakhic queries to Meir b. Baruch of *Rothenburg. Another scholar of the period was R. Samuel of Merseburg. The cemetery of the community dated at least from 1362. The assertion that there was a persecution in 1349–50 rests on a confusion between similar names of localities. In a Hebrew source *Menahem of Merseburg, author of Nimmukim, was a leading German rabbi in the second half of the 14th century. In 1434 the Jews of the Merseburg bishopric paid 100 gilders coronation tax to King Sigismund ii; in 1438 a 3% income tax to King Albert ii; and in 1440 a coronation tax again. At an unknown time thereafter the Jews left the city, which underwent economic decline and internal tension. In 1556 the Saxon historian Ernst Brotuff wrote, "Formerly many Jews lived in Merseburg who had their own synagogue with a courtyard in the small street west of the Cathedral chapter." In 1565 Merseburg came under the rule of Saxon, where no Jews were tolerated, and in 1815 under Prussia, which lifted the restrictions in the new territories only in 1847. By 1849, some 34 Jews lived in Merseburg; there were 23 in 1871; 16 in 1880; 20 in 1903; 29 in 1905; 20 in 1913 (five families); and 40 in 1925. They were affiliated with the Jewish community in Weissenfels. Records for the years 1933–45 are missing. No Jews settled in Merseburg after 1945.


Salfeld, Martyrol, 78, n. 4; fwj (1928–9), 293; Deutsche Reichstagsakten, publ. by Hist. Kommiss. Bayer, Ak. d. Wissenschaften (1867–1961), 11, 305–7; 13, 465; 14, 671; G. Kisch, Forschungen zur Rechts-und Sozialgeschichte der Juden… (1955), 54; Baron, Social2, 4 (1957), 65–66; T. Oelsner, in: yivoa, 2 (1958–9), 193; idem, in ylbi, 7 (1962), 189; S. Neumann, Zur Statistik der Juden in Preussen (1884), 47; H.L. Mursek, Merseburg (1963), passim; Germania Judaica, 1 (1963), 226–28; 2 (1968), 539–40. add. bibliography: A. Maimon, M. Breuer, Y. Guggenheim (eds.), Germania Judaica, vol. 3, 1350–1514 (1987), 867–69.

[Toni Oelsner]