Wetzlar

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WETZLAR

WETZLAR , city near Koblenz, Germany. Evidence for the presence of Jews in Wetzlar dates from after 1250, but Jews probably settled there as early as 1200. Although in 1265 Archbishop Werner of Mainz promised to protect the Jews of Wetzlar, toward the end of the century they were among those Jews accompanying R. *Meir b. Baruch of Rothenburg in his attempted emigration from Germany. A Judengasse (see *Jewish Quarter) in Wetzlar dates from 1292; a synagogue was established by 1318. Both Jews and Christians acted as moneylenders in the city, lending a considerable sum to Emperor Louis iv in 1347. In 1349 the *Black Death persecutions brought an end to the community, but by 1360 Jews were once more residing in the city. In 1382 King *Wenceslaus extended the privilege of admitting Jews to the municipal council of Wetzlar. There were 20 Jews in the city in 1385 and 30 in 1442. In 1524 the municipal authorities sought to regulate kasher slaughtering, and in 1544 they unsuccessfully attempted to expel the entire Jewish community. By 1546 there were 50 Jews in Wetzlar. They were all expelled in 1598, but by 1604 some had returned, their number growing to 80 by 1625. A cemetery was consecrated in 1626; until then burial had taken place in Frankfurt. In the second half of the 16th century Isaac Levita, a Jew born in Wetzlar, was appointed to teach at the University of Cologne after he had converted to Protestantism. Also of prominence during the period were R. Joel of Wetzlar (d. 1698) and R. Solomon b. Simeon Wetzlar, author of Ḥakirot ha-Lev (Amsterdam, 1731).

The 18th century brought with it a significant rise in Jewish economic activity. Around 1735 Leib Wetzlar was a known business associate of Joseph Suess *Oppenheimer, and Abraham Wetzlar (1715–1799) became a financier of the imperial court. Although the population was legally limited to 12 families of *Schutzjuden for most of the 18th century, in actuality 18 to 20 families, comprising some 100 persons, lived in Wetzlar during that time. In 1756 a synagogue was dedicated by the Jewish community. Some amelioration of discriminatory practices against Jews was brought about by Napoleonic reforms, beginning in 1803, but a reaction to this followed again after Wetzlar's incorporation into Prussia in 1815. By 1823 there were 101 Jews in the city. In 1880 there were 210; and in 1933 there were 132. Although the community supported a religious school, it considered itself under the jurisdiction of the rabbinate of Marburg. It maintained a synagogue, a cemetery, and a philanthropic organization. During the Holocaust, 41 Jews from the district emigrated and 68 perished.

bibliography:

Germania Judaica, 2 (1968), 882–5; K. Watz, Geschichte der juedischen Gemeinde in Wetzlar von ihren Anfaengen bis zur Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts (12001850) (1966); Aronius, Regesten, 291 para. 706; A. Kober, Cologne (Eng., 1940), 174–5; fjw, 226; Statistisches Jahrbuch des deutsch-israelitischen Gemeindebundes (1903), 78.

[Alexander Shapiro]

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Wetzlar

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