BASLE (Basel, Bâle), Swiss city. The earliest information on a Jewish community dates from the beginning of the 13th century when Basle was still a German free city. The medieval Jewish cemetery was discovered in recent years and the remains were transferred in 1938 to the present Jewish cemetery. In the Middle Ages the Basle Jews were free to acquire and sell real estate. They engaged in commerce and money-lending, sometimes providing loans to the bishops of Basle. Juridically they were under imperial protection: according to a roster of 1242 the Jews of Basle had to pay the crown an annual tax of 40 marks. During the *Black Death they were accused of poisoning the wells; the members of the city council attempted to defend them, but finally yielded to the guilds who demonstrated before the town hall. Six hundred Jews, with the rabbi at their head, were burned at the stake; 140 children were forcibly baptized. This ended the first Jewish community in Basle (Jan. 16, 1349). In 1362 a Jew from Colmar in Alsace was permitted to settle in Basle; he was soon followed by others. In 1365 the emperor transferred his prerogatives over the Jews of Basle to the town. The second half of the 14th century was a period of prosperous growth despite restrictions imposed by the Church. However, in 1397, the slander of well poisoning was renewed. The Jews fled in panic and the community again came to an end. In 1434 a church council held in Basle introduced compulsory attendance of Jews at conversionist sermons. For four centuries there was no Jewish community in Basle. From the mid-16th century Basle authorities alternately issued residence permits to individuals and expulsion edicts. At the end of that century Basle became a center for Hebrew printing. The printing houses were owned by Christians, but they had to have recourse to Jewish proofreaders for whom they obtained residence permits. Johannes *Froben published the Psalms in 1516. His son Jerome in 1536 published a Bible in Hebrew. In 1578–80 Ambrosius Froben was permitted to print a duly censored edition of the Talmud, which had been banned under Pope Julius III in 1553 and placed on the Index in 1559. Also printed there were the works of Johannes *Buxtorf (father and son) who taught Hebrew at Basle University (1591–1664). From the 1560s Jews lived in rural communities in nearby Alsace.
In 1789, when anti-Jewish propaganda was rife in Alsace, many Alsatian Jews fled to Basle and were permitted to stay there temporarily. On the request of the French government
A. Weldler-Steinberg, Geschichte der Juden in der Schweiz (1966), passim; A. Wolf, Juden in Basel: 1543–1872 (1909); M. Ginsburger, in: REJ, 87 (1929), 209–11; idem, in: Basler Zeitschrift fuer Geschichte und Altertumskunde, 8 (1909); A. Nordmann, ibid., 13 (1913); idem, in: Basler Jahrbuch (1914, 1929); Jahresberichte der Israeli-tischen Gemeinde Basel (1938–1953), Th. Nordemann, Zur Geschichte der Juden in Basel (1955). ADD BIBLIOGRAPHY: N. Guth-Biasini, Synagoge und Juden in Basel (1988), H. Haumann, Juden in Basel und Umgebung (1999), H. Haumann, Der Erste Zionistenkongress von 1897 (1997); idem, Acht Jahrhunderte Juden in Basel (2005); Israelitische Religionsgesellschaft Basel. Festschrift zum fuenfundsiebzigjaehrigen Jubiläum. 5688–5763 / 1928–2003 (2004); P. Kury, Man akzeptierte uns nicht, man tolerierte uns! Ostjudenmigration nach Basel (1998); E. Lang: Aus den ersten fuenfzig Jahren. 5688–5738. 1927–1977. Israeli-tische Religionsgesellschaft Basel (1977); A. Nolte, Juedische Gemeinden in Baden und Basel (2002); PRINTING: K. J. Luethi, Hebraeisch in der Schweiz (1926), 4ff., 21ff.; R.N.N. Rabinowitz, Ma'amar al Hadpasat ha-Talmud (1952), 75ff., 121; J. Prijs, Die Basler hebraeischen Drucke (1516–1828) (1952); idem, Der Basler Talmuddruck (1578–80) (1960); A.M. Habermann, Ha-Sefer ha-Ivri be-Hitpatteḥuto (1968), index; B. Friedberg, Ha-Defus ha-Ivri be-Eiropah (1937).
[Zvi Avneri /
Uri Kaufmann (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.