BAYREUTH, city in Bavaria, Germany, and former principality. Jews lived in the principality of Bayreuth at the beginning of the 13th century and are mentioned in *Meir b. Baruch of Rothenburg's responsa. In 1248 several Jews were admitted into the city of Bayreuth. In the course of the riots accompanying the *Black Death (1348–49) many Jews in the principality were killed. After this, the emperor Charles IV entrusted authority over the Jews of Bayreuth to the margrave. In 1372 the latter appointed a chief rabbi for all his territory, including at that time the communities of Kulmbach and Hof. Until the end of the 15th century the Jews were permitted freedom of movement and the right to bring claims against Christians before a mixed tribunal. In 1409 a charter was granted to the Jews of Neustadt an der Aisch (where 71 Jews had perished in the massacre of 1218) and in 1421 Jewish trade in the principality was regulated. In 1422 the Jews were compelled to renounce all claims against Christians and subsequently left the principality. However, six Jewish families resettled in the "Jewish lane" of the city of Bayreuth in 1441, and the position of the Jewish residents improved. A number of refugees from *Bamberg were admitted into the towns of Pegnitz, Steinach, *Baiersdorf, Erlangen, Neustadt an der Aisch, and Kulm (later called Chlumec in Czechoslovakia), and several *Court Jews were in the margrave's service at Bayreuth. In 1488 the Jews were again made to cancel all the debts owing to them as a condition for setting aside an expulsion order. Nevertheless, they were expelled several times from various parts of the principality during the 16th and 17th centuries, though most of the expulsion orders were short-lived.

Their position began to improve as a result of the influence of the Court Jew, Samson of Baiersdorf. In 1695 the margrave granted concessions and protection to Jewish tradesmen. The seat of the provincial rabbinate was Baiersdorf since Jews had been excluded from the city of Bayreuth from 1515. Further improvements followed after 1735, in the main a reflection of the liberal attitude of Margrave Frederick, who had a Jewish chess player and a Jewish painter at his court. The Jewish population of the principality rose from 135 families in 1709 to 346 families (1,727 persons) in 1771. Ten Jewish families were admitted into the city of Bayreuth in 1759, and there were 65 families (401 persons) resident in the city in 1771. In 1805 there were 2,276 Jews living in the principality, which was incorporated into Bavaria two years later. During the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries the number of the Jews declined. In spite of their shrill antisemitism, Richard *Wagner and his circle in Bayreuth did not affect the position of the Jews there. In 1933 the Jewish population of Bayreuth numbered 261 (0.7% of the total).

On Nov. 10, 1938, the synagogue (built in 1760) was ransacked and homes and shops were pillaged by the SA. The populace committed further acts of vandalism the next day, and the cemetery was desecrated beyond recognition. After flight and emigration, just 120 Jews remained in the city at the time. On Nov. 27, 1941, 60 persons were deported to *Riga; on Jan. 12, 1942, the last 11 were transported to Bamberg en route to *Theresienstadt. After World War II a new community was established which numbered 550 in 1949 and had decreased, through emigration, to 40 in 1967. As a result of the immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union, the number of community members rose to 473 in 2003.


A. Eckstein, Geschichte der Juden im Markgrafentum Bayreuth (1907); FJW (1928–29), 125f.; Germ Jud, 1 (1963), 24; 2 (1968), 60–61; Y.L. Bialer, Min ha-Genazim, 2 (1969), 54–58; PK. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: E. Huebschmann (ed.), Physische und behoerdliche Gewalt (2000).

[Ze'ev Wilhem Falk]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.