OPFERPFENNIG


OPFERPFENNIG, a poll tax introduced in 1342 by Emperor Louis IV the Bavarian, who ordered all Jews above the age of 12 and possessing 20 gulden to pay one gulden annually so that he would be better able to protect them. The original name was Guldenpfennig, changed in later generations to Opferpfennig. The practice was motivated by sheer economic necessity and justified by Christian chroniclers on the grounds that the German emperor, as the legal successor of the Roman emperors, was the rightful recipient of the traditional Temple tax which Jews paid after the destruction of the Second Temple. The Opferpfennig (called donatio by the exchequer) was collected on Christmas day, giving the levy the ignominy of a degrading poll tax. By 1346 the emperor was already disposing of the Opferpfennig of *Frankfurt, *Friedberg, *Gelnhausen, and *Wetzlar. *Charles IV ordered the income of the 1348 tax to be delivered to the archbishop of Triers. The Opferpfennig, like other taxes, was a readily transferable source of income but never grew to sizable proportions. This poll tax was sometimes replaced by an overall fixed communal tax. Rich and powerful Jews often succeeded in buying or obtaining exemption from the tax, a symbol of servitude.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

T. Roesel, in: MGWJ, 54 (1910), 208–10; Kisch, Germany, 167–8; Baron, Social2, 9 (1965), 156. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: H. Duchhardt, in: Zeitschrift fuer historische Forschung, 10 (1983), 149–67; P. Rauscher, in: Aschkenas, 14 (2004), 313–63.


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