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Anhalt, Germany

Anhalt is a former German state that is now part of the Land of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany; until the 12th century part of the duchy of Saxony, later becoming an independent principality. Jews living in the towns of Bernburg, Aschersleben, Koethen, and Zerbst in Anhalt are mentioned in sources from the 14th century. Communities existed in the first two towns during the 15th century when the rabbi of Aschersleben was Isaac Eilenburg, mentioned in the responsa of Israel Isserlein. No further Jewish settlement in Anhalt is recorded from the end of the 15th century to the beginning of the 17th. Afterward, the mercantilist policies of the absolutist regime encouraged Jewish traders and financiers to settle in the principality. They formed a well-to-do group which soon engaged in cultural activities.

Hebrew printing presses were established in Koethen in 1621. Moses Benjamin Wolff, the court Jew, set up a Hebrew press in 1695 in Dessau (which was active till 1704) as well as in Koethen and Jessnitz, where Israel b. Abraham, who was a proselyte, was active for many years. He printed Maimonides' Code with commentaries (1739–42) and his Guide of the Perplexed with the standard commentaries in 1742. In 1742 too, Benjamin Moses Wolff's son Elijah restored his father's press for one year, producing the Sifra and the Jerusalem Talmud, Seder Mo'ed. In the period of Enlightenment, Moses Philippson (1775–1814) established a Hebrew press in Dessau; David (b. Moses) Fraenkel printed there the first Judeo-German monthly Sulamith (1806–33).

A synagogue was built at Dessau in 1687. The characteristic relationship of this period between the German princes and the rich Jews they patronized, a mixture of exploitation, oppression, and socializing, was also found in Anhalt. Thus, permission was given to build a synagogue in the famous gardens of Woerlitz, and a Jewish wedding was held at the palace. Anhalt Jewry played an important role in the Enlightenment ( *Haskalah ) and acceptance of German culture. Moves toward Jewish emancipation were initiated in the community of Dessau early in the 19th century. In 1804 the "body" tax levied on Jews was abolished in Anhalt, and Jews were required from 1810 to adopt surnames. Full political rights were granted in 1867. In 1831 the civil authorities appointed S. Herxheimer chief rabbi of Anhalt, contributing half of his salary. Prominent among Anhalt Jews were the philosophers Moses Mendelssohn, Hermann Heyman Steinthal, and Hermann Cohen, the historian Isaac Marcus Jost, the theologian Ludwig Philippson, and the mathematician Ephraim Solomon Unger. The Jewish population, numbering 3,000 in 1830, decreased to 1,140 by 1925. The synagogues of Anhalt were burned in November 1938; the 1,000 Jews still living there were murdered during World War II.


E. Walter, "Die Rechtsstellung der israelitischen Kultusgemeinden in Anhalt" (Dissertation, Halle-Wittenberg, 1934); German Jewry (Wiener Library Catalogue, Series no. 3, 1958), 35; M. Freudenthal, Aus der Heimat M. Mendelssohns (1900), passim. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: B. Bugaiski (ed.), Geschichte juedischer Gemeinden in Sachsen-Anhalt (1997); J. Dick (ed.), Wegweiser durch das juedische Sachsen-Anhalt (1998).

[Zvi Avneri]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.