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Augsburg, Germany

Augsburg is a city in Bavaria, Germany; a free imperial city from 1276 to 1806. Documentary evidence of Jews living in Augsburg dates from 1212. Records from the second half of the 13th century show a well-organized community, and mention the Judenhaus (1259), the synagogue and cemetery (1276), the ritual bathhouse, and "dancehouse" for weddings (1290). The Jews were mainly occupied as vintners, cattledealers, and moneylenders. The Augsburg municipal charter of 1276, determining the political and economic status of the Jewish residents, was adopted by several cities in south Germany. Regulation of the legal status of Augsburg Jewry was complicated by the rivalry between the episcopal and municipal powers. Both contended with the emperor for jurisdiction over the Jews and enjoyment of the concomitant revenues.

Until 1436, lawsuits between Christians and Jews were adjudicated before a mixed court of 12 Christians and 12 Jews. In 1298 and 1336, the Jews of Augsburg were saved from massacre through the intervention of the municipality. During the Black Death (1348–49), many were massacred and the remainder expelled from the city. The emperor granted permission to the bishop and burghers to readmit them in 1350 and 1355, and the community subsequently recovered to some extent. Later, however, it became so impoverished by the extortions of the emperor that the burghers could no longer see any profit in tolerance.

In 1434–36, Jews in Augsburg were forced to wear the yellow badge. The community, then numbering about 300 families, dissolved within a few years; by 1440 the last Jews had left Augsburg. The Augsburg town council paid Albert II of Austria 900 gulden to compensate him for the loss of his servi camerae. Thereafter Jews were only permitted to visit Augsburg during the day on business. They were also granted the right of asylum in times of war. From the late 16th century Jewish communities existed in the close-by villages Pfersee, Kriegshaber, and, temporarily, Oberhausen.

In the late Middle Ages, the Augsburg yeshivah made an important contribution to the development of the pilpul method of study and analysis of the Talmud. The variant of the pilpul method evolved in Augsburg is referred to as the Augsburg ḥillukim. The talmudist Jacob Weil lived in Augsburg between 1412 and 1438. While some Hebrew pamphlets were printed in Augsburg by Erhard Oeglin as early as 1514 on the initiative of the apostate J. Boeschenstein, a Hebrew press was established in 1532 by Ḥayyim b. David Shaḥor, the wandering printer from Prague, together with his son Isaac and son-in-law Joseph b. Yakar who had learned printing in Venice. Between that year and 1540, nine books appeared including Rashi’s Pentateuch commentary (1533); an illustrated Passover Haggadah (1534); Jacob b. Asher's Turim (1536); a Melokhim Buch, in Yiddish (1543); a maḥzor; and a siddur.

In 1530,  Joseph Joselmann of Rosheim convened a synod of German community representatives in Augsburg, the seat of the Reichstag. An organized Jewish community was again established in Augsburg in 1803. Jewish bankers settled there by agreement with the municipality in an endeavor to redress the city's fiscal deficit. In practice, the anti-Jewish restrictions in Augsburg were eliminated in 1806, with the abrogation of the city’s special status and its incorporation into Bavaria; however, the new Jewish civic status was not officially recognized until 1861.

In 1871, Augsburg was the meeting place of a rabbinical assembly dealing with liturgical reform. The Jewish population increased from 56 in 1801 to 1,156 in 1900. It numbered 1,030 in 1933.

In 1938, the magnificent synagogue, dedicated in 1917, was burned down by the Nazis. In late 1941, after emigration and flight to other German cities, the last 170 Jews were herded into a ghetto, with 129 of them sent to Piaski in Poland in April 1942 and the rest mostly to the Riga ghetto and Theresienstadt.

In the immediate postwar period, a camp was established in Augsburg to house displaced Jews. A few weeks after the liberation, services were resumed in the badly damaged synagogue by survivors of the Holocaust and Jewish soldiers of the U.S. Army, and the community was eventually reestablished.

The synagogue was restored and rededicated in 1985. As a result of the immigration of Jews from the Former Soviet Union, the number of community members rose from 199 in 1989 to 1,619 in 2003.


R. Gruenfeld, Ein Gang durch die Geschichte der Juden in Augsburg (1917); R. Strauss, Regensburg and Augsburg (1939), includes bibliography; H. Rinn (ed.), Augusta 955–1955 (Ger., 1955); M. Steinschneider, in: ZGJD, 1 (1887), 282–7; German Jewry (Wiener Library, Catalogue, series 3, 1958), 35; A.M. Habermann, in: KS, 31 (1955/56), 483–500; Monumenta Judaica, 2 vols. (1963–64); Germ Jud, 1 (1963), 14–16; 2 (1968), 30–41; A.M. Habermann, Ha-Sefer ha-Ivri be-Hitpatteḥuto (1968), 127 ff.; A. Marx, Studies in Jewish History and Booklore (1944), 329 ff. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M.N. Rosenfeld, Der juedische Buchdruck in Augsburg in der ersten Haelfte des 16. Jh. (1985); H. Kuenzl, in: Judentum im deutschen Sprachraum (1991), 382–405; P. Boettger, in: Denkmaeler juedischer Kultur in Bayern (1994), 75–90; S. Muetschele, "Juden in Augsburg 1212–1440" (Diss., 1996); S. Ullmann, Nachbarschaft und Konkurrenz (1999); J. Spokojny, in: Geschichte und Kultur der Juden in Schwaben, 2 (2000), 413–21.

[Zvi Avneri /

Stefan Rohrbacher (2nd ed.)]

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