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Brunswick, Germany

BRUNSWICK (Ger. Braunschweig), city and former duchy in Germany. Jews were living in the duchy at the beginning of the 12th century, and in 1137 the emperor gave jurisdiction over them to the duke. The only specific information concerning the Jews living in the duchy before the *Black Death relates to Blankenburg (1223) and Helmstedt (1247), apart from the capital city where a community was established at the end of the 13th century. Both the dukes and the municipality gave the Jews protection and levied taxes. Their economic conditions and legal status were favorable, and Jews from other places in northern Germany moved there. At the beginning of the 14th century the Jews in the capital lived in a street near the market and ducal castle. By the middle of the century they numbered approximately 150. Over half were massacred during the Black Death (1348–49). In 1364 jurisdiction over the Jews passed entirely to the municipality. Jews from Goslar were permitted to settle in Brunswick in 1417. The Jews in the city of Brunswick were accused of desecrating the *Host in 1510, and 16 were expelled. Anti-Jewish riots occurred in 1543, provoked by the polemical writings of Martin Luther, and in 1571 the Jews were expelled from the duchy. The emperor procured their return seven years later, but the decree of expulsion was renewed in 1590. This time the imperial representations were of no avail and the Jews were compelled to leave.

Several Jews were permitted to settle in the duchy at the beginning of the 17th century. Duke Charles William Ferdinand (1780–1806), whom Israel *Jacobson served as *Court Jew , corresponded with Moses *Mendelssohn on philosophical and religious subjects; he invited Mendelssohn for a visit and encouraged him to write his Morgenstunden. In 1805 the duke abrogated the Leibzoll ("body tax") hitherto levied on Jews. The school Jacobson founded in Seesen in 1801, the first to educate children in the spirit of *Haskalah , was opened under ducal patronage. A second "progressive" school, the Samson school, was opened in *Wolfenbuettel in 1807; I.M. *Jost and Leopold *Zunz were among its pupils. Between 1807 and 1813 Brunswick formed part of the Napoleonic kingdom of Westphalia, and the Jews were granted civic equality. After the downfall of Napoleon in 1814, when the kingdom was abolished, the Jews were again disqualified from holding public office and deprived of the franchise. They acquired the franchise and elective rights in 1832. The "Jewish oath" was abolished in 1845. In 1848 mixed marriages were legalized and Jews were allowed to acquire real property. The civil service remained closed to Jews until 1919. A synagogue was built in the city of Brunswick about 1780 and another in 1784. The Brunswick community adopted *Reform Judaism at the beginning of the 19th century. The rabbi of Brunswick, Levi *Herzfeld (1842–84), convened the first *synod of German rabbis there in 1844. The community in Brunswick numbered 378 in 1812, 258 in 1852 (0.3% of the total), and 1,750 in 1928. However, by 1933 the number had decreased to 980, since the city had become a stronghold of Nazism. On Kristallnacht (Nov. 9–10, 1938), with 620 Jews remaining in the city after further flight and emigration, the synagogue was burned down and Jewish stores were demolished. Another 200 managed to flee up to 1941. The rest were deported to the east in 14 transports up to the end of the war; in all, 377 local Jews perished in the Holocaust. A concentration camp was established in Brunswick; there were a number of Jews in it at the end of World War II. There were 43 Jews living in the city of Brunswick in 1967.


Germ Jud, 1 (1963), 503; 2 (1968), 87, 108–24, 351; Brunsvicensia Judaica (1966; Braunschweiger Werkstuecke, no. 35); H. Schnee, Die Hoffinanz und der moderne Staat, 2 (1954), 86–109; A. Lewinsky, in: MGWJ, 51 (1907), 214–23; Fischer, in: ZGJD, 8 (1937), 53–64. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: R. Busch, Der ehemaligen juedischen Gemeinde Braunschweigs zum Gedenken (1977); H.-H. Ebeling, Die Juden in Braunschweig (1987); 'Kristallnacht' und Antisemitismus im Braunschweiger Land (1988).

[Zvi Avneri / Ze'ev Wilhem Falk]

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