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Constance, Germany

Encyclopedia Judaica:
Constance, Germany

Germany: Virtual Jewish World | Jews in Pre-WWII Germany | Frankfurt

CONSTANCE (Ger. Konstanz), city in Germany. The first mention of Jews is in a royal tax list of 1241; the tax paid indicates that they had settled there some decades earlier. A responsum on divorce, written in Constance and published in R. *Meir b. Baruch of Rothenburg 's responsa, has been erroneously ascribed to him. King Henry VII pawned the Jewish taxes to a nobleman in 1311, and Louis the Bavarian followed suit in 1330. King Wenceslaus (after 1393), Rupert (1401–02), and Sigismund (1413) transferred half the Jewish taxes to the city. In 1414 Sigismund assigned two Constance Jews to collect a levy for the Hussite War from Upper Swabian Jewry. Records of 1328, 1375, and 1425–29 show that Jews owned orchards, gardens, and vineyards in Constance. Moneylending by Jews to clerics, villagers, townspeople, and nobles is mentioned in 1293, 1300, 1346–48, and 1420–39; to the city in the 1370s; and a minor sum to the king in 1306. The city's usury law of 1383 referred to small scale moneylending by Jews. The records of the municipal court (1423–28) show that there were also Jewish traders, tailors, and metalworkers living in Constance. Twenty-seven Jews accused of *Host desecration were murdered in 1326. During the *Black Death (1349) 350 Jews were burned to death. Following a *blood libel in *Ravensburg , the Jews were imprisoned in 1429 and after a second one in the area in 1443; they were released each time after ransom was paid. From around 1375 until 1460 the Jews enjoyed burghers' rights. By 1424 there was a synagogue in the Ramungshof. The Jews lived in several streets. During the Council of Constance, in 1417, a delegation of German Jewry met Pope *Martin V who, in 1418, granted favorable privileges, confirmed by King Sigismund. A first expulsion order, in 1432, was not generally enforced, but it became final in 1533. Afterward Jews could only enter the town temporarily, though they continued to live in neighboring villages. In 1847 a group of Jews settled in Constance. After the *Baden emancipation law of 1862 a community was founded in 1863–66. The synagogue, consecrated in 1883, was burned down in November 1938. In 1910 the community numbered 574 persons (2.7% of the total) but declined to 537 in 1925 and 443 in 1933. In October 1940 the 110 Jews still remaining in Constance were deported to the internment camp in *Gurs (Southern France), and from there the majority were transported to *Auschwitz in 1942. Some 160 Jews liberated from displaced persons' camps lived in Constance between 1945 and 1948, most of whom subsequently emigrated. By 1968 fewer than 30 Jews lived in Constance; they were affiliated to the Jewish community of *Freiburg im Breisgau . An independent Jewish community was founded in Constance in 1988. It had 102 members in 1989, and as a result of the emigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union, their number increased to 502 in 2003.


Germ Jud, 2 (1968), 445–50; L. Loewenstein, Geschichte der Juden am Bodensee (1879); H. Chone, in: ZGJD, 6 (1935), 3–16, 198–209; 7 (1937), 1–7; H. Maor, Ueber den Wiederaufbau der juedischen Gemeinden in Deutschland seit 1945 (1961), 59; R. Overdick, Die rechtliche und wirtschaftliche Stellung der Juden in Suedwestdeutschland im 15. und 16. Jahrhundert… (1965); F. Handsnurscher and G. Taddey, Juedische Gemeinden in Baden… (1968). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: H. Hoerburger, Judenvertreibungen im Spaetmittelalter (1981); E.R. Wiehn (ed.), Novemberpogrom 1938 (1988); E. Bloch, Geschichte der Juden in Konstanz… (1989); W. Ruegert (ed.), Juedisches Leben in Konstanz (1999).

[Toni Oelsner]

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