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Frankfurt on the Main

FRANKFURT ON THE MAIN (Heb. פרנקפורט דמיין; abbr. פפד״מ), city in Germany with an ancient and important community.

Early History

Reports and legends about Jews residing in Frankfurt go back to the earliest period in the city's history. Frankfurt was an important trading center, and Jewish merchants probably visited its annual fall fairs. In 1074 Emperor Henry IV mentions Frankfurt among the towns where the Jews of *Worms were permitted to trade without having to pay customs dues. During the 12th century Frankfurt had an organized and flourishing community, though still numerically small. Financial transactions and tax payments by Frankfurt Jews at that time are frequently mentioned: *Eliezer b. Nathan of Mainz makes repeated reference to the presence of Jewish merchants in Frankfurt. In 1241 the Jewish houses were demolished by the populace and over three-quarters of the approximately 200 Jews of Frankfurt were massacred. Among the victims were three rabbis, including the ḥazzan; many of the survivors accepted baptism. A special prayer for the martyrs has been retained in the liturgy for the Ninth of Av of the West German congregations. Subsequently Frederick II appointed a commission of inquiry, since the outbreak was an infringement of his imperial prerogative and interests. It apparently originated in a dispute over the forced conversion of a Jew. The city of Frankfurt was ultimately granted a royal pardon. The safety of the Frankfurt Jews was guaranteed and heavy penalties were ordered against Jew-baiters.

By around 1270 Frankfurt had again become a busy center of Jewish life. Two Jewish tombstones dated 1284 were found under the altar of the cathedral in 1952. During the following decades all the customary Jewish institutions developed in Frankfurt. The medieval community had a central synagogue ("Altschul"), a cemetery, a bathhouse, hospitals for local Jews and migrants, a "dance house" for weddings and other social events, and educational and welfare institutions. During the first half of the 14th century the financial burden on the Frankfurt community, exploited by both the city and the crown, grew steadily greater, but the profit derived from the Jews protected them against the current waves of persecution. However, the surge of bloodthirsty hatred aroused by the *Black Death engulfed them along with almost all the other communities in Europe. In 1349, shortly after Emperor *Charles IV had transferred his "Jewish rights" to the city against a substantial consideration, the community was completely wiped out, many of its members setting fire to their own homes rather than meet death by the mob. In 1360 Frankfurt reopened its gates to Jews. Their economic function was still vital to the flourishing city of merchants and craftsmen. However, the terms of resettlement imposed drastic changes. Jews had to apply individually for the privilege of residence, which usually had to be renewed annually in return for payment of heavy taxes and other dues. A set of statutes (Staettigkeit) regulated relations between the city and the community. Rabbis and communal leaders of note in the 14th century included Suesskind Wimpfen, who redeemed the body of *Meir b. Baruch of Rothenburg for ritual burial; and *Alexander Susslin ha-Kohen.

15th to 17th Centuries

During the first half of the 15th century, the Jewish community consisted of no more than 12 tax-paying families on the average. The expulsion of the Jews, or their relocation to a remote part of the city, was considered by the city council from the 1430s. From the 1450s the Jews were forced to wear a distinctive badge, and Christians were forbidden to visit Jewish festivities. After repeated interventions on the part of the emperor, and despite their strong resistance, the Jews of Frankfurt were finally forced to settle in a specially constructed street (Judengasse) outside the old city ramparts in 1462. Although existence in this ghetto entailed severe physical and social hardship to the community, its inner life developed even more intensively. There were 110 registered inhabitants of the ghetto in 1463, 250 in 1520, 900 in 1569, 1,200 in 1580, 2,200 in 1600, and about 3,000 in 1610. Since the ghetto was never permitted to expand beyond its original area, the existing houses were subdivided, and back premises and additional storeys were erected. The communal organization became stronger and more diversified. Religious and lay leaders (Hochmeister and Baumeister) were elected by the Jewish taxpayers, and a continual flow of takkanot laid the basis for powerful and jealously guarded local traditions in all spheres of religious, social, and economic life. Outstanding among the rabbis of the 15th century was Nathan Epstein. Johannes *Pfefferkorn confiscated some 1,500 Hebrew books from Frankfurt Jews. The Peasants' War and religious wars of the 16th century repeatedly endangered the community, and the guilds made serious inroads into their economic activities. Nevertheless, conditions were favorable to commercial enterprise, and by means of heavy financial contributions and skillful diplomacy the Frankfurt Jews managed to safeguard their privileges. By the end of the 16th century the community reached a peak period of prosperity. It had become a center of Jewish learning, and students from far away flocked to the yeshivot of Eliezer Treves and Akiva b. Jacob Frankfurter. The Frankfurt rabbinate and rabbinical court had become one of the foremost religious authorities in Germany. Decisions were made by the presiding rabbi in conjunction with the "members of the yeshivah" (dayyanim). General *synods of rabbinic and lay leaders were held at Frankfurt in 1562, 1582, and 1603.

However, economic and social antagonisms had long been simmering between the wealthy patrician families of the city and the guild craftsmen and petty traders, many of whom were in debt to Jews. The struggle flared into open rebellion when in 1614 the rabble, led by Vincent *Fettmilch, stormed the ghetto and gave vent to their anger by plundering the Jewish houses. The Jews were all expelled from the city, but the emperor outlawed the rebels, and their leaders were arrested and put to death (1616). Subsequently the Jews were ceremoniously returned to the ghetto, an event annually commemorated on Adar 20th by the Frankfurt community as the "Purim Winz" ("Purim of Vincent"). Possibly a group of wealthy Frankfurt Jews, among them Simeon Wolf, father of the celebrated Court Jew Samuel *Oppenheimer, used their influence at the imperial court to bring about this result. Among those who did not return to Frankfurt after the Fettmilch rebellion was Isaiah *Horowitz, the celebrated author of Shenei Luḥot ha-Berit, who had occupied the rabbinate from 1606. Other leading rabbis of the period included his son Shabbetai *Horowitz, ḥayyim Cohen, grandson of *Judah Loew (the Maharal) of Prague, and Meir b. Jacob ha-Kohen *Schiff, a native of Frankfurt. Joseph Yuspa *Hahn recorded the ritual customs of the Frankfurt community in his Yosif Omeẓ. These were a source of special pride to the Frankfurt Jews, known for their local patriotism. Joseph Solomon *Delmedigo was for some years employed as communal physician. Aaron Samuel*Koidonover and his son Ẓevi Hirsh *Koidonover were also members of the Frankfurt rabbinate. The community did not grow numerically during the 17th century owing to the unhealthy conditions of their overpopulated quarter and the excessive taxes imposed upon them during the Thirty Years' War. In addition, the terms of residence were designed to keep their number stationary, allowing a maximum of 500 families and 12 marriage licenses annually. At the end of the 17th century the community made successful efforts to prevent Johann *Eisenmenger from publishing his anti-Jewish book.

18th Century

In 1711 almost the entire Jewish quarter was destroyed by a fire which broke out in the house of the chief rabbi, Naphtali b. Isaac *Katz. The inhabitants found refuge in gentile homes, but had to return to the ghetto after it had been rebuilt. J.J. *Schudt gave a detailed account of Jewish life at Frankfurt in this period. The importance of the Frankfurt Jewish community of that era is indicated by the official recognition of its representatives ("Residenten") in Vienna from 1718. The penetration of Enlightenment found the community in a state of unrest and social strife. Communal life had long been dominated by a few ancient patrician families, some of whom were known by signs hanging outside their houses, like the *Rothschild ("Red Shield"), Schwarzschild, Kann, and Schiff families. The impoverished majority challenged the traditional privileges of the wealthy oligarchy, and the city council repeatedly acted as arbitrator between the rival parties. Controversies on religious and personal matters such as the *Eybeschuetz-*Emden dispute further weakened unity in the community. Nevertheless, there was no decline in intellectual activity, and the yeshivot of Samuel Schotten and Jacob Joshua b. Ẓevi Hirsch *Falk attracted many students. The movement for the reformation of Jewish education fostered by the circle of Moses *Mendelssohn in Berlin found many sympathizers in Frankfurt, especially among the well-to-do class who welcomed it as a step toward *emancipation. Forty-nine prominent members of the community subscribed for Mendelssohn's German translation of the Bible (1782), but the chief rabbi, Phinehas *Horowitz, attacked the book from the pulpit. When in 1797 a project was advocated for a school with an extensive program of secular studies, Horowitz pronounced a ban on it. He was supported by most of the communal leaders, though many had their children taught non-Jewish subjects privately. The ban had to be withdrawn by order of the magistrate. Some years previously, Horowitz had acted similarly against the kabbalist Nathan *Adler. Meanwhile the French revolutionary wars had made their first liberating impact on Frankfurt Jewry. In 1796 a bombardment destroyed the greater part of the ghetto walls, and in 1798 the prohibition on leaving the ghetto on Sundays and holidays was abolished.

19th and 20th Centuries

The incorporation of Frankfurt in Napoleon's Confederation of the Rhine (1806) and the constitution of the grand duchy of Frankfurt (1810) gradually changed the status of the Frankfurt Jews, bringing them nearer emancipation. In 1811 the ghetto was finally abolished, and a declaration of equal rights for all citizens expressly included the Jews, a capital payment of 440,000 florins having been made by the community. However, the reaction following Napoleon's downfall brought bitter disappointment. The senate of the newly constituted Free City tried to abolish Jewish emancipation and thwarted the efforts made by a community delegation to the Congress of *Vienna. After prolonged negotiations, marked by the "*Hep-Hep" anti-Jewish disorders in 1819, the senate finally promulgated an enactment granting equality to the Jews in all civil matters, although reinstating many of the old discriminatory laws (1824). The composition and activities of the community board remained subject to supervision and confirmation by the senate. Meanwhile the religious rift in the community had widened considerably. Phinehas Horowitz's son and successor, Ẓevi Hirsch *Horowitz, was powerless in face of the increasing pressure for social and educational reforms. He did in fact renew his father's approbation of Benjamin Wolf *Heidenheim's edition of the prayer book which included a German translation and a learned commentary. However, this first stirring of *Wissenschaft des Judentums could not satisfy those in the community desiring reform and assimilation. In 1804 they founded a school, the Philanthropin, with a markedly secular and assimilationist program. This institution became a major center for reform in Judaism. From 1807 it organized reformed Jewish services for the pupils and their parents. In the same year a Jewish lodge of *Freemasons was established, whose members actively furthered the causes of reform and secularization in the community. From 1817 to 1832 the board of the community was exclusively composed of members of the lodge. In 1819 the Orthodox ḥeder institutions were closed by the police, and the board prevented the establishment of a school for both religious and general studies. Attendance at the yeshivah, which in 1793 still had 60 students, dwindled. In 1842 the number of Orthodox families was estimated to account for less than 10% of the community. In that year, a Reform Association demanded the abolition of all "talmudic" laws, circumcision, and the messianic faith. The aged rabbi, Solomon Abraham Trier, who had been one of the two delegates from Frankfurt to the Paris *Sanhedrin in 1807, published a collection of responsa from contemporary rabbis and scholars in German on the fundamental significance of circumcision in Judaism (1844). A year later a conference of rabbis sympathizing with reform was held in Frankfurt. A leading member of this group was Abraham *Geiger, a native of Frankfurt, and communal rabbi from 1863 to 1870. The revolutionary movement of 1848 hastened the emancipation of the Frankfurt Jews, which was finally achieved in 1864. The autocratic regime of the community board weakened considerably. A small group of Orthodox members then seized the opportunity to form a religious association within the community, the "Israelitische Religionsgesellschaft," and elected Samson Raphael *Hirsch as their rabbi in 1851. The Rothschild family made a large donation toward the erection of a new Orthodox synagogue. When the community board persisted in turning a deaf ear to the demands of the Orthodox minority, the association seceded from the community and set up a separate congregation (1876). After some Orthodox members, supported by the Wuerzburg rabbi, Seligmann Baer *Bamberger, had refused to take this course, the community board made certain concessions, enabling them to remain within the community. A communal Orthodox rabbi, Marcus *Horovitz, was installed and a new Orthodox synagogue was erected with communal funds. From then on the Frankfurt Orthodox community, its pattern of life and educational institutions, became the paradigm of German Orthodoxy. The Jewish population of Frankfurt numbered 3,298 in 1817 (7.9% of the total), 10,009 in 1871 (11%), 21,974 in 1900 (7.5%), and 29,385 in 1925 (6.3%). During the 19th century many Jews from the rural districts were attracted to the city whose economic boom owed much to Jewish financial and commercial enterprise. The comparative wealth of the Frankfurt Jews is shown by the fact that, in 1900, 5,946 Jewish citizens paid 2,540,812 marks in taxes, while 34,900 non-Jews paid 3,611,815 marks. Many civic institutions, including hospitals, libraries and museums, were established by Jewish donations, especially from the Rothschild family. The Jew Leopold *Sonnemann was the founder of the liberal daily Frankfurter Zeitung, and the establishment of the Frankfurt university (1912) was also largely financed by Jews. Jewish communal institutions and organizations included two hospitals, three schools (the Philanthropin and the elementary and secondary schools founded by S.R. Hirsch), a yeshivah (founded by Hirsch's son-in-law and successor Solomon *Breuer), religious classes for pupils attending city schools, an orphanage, a home for the aged, many welfare institutions, and two cemeteries (the ancient cemetery was closed in 1828). Frankfurt Jews were active in voluntary societies devoted to universal Jewish causes, such as emigrant relief and financial support for the Jews in the Holy Land (donations from Western Europe to the Holy Land had been channeled through Frankfurt from the 16th century). The year-book of the Juedisch-Literarische Gesellschaft was published in Frankfurt, and the Orthodox weekly Der Israelit (founded in 1860) was published in Frankfurt from 1906. The Jewish department of the municipal library, headed before World War II by the scholar A. Freimann, had a rare collection of Hebraica and Judaica. During the first decade of the 20th century additional synagogues were erected, among them a splendid one situated at Friedberger Anlage. In 1920 Franz *Rosenzweig set up an institute for Jewish studies, where Martin *Buber, then professor at the Frankfurt university, gave popular lectures. Two additional yeshivot were established, one by Jacob Hoffman, who in 1922 succeeded Nehemiah Anton *Nobel in the Orthodox rabbinate of the community. Others prominent in Frankfurt Jewish life include the writer Ludwig *Boerne; the historian I.M. *Jost; the artists Moritz *Oppenheim and Benno *Elkan; the biochemist Paul *Ehrlich; the economist and sociologist Franz *Oppenheimer; rabbis Jacob *Horowitz and Joseph *Horowitz (Orthodox); Leopold Stein, Nehemiah Bruell, Caesar *Seligmann (Reform); and the Orthodox leaders Jacob *Rosenheim and Isaac *Breuer.

[Mordechai Breuer /


HISTORY: I. Kracauer, Geschichte der Juden in Frankfurt a.M., 2 vols. (1925–27); A. Freimann and F. Kracauer, Frankfurt (Eng., 1929); H. Schwab, Memories of Frankfurt (1955); M. Horovitz, Frankfurter Rabbinen, 4 vols. (1882–85); J. Rosenheim, Zikhronot (1955), 9–111; E. Mayer, Frankfurter Juden (1966); Germ Jud, index; D. Andernacht and E. Sterling (eds.), Dokumente zur Geschichte der Frankfurter Juden (1963); D. Andernacht (ed.), Das Philanthropin zu Frankfurt am Main (1964): HJ, 10 (1948), 99–146; J. Katz, Freemasons and Jews (1970), index; M. Eliav, Ha-Ḥinnukh ha-Yehudi be-Germanyah bi-Ymei ha-Haskalah ve-ha-Emanẓipaẓyah (1960). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: S. Scheuermann, Der Kampf der Frankfurter Juden um ihre Gleichberechtigung (1933); P. Arnsberg, Bilder aus dem juedischen Leben im alten Frankfurt (1970); idem, Geschichte der Frankfurter Juden seit der Franzoesischen Revolution, 3 vols. (1983); R. Heuberger, Hinaus aus dem Ghetto. Juden in Frankfurt 1800–1850 (1988); I. Schlotzhauer, Das Philanthropin 1804–1942 (1990); D. Andernacht, Regesten zur Geschichte der Juden in Frankfurt am Main 1401–1519, 5 vols. (1996–2002); G. Heuberger (ed.), Wer ein Haus baut, will bleiben (1998); M. Kingreen, Nach der Kristallnacht (1999); H. Thiel, Die Samson-Raphael-Hirsch-Schule (2001); K. Meier-Ude, Die juedischen Friedhoefe in Frankfurt (2004). HOLOCAUST: PK Germanyah; P. Friedman (ed.), Bibliografyah shel ha-Sefarim ha-Ivriyyim al ha-Sho'ah ve-al ha-Gevurah (1960), index; N. Bentwich, in: AJR Information, 25 (Aug. 1970), 8. PRINTING: B. Friedberg, Ha-Defus ha-Ivri be-Merkaz Eiropah … (1935); 62ff. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Juedisches Museum Frankfurt am Main (ed.), "Und keiner hat fuer uns Kaddisch gesag …," in: Deportationen aus Frankfurt am Main 1941 bis 1945 (2004). MUSIC: I.M. Japhet, Schirei Jeschurun (19224); S.Z. Geiger, Divrei Kehillot (1862); S. Scheuermann, Die gottesdienstlichen Gesaenge der Israeliten fuer das ganze Jahr (1912); F. Ogutsch, Der Frankfurter Kantor (1930).

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