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SCHUTZJUDEN (Ger. "protected Jews"), Jews who held letters of protection. In the Holy Roman Empire, from 1236 on, Jews were considered serfs of the chamber (*servi camerae regis), a special class of the population protected and taxed by the emperor. Later the emperors transferred their rights over the Jews to the free cities and territorial princes, who issued letters of protection for a regular fee to the Jews living within their dominions, thereby making them their subjects. The letter of protection (Schutzbrief), either general (to a community) or personal, included articles on commercial privileges, religious rights, freedom of movement, and taxation, and had to be renewed regularly. In the 17th and 18th centuries, when impoverished Jews from Eastern Europe sought rights of trade and residence in the west, the number of protected Jews became restricted and any increase was resolutely opposed by Christian (and sometimes Jewish) merchants. Most of the immigrants were therefore granted only letters of safe-conduct (Geleitbriefe) and further entrance rights were restricted, but some managed to obtain the highly coveted status of Schutzjuden, while a growing number of Jews were unvergleitet ("without letters of safe-conduct") and thus without secure legal status. In the late 18th and early 19th century, through the influence of the Enlightenment, letters of protection were often drawn up containing educational and commercial conditions which the recipient had to fulfill. Schutzjuden continued to be a common feature of German Jewry until full emancipation was granted to the Jews.


Kisch, Germany, S.V. Jewry protection (Judenschutzrecht); H.H. Hasselmeier, Die Stellung der Juden in Schaumburg-Lippe 16481848 (1967); I. Rivkind, Yidishe Gelt (1959), 264–6; R. Kestenberg-Gladstein, in: JJS, 5 (1954), 159ff.; D.A. Winter, Geschichte der Juden in Moisling/Luebeck (1968), 86–123.

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