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Congress of Vienna

(September 1814 - June 1815)

The Congress of Vienna was an international meeting held in Vienna, September 1814 to June 1815, to reestablish peace and order in Europe after the Napoleonic Wars. The congress met in the Apollosaal built by the English-born Jew, Sigmund Wolffsohn, and the delegates were often entertained during the course of the proceedings in the *salons of Jewish hostesses, such as Fanny von *Arnstein and Cecily *Eskeles.

The Jewish question, raised explicitly for the first time at an international conference, arose in connection with the constitution of a new federation of German states. The Jews of Frankfurt and of the Hanseatic towns of *Hamburg, *Luebeck, and *Bremen had previously attained equal civil rights under French rule. The Hanseatic cities were annexed to France in 1810, and Jewish emancipation in France was effective ipso facto there. The Frankfurt community paid the French staff of the duke a vast sum of money in 1811 in return for being granted equality. They now sent delegates to the Congress to seek confirmation of their rights, as well as emancipation for the Jews of the other German states. The delegates for Frankfurt were Gabriel Oppenheimer and Jacob Baruch (the father of Ludwig *Boerne), while the Hanseatic towns were represented among others, by the non-Jew Carl August *Buchholz. They succeeded in gaining the support of such leading personalities as Metternich (Austria), Hardenberg, and Humboldt (Prussia). In October 1814 a committee of five German states met to prepare proposals for the constitution of the new federation. Bavaria and Wuerttemberg, fearing the curtailment of their independence, opposed Austria, Prussia, and Hanover, especially on the question of Jewish rights. At the general session of the Congress in May 1815, the opposition to Jewish civic equality grew, despite favorable proposals by Austria and Prussia. On June 10, paragraph 16 of the constitution of the German Federation was resolved:

The Assembly of the Federation will deliberate how to achieve the civic improvement of the members of the Jewish religion in Germany in as generally agreed a form as possible, in particular as to how to grant and insure for them the possibility of enjoying civic rights in return for the acceptance of all civic duties in the states of the Federation; until then, the members of this religion will have safeguarded for them the rights which have already been granted to them by the single states of the Federation.

This formulation postponed Jewish equality to the far distant future, while by changing one word in the final draft to "by," instead of "in the states," a formulation arrived at only at the meeting on June 8, a loophole had been left by which the states could disown rights granted by any but the lawful government, namely, those bestowed by the French or their temporary rulers. The Congress, therefore, did nothing to better the status of the Jews but, in effect, only worsened their position in many places.

The Jewish question arose again at the Conference of Aix-la-Chapelle (1818), when the powers met to determine the withdrawal of troops from France and consider France's indemnity to the allies. Various Jewish communities turned to the conference for relief, and Lewis *Way, an English clergyman, presented a petition for emancipation to Alexander I of Russia. Despite a sympathetic reception, however, there were no practical results.


M.J. Kohler, in: AJHSP, 26 (1918), 33–125; L. Wolf, Notes on the Diplomatic History of the Jewish Question (1919), 12–15; S.W. Baron, Die Judenfrage auf dem Wiener Kongress (1920); M. Grunwald, Vienna (1936), 190–204.

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