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Trader

The visitation lists for 1694 and 1703 show Frankfurt Jews as trading in very many of the standard commodities.
They did this despite the fact that the Christians had tried from the Middle Ages to force the Jews out of trade and restrict them to moneychanging and moneylending.
The Christians had tried to repeat their success with the craft trades, where the Jews never managed to gain a foothold, using restrictions in the residence code to prevent Jewish competition in regular trade.
However, from the end of the 16th century the Jews found an increasing number of opportunities to engage in trade.

Jewish trading activities developed in part from pawnbroking.
In addition the great Frankfurt Fairs offered opportunities to engage in trade on a large scale.
During the Fairs all the restrictions on trading that normally applied to people who were not Frankfurt citizens (including Jews) were suspended.

Despite all obstacles, trading by Jews developed rapidly from the close of the 17th century.
While most Jewish traders never rose beyond the status of small shopkeeper or peddler, several Jews, for example the Oppenheim family, set up substantial trading firms.
At times Frankfurt Jews controlled certain lines of trade, often the most profitable ones such as trade in precious stones and metals and the horse trade.




© Jüd. Museum Frankfurt 1992-2002 /  Sources