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Emancipation, 19th century

Geographical isolation in the Judengasse, legal, social and cultural discrimination, restrictions on the occupations available, but also special privileges: this was the situation of the Frankfurt Jews up to the end of the 18th century. In 1796 the northern part of the Judengasse was destroyed during the bombardment of Frankfurt by French troops. This started the long process of emancipation, which continued until 1864 when Frankfurt's Jews finally achieved a fully equal status in every respect with the other Frankfurt citizens.
This struggle for emancipation ran for decades, with advances alternating with backsliding. When Napoleon conquered the German states, one of the benefits of the French Revolution which he brought was a temporary improvement in the status of the Jews in the occupied territory. In 1811 for example under Napoleon's regent Dalberg the Frankfurt Jews temporarily got full citizenship. Ludwig Börne for instance was able to enter public service. However, following Napoleon's withdrawal from Germany, former conditions were reimposed in some areas, including Frankfurt where Dalberg was overthrown. The reinstated city council introduced new legislation in 1824 on the status of the Jews, which took away the Jews' newlywon equality. Although the Jews no longer had to live in the sealed ghetto and their commercial activities were less restricted than before. However, their political rights were taken away again.
Full emancipation was temporarily restored in 1848/49 when the German National Assembly announced the
"Fundamental Rights of the German People" in Frankfurt's Pauluskirche. These were withdrawn again in the subsequent monarchist revival, and the Jews were once again subjected to legal and political discrimination.
In the following years a series of legislative changes ending in 1864 gradually led to full legal emancipation for Frankfurt's Jews, whose subsequent outstanding role in the city's economic and cultural development up until the Nazi era is virtually without equal in Germany.




© Jüd. Museum Frankfurt 1992-2002 /  Sources