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Fettmilch uprising

After the election of Matthias as emperor in May 1612 the tensions which had been simmering for years in Frankfurt between the patricians and the guilds erupted in open rebellion. The citizenry demanded that the city council publish their privileges, set up a public corn market to determine grain prices, and limit the number of Jews living in the city. In addition they demanded that the interest Jews were permitted to charge in their moneylending should be cut by half retroactively.
The ringleader of the rebellion was Vincenz Fettmilch, a grocer and gingerbread baker who settled in Frankfurt in 1602. His social position in the city was controversial before he became the leader of the rebellion. He was also supported by a number of merchants from the Netherlands and particularly by the Frankfurt lawyers Weitz and Brenner, who hoped that the expulsion of the Jews would free of them of their debts to Jewish moneylenders.
For two years the struggle swung back and forth between city council and guilds, accompanied by increasingly violent attacks on the Jews. At times the city opposition took power in the council, but a new constitution involving broad sectors of the citizenry was again rejected by the guilds at the start of 1614. The emperor as the ultimate civil protector of the Jews at first remained neutral but then increasingly supported the old patrician council.
On 22 August 1614 elements of the citizenry stormed the Judengasse, crying "Loot the Judengasse!" The Jewish men defended the Judengasse for several hours, building barricades of barrels, benches and stones behind the three gates, while the women and children fled to the cemetery. After a battle lasting several hours the attakkers overpowered the Jews and forced their way into the Judengasse. While the Jews fled to the cemetery the attakkers plundered the houses, destroying or removing possessions and burning books.
When the riot threatened to spread to the rest of the city, the looting was stopped after 13 hours by armed citizens. The members of the Jewish community, numbering 1,380, were driven together in the Jewish cemetery and forced to leave the city next day. With the rest of their possessions they moved to surrounding areas such as Hanau, Offenbach or Hoechst.
The storming of the Judengasse led to decisive intervention by the emperor and princes acting for him. In September 1614 Fettmilch was outlawed, the rebellion collapsed, and in spring 1616 he was publicly executed with other rebels after a long trial.
While several Jewish families were allowed to return to the Judengasse in August 1615 and start rebuilding, the rest of the community was only able to return in February 1616 as a result of direct intervention by the emperor. A new residence code was issued, which formed the subsequent basis for residence by Jews in the city. After long negotiations the Jews were forced to abandon any compensation for their plundered belongings.
Rabbi Juspa Hahn, a contemporary witness, has left an exact description of these events in his work "Josif Ometz".
To commemorate their salvation from destruction Frankfurt's Jews celebrate a special feast, the "Purim Vinz".














© Jüd. Museum Frankfurt 1992-2002 /  Sources