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 Infobank Judengassse Frankfurt am Main
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Goldschmidt, Josef

Josef Goldschmidt, known as "Joseph the humble Jew at the house Goldener Schwan, was the most important Jewish businessman in the 16th century. He enjoyed the full confidence of the Frankfurt city council, which stood guarantor for him, and he was one of the very small number of Jews involved in the business of the great German financial houses such as the Fuggers in Augsburg and the Imhofs in Nuremberg. He first worked as Imhof's broker at the Frankfurt Fair. He soon became engaged in arranging loans and investing money for many church and secular princes.
The collapse of the south German business houses and the unreliability of his princely creditors led to his downfall.
As early as 1564, the emperor Maximilian ordered the city council to imprison Josef for a limited period as a punishment for a year's delay in paying the city council the imperial taxes entrusted to him. When he was no longer able to fulfill his commitments, he was arrested at the instigation of the Elector of the Palatinate and charged with the forgery of promissory notes and embezzlement. He was thereafter nicknamed the "Siegeldieb" ("court forger"). Despite many trials and retrials, some involving the use of torture, he maintained his innocence and accused his Christian clerk of the forgery. In June 1568 his business premises and cellar, which were apparently located outside the Judengasse, were searched and locked. Because the Frankfurt city council also claimed repayments from Josef, he was kept in strict imprisonment. His health continued to deteriorate and he died on 20 June 1572 in the hospital.

© Jüd. Museum Frankfurt 1992-2002 /  Sources