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Frankfurt Jews

From the Middle Ages to the present day Frankfurt has had one of the largest and most important Jewish communities in Germany. At times the Jewish community represented up to ten per cent of the city's population.
Jews have lived in Frankfurt since the 12th century, initially in houses directly around the cathedral. Twice, in 1241 and 1349, almost all the Frankfurt Jews were murdered in pogroms. Nevertheless, Jews continued to come to the city. In 1462 the city council ordered the Jews into a ghetto, the socalled Judengasse (Jews' Alley). The Jews stayed here for over 300 centuries until 1796 and some families stayed even longer. The Judengasse housed up to 3,000 people in very crowded conditions. They formed the Jewish community, with an extensive right to govern their own internal affairs. Their external relationships (that is, their relations with the Christian citizens and the city council) were governed by the residence code.
Commercially, the Frankfurt Jews had an important and often influential role, particularly in money and moneylending but also in various aspects of trade in commodities. There were often conflicts of interest with Christians, who tried to restrict the commercial success of the Jews through laws, regulations, decrees and ultimately also in the residence codes. Conflicts of interest of this kind also erupted in violent attacks against the Jews, such as the Fettmilch uprising in 1614.
The first half of the 19th century saw the emancipation of the Jews. The Jews had long held an outstanding position in commerce for example the Rothschilds and after their final emancipation in 1864 they quickly came to play an important part in politics, science, culture and charitable foundations. Many important institutions for example, Frankfurt's university, founded in 1912 would never have existed. The Nazis put an end to this movement: where before 1933 there were just under 30,000 Jewish citizens in Frankfurt (6.3% of the city's population, and the highest percentage of any German city), there are only around 5,000 today in a total population of 640,000. (However, as there are only around 30,000 Jews in the whole of Germany after the Nazi genocide, Frankfurt's Jewish community still has the highest share in the city's population.)


© Jüd. Museum Frankfurt 1992-2002 /  Sources