Frankfurter Judengasse
The Frankfurter Judengasse (from German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

: “Jews' Alley”) was the Jewish ghetto
A ghetto is a section of a city predominantly occupied by a group who live there, especially because of social, economic, or legal issues.The term was originally used in Venice to describe the area where Jews were compelled to live. The term now refers to an overcrowded urban area often associated...

 of Frankfurt
Frankfurt am Main , commonly known simply as Frankfurt, is the largest city in the German state of Hesse and the fifth-largest city in Germany, with a 2010 population of 688,249. The urban area had an estimated population of 2,300,000 in 2010...

 and one of the earliest ghettos in Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

. It existed from 1462 until 1796 and was home to Germany's largest Jewish community in early modern times
Early modern Europe
Early modern Europe is the term used by historians to refer to a period in the history of Europe which spanned the centuries between the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, roughly the late 15th century to the late 18th century...


At the end of the 19th century, most of the buildings in the Judengasse were demolished. The area suffered major destruction during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 and reconstruction left no visible signs of the ghetto in today's townscape of Frankfurt.

Post-war usage of the area included a car park, a petrol station and a wholesale flower market. The decision to build an administrative complex triggered a public discussion as to what should be done with the archaeological remains uncovered during the excavation in 1977. The foundations of 19 buildings were found and five of these can be seen at the "Museum Judengasse" which was incorporated into the new building.


The ghetto was located outside the city walls east of the medieval city wall (Staufenmauer
thumb|Part of Staufenmauer at FahrgasseThe Staufenmauer was an old city wall of Frankfurt am Main, Germany.It was built in 1180 under the Hohenstaufen rule to protect the city from attack and surround the present Altstadt...

) and formed a slight curve from today's Konstablerwache
Konstablerwache is a central square in the centre of Frankfurt am Main and part of its pedestrian zone. It lies to the east of Hauptwache with both squares linked by the Zeil, the central shopping area of the city.-History:...

 to Börneplatz, near the river Main. The street was about 330 meters long, three to four meters wide, and had three town gates. The gates were locked at night as well as on Sundays and Christian holidays. Due to the narrow street and the limited access, the Judengasse was destroyed three times by fire in the 18th century alone, in 1711, 1721 and 1796.

Initially, some 15 families with about 110 members lived in Frankfurt's Judengasse when they were forcibly removed from the city and relocated to the ghetto by decree
A decree is a rule of law issued by a head of state , according to certain procedures . It has the force of law...

 of Frederick III
Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick the Peaceful KG was Duke of Austria as Frederick V from 1424, the successor of Albert II as German King as Frederick IV from 1440, and Holy Roman Emperor as Frederick III from 1452...

 in 1462. By the 16th century, the number of inhabitants rose to over 3,000, living in 195 houses. The ghetto had one of the highest population densities in Europe. Contemporary documents described it as narrow, oppressive and dirty.

History before the Creation of the Ghetto

It is likely that Jews were amongst the earliest inhabitants of Frankfurt. On January 18, 1074 Henry IV
Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor
Henry IV was King of the Romans from 1056 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1084 until his forced abdication in 1105. He was the third emperor of the Salian dynasty and one of the most powerful and important figures of the 11th century...

 granted the citizens and Jews of Worms
Worms, Germany
Worms is a city in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, on the Rhine River. At the end of 2004, it had 85,829 inhabitants.Established by the Celts, who called it Borbetomagus, Worms today remains embattled with the cities Trier and Cologne over the title of "Oldest City in Germany." Worms is the only...

, the ShUM-cities and other locations, including Frankfurt, certain privileges relating to reductions in fees and import duties. Eighty years later the Mainz
Mainz under the Holy Roman Empire, and previously was a Roman fort city which commanded the west bank of the Rhine and formed part of the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire...

 based Rabbi
In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי , meaning "My Master" , which is the way a student would address a master of Torah...

 Elieser ben Nathan (who died between 1145 and 1152) mentioned the Jewish community in Frankfurt in his book Eben ha Eser. Most likely the community was still very small at this point.

Until the Late Middle Ages, the Frankfurt Jews lived in the present-day old city
Altstadt (Frankfurt am Main)
Altstadt or old city is a district or Stadtteil of Frankfurt am Main, Germany, located on the northern Main bank. It is part of the Ortsbezirk Innenstadt I. It is surrounded by the Stadtteil of Innenstadt...

, between the Saint Bartholomew's Cathedral
Frankfurt Cathedral
Saint Bartholomeus's Cathedral is a Gothic building located in Frankfurt, Germany.Frankfurt Cathedral is the main church of Frankfurt and was constructed in the 14th and 15th centuries on the foundation of an earlier church from the Merovingian time...

, Fahrgasse and the Main River. This prosperous section of the city was also the center of political life in Frankfurt. The town hall, the mint
Mint (coin)
A mint is an industrial facility which manufactures coins for currency.The history of mints correlates closely with the history of coins. One difference is that the history of the mint is usually closely tied to the political situation of an era...

 and a mansion of the Archbishop
An archbishop is a bishop of higher rank, but not of higher sacramental order above that of the three orders of deacon, priest , and bishop...

 of Mainz
Mainz under the Holy Roman Empire, and previously was a Roman fort city which commanded the west bank of the Rhine and formed part of the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire...

 were located in this area. During this time the Frankfurt Jews were allowed to travel throughout the city, which was an unusual freedom in the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

. Additionally, many non-Jews lived in the Jewish section of town.

The First Judenschlacht of 1241

In May 1241 a pogrom
A pogrom is a form of violent riot, a mob attack directed against a minority group, and characterized by killings and destruction of their homes and properties, businesses, and religious centres...

, known as the Judenschlacht (from the German; Battle of the Jews) took place in Frankfurt, brought on by conflicts over Jewish-Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 marriages and the enforced baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

 of children of such marriages. The Erfurt
Erfurt is the capital city of Thuringia and the main city nearest to the geographical centre of Germany, located 100 km SW of Leipzig, 150 km N of Nuremberg and 180 km SE of Hannover. Erfurt Airport can be reached by plane via Munich. It lies in the southern part of the Thuringian...

 Dominican Friars
Dominican Order
The Order of Preachers , after the 15th century more commonly known as the Dominican Order or Dominicans, is a Catholic religious order founded by Saint Dominic and approved by Pope Honorius III on 22 December 1216 in France...

 recorded that a few Christians and 180 Jews died during the pogrom. It also records that 24 Jews avoided death by accepting baptism, while under the protection of the city fathers. During the attacks, the synagogue was plundered and the Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 scrolls were destroyed. All of this occurred despite the fact that the Jews had been protected by the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II
Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick II , was one of the most powerful Holy Roman Emperors of the Middle Ages and head of the House of Hohenstaufen. His political and cultural ambitions, based in Sicily and stretching through Italy to Germany, and even to Jerusalem, were enormous...

 since 1236, and had a royal appointee running much of the city government.

It seems possible that the Judenschlacht was organized rather than spontaneous. One reason presented is that the fighting lasted more than a day. Secondly, a fortified tower where 70 Jews had taken refuge was captured. Finally, a Jewish dirge
A dirge is a somber song expressing mourning or grief, such as would be appropriate for performance at a funeral. A lament. The English word "dirge" is derived from the Latin Dirige, Domine, Deus meus, in conspectu tuo viam meam , the first words of the first antiphon in the Matins of the Office...

 records that archers
Archery is the art, practice, or skill of propelling arrows with the use of a bow, from Latin arcus. Archery has historically been used for hunting and combat; in modern times, however, its main use is that of a recreational activity...

 attacked a rabbi and his pupils in their school. All three events imply a measure of planning and the presence of soldiers or a strong militia.

Exactly who may have been responsible for the Judenschlacht is unclear thanks to the scarcity of sources. The theory that it was led by the Dominican Friars, who had a papal
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 order to fight heresy
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

, is questionable. Another theory is that the pogrom was actually an attack against the Staufer royal family, led by Frederick II.

Frederick II ordered an investigation into the Judenschlacht that lasted some years. In 1246 Conrad IV
Conrad IV of Germany
Conrad IV was king of Jerusalem , of Germany , and of Sicily .-Biography:...

, on behalf of his father Frederick II, issued a document pardoning the citizens of Frankfurt. It declared a pardon without payment on damages because the pogrom occurred, "from carelessness rather than deliberation." The general pardon is an example of the weak political power of the Staufer dynasty in Frankfurt.

The Second Judenschlacht of 1349

By the 14th Century, Frankfurt was granted the status of a Free Imperial City
Free Imperial City
In the Holy Roman Empire, a free imperial city was a city formally ruled by the emperor only — as opposed to the majority of cities in the Empire, which were governed by one of the many princes of the Empire, such as dukes or prince-bishops...

 by the Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian
Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor
Louis IV , called the Bavarian, of the house of Wittelsbach, was the King of Germany from 1314, the King of Italy from 1327 and the Holy Roman Emperor from 1328....

 and Charles IV
Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles IV , born Wenceslaus , was the second king of Bohemia from the House of Luxembourg, and the first king of Bohemia to also become Holy Roman Emperor....

. As a Free Imperial City, Frankfurt was only responsible to the Holy Roman Emperor and not to local princes. The city operated as a virtual City-state
A city-state is an independent or autonomous entity whose territory consists of a city which is not administered as a part of another local government.-Historical city-states:...

 with limited control from the Emperor. This new wealth and freedom led to the total domination of city government by a few wealthy patricians.

In the mid-14th century, renewed violence was directed against the Frankfurt Jews. Ludwig the Bavarian (Luis IV) arrested some members of the Jewish community for alleged crimes. Reacting to the arrests many local Jews fled the city. The Frankfurt Jews had paid a special tax to the Emperor for his protection and support. When a large number fled the city, he lost a source of income. To make up for this loss, he confiscated houses of those who had fled and sold them to the city of Frankfurt. Those who returned to the city were allowed by the Emperor to negotiate with the city of Frankfurt to repurchase their belongings.

In June 1349 the Emperor Charles IV transferred the special Jewish Tax to the city of Frankfurt for 15,200 pounds. The responsibility for protecting the Jewish population thereby shifted from the Imperial Representative to the town council of Frankfurt. Technically, the Frankfurt Jews were no longer subjects of the Emperor but of the city council. Nevertheless, the Emperors maintained an interest in the Jewish population until the end of the Empire.

The Frankfurt Jews were promised, by the Emperor and his descendants, the right to administer their own homes, cemeteries, synagogue
A synagogue is a Jewish house of prayer. This use of the Greek term synagogue originates in the Septuagint where it sometimes translates the Hebrew word for assembly, kahal...

s and all the easements. In view of the growing number of pogroms — Jews were held responsible for the Black Plague
Bubonic plague
Plague is a deadly infectious disease that is caused by the enterobacteria Yersinia pestis, named after the French-Swiss bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin. Primarily carried by rodents and spread to humans via fleas, the disease is notorious throughout history, due to the unrivaled scale of death...

 in 1348 — the Emperor included a statement in the promise that turned out to be fatal. The Emperor stated that Frankfurt would not be held responsible if the Jews were killed as a result of sickness or riots. It also stated that the belongings of the deceased would revert to the city.

Two weeks after the Emperor left the city, on July 24, 1349 all the Jews of Frankfurt were beaten to death or burnt as their houses were set aflame. The exact number of victims is unknown, but is estimated to have been 60. In older historical sources fanatic flagellant
Flagellants are practitioners of an extreme form of mortification of their own flesh by whipping it with various instruments.- History :Flagellantism was a 13th and 14th centuries movement, consisting of radicals in the Catholic Church. It began as a militant pilgrimage and was later condemned by...

s are believed to be responsible for initiating the murders as a response to the plague.

However, modern research questions this. Charles IV appears to have given the city of Frankfurt tacit approval for the pogrom, as mentioned above. Additionally, the plague didn't reach Frankfurt until autumn 1349. It appears that some local leaders saw the loss of imperial protection as an opportunity to clear their debts and acquire new property. The church yard of St. Bartholomews' Cathedral, for instance, was expanded into what had been Jewish property.

The Reestablishment of the Jewish Community

In 1360 the Emperor again granted the right for a Jewish settlement in Frankfurt. The Emperor claimed the right to taxes raised from the newly resettled population. The right to half the taxes was then sold to the Archbishop of Mainz, who then sold the rights to Frankfurt. An Imperial representative was sent to Frankfurt to collect the taxes and safeguard the rights of the Jews. In 1372 the city purchased the office from the Emperor for 6,000 Marks. This put the control of Jewish taxes back to the city.

By the end of 14th Century, the Jewish community had grown large enough to establish a new synagogue, where the Jews participated in services, conducted business, swore judicial oaths, and heard proclamations from the emperor or the town council. Following the service the rabbi would collect owed taxes and dispense punishments for minor offenses. Recent archeological excavations have revealed a 5.6 square meter (60 sq ft.) area under the synagogue. This area was deep enough to reach the underground water level and most likely served as a Mikvah
Mikveh is a bath used for the purpose of ritual immersion in Judaism...

, or ritual bath.

The largest area of Jewish owned property in the city was the cemetery. The cemetery had been used since about 1270 and is first mentioned in a purchase document from 1300. Until 1333 when Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian expanded the city, the cemetery lay outside the city walls. It bordered on some gardens of Saint Bartholomew's Cathedral and was walled very early in its history. In 1349, during a Succession Crisis for the Holy Roman Emperor, the city of Frankfurt declared for Günther von Schwarzburg against Charles IV. When they expected an attack from Charles, the Jewish Cemetery was fortified with eleven oriel window
Oriel window
Oriel windows are a form of bay window commonly found in Gothic architecture, which project from the main wall of the building but do not reach to the ground. Corbels or brackets are often used to support this kind of window. They are seen in combination with the Tudor arch. This type of window was...

s. Later, in 1388 during a war between Swabia
Swabia is a cultural, historic and linguistic region in southwestern Germany.-Geography:Like many cultural regions of Europe, Swabia's borders are not clearly defined...

 and the Salzburg
-Population development:In 1935, the population significantly increased when Salzburg absorbed adjacent municipalities. After World War II, numerous refugees found a new home in the city. New residential space was created for American soldiers of the postwar Occupation, and could be used for...

An archbishop is a bishop of higher rank, but not of higher sacramental order above that of the three orders of deacon, priest , and bishop...

, the cemetery was again fortified.

The Jewish Code of Residence (German: Judenstättigkeit)

The term "Judenstättigkeit" refers to the set of special regulations which defined the rights and restrictions applicable to a Jewish resident from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.
Before the slaughter of the Jewish community in 1349, Frankfurt's Jews were listed in its Burgerlisten (German, lit. "Citizens List", a list of people who lived in the city and were granted any rights and privileges due to that city). However, the second community, rebuilt in 1360, had a different and lower status. Each individual had to individually negotiate an agreement with the town council which included how long they would stay in the city, the amount of tribute they would pay and the regulations they must follow. In 1366 Emperor Charles IV instructed his representative Siegfried to prevent Jews from becoming guild
A guild is an association of craftsmen in a particular trade. The earliest types of guild were formed as confraternities of workers. They were organized in a manner something between a trade union, a cartel, and a secret society...

 masters, from setting their own laws or holding their own courts. In 1424 the town council collected all the individual regulations into "der Juden stedikeit" (the Jewish regulations). The regulations were read each year in the synagogue.

Crisis and Growth of the Community in the 15th Century

In the 14th century Frankfurt lacked a powerful mercantile upper class. Despite the fair
A fair or fayre is a gathering of people to display or trade produce or other goods, to parade or display animals and often to enjoy associated carnival or funfair entertainment. It is normally of the essence of a fair that it is temporary; some last only an afternoon while others may ten weeks. ...

, which already existed, trade was less established in Frankfurt than in other German cities. Therefore, many Frankfurt Jews worked as bankers and provided loans to craftsmen, farmers, and nobles from the area surrounding Frankfurt. As a side business, they often bought and sold pawned goods. This led to a small trade in horses, wine, and grain as well as cloth, dresses, and jewelry. Because of the limited market, these enterprises remained small. Based on the amount of tax paid by the Frankfurt Jews, the wealth of the community was inferior to that of the Jewish communities in Nuremberg
Nuremberg[p] is a city in the German state of Bavaria, in the administrative region of Middle Franconia. Situated on the Pegnitz river and the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, it is located about north of Munich and is Franconia's largest city. The population is 505,664...

, Erfurt
Erfurt is the capital city of Thuringia and the main city nearest to the geographical centre of Germany, located 100 km SW of Leipzig, 150 km N of Nuremberg and 180 km SE of Hannover. Erfurt Airport can be reached by plane via Munich. It lies in the southern part of the Thuringian...

, Mainz
Mainz under the Holy Roman Empire, and previously was a Roman fort city which commanded the west bank of the Rhine and formed part of the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire...

 or Regensburg
Regensburg is a city in Bavaria, Germany, located at the confluence of the Danube and Regen rivers, at the northernmost bend in the Danube. To the east lies the Bavarian Forest. Regensburg is the capital of the Bavarian administrative region Upper Palatinate...


At the end of the 14th century, the Frankfurt Jews were subject to increased restrictions. Legislation of 1386 forbade the employment of Christians and restricted the number of Jewish servants in a household. A general "Jewish Debt Amnesty" issued by Emperor Wenceslaus
Wenceslaus, King of the Romans
Wenceslaus ) was, by election, German King from 1376 and, by inheritance, King of Bohemia from 1378. He was the third Bohemian and second German monarch of the Luxembourg dynasty...

 essentially disowned the Jewish money lenders to the benefit of their Christian debtors. At the same time, the town council used a rigid new tax law to restrict the growth of the community. Between 1412 and 1416 the number of Jewish households dropped from about 27 to about 4. In 1422 the town council rejected the imperial Heretics Tax, claiming that only they had the right to tax the Frankfurt Jews. This action, which the Jewish population had little influence over, caused the entire population to be placed under an Imperial Edict and forced them to flee Frankfurt to avoid punishment. Only in 1424 were they allowed to return after the Emperor acknowledged that the Frankfurt Council was correct in rejecting the Heretics Tax.

The Jewish population reached its lowest point in 1416 and then grew continuously. In the second half of the 15th century, Frankfurt's Jews provided an increasingly substantial tax revenue. Following the expulsion of the Jews from Trier
Trier, historically called in English Treves is a city in Germany on the banks of the Moselle. It is the oldest city in Germany, founded in or before 16 BC....

 (1418), Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

 (1420), Cologne
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city , and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.Cologne is located on both sides of the...

 (1424), Augsburg
Augsburg is a city in the south-west of Bavaria, Germany. It is a university town and home of the Regierungsbezirk Schwaben and the Bezirk Schwaben. Augsburg is an urban district and home to the institutions of the Landkreis Augsburg. It is, as of 2008, the third-largest city in Bavaria with a...

 (1438), Breslau (1453), Magdeburg
Magdeburg , is the largest city and the capital city of the Bundesland of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. Magdeburg is situated on the Elbe River and was one of the most important medieval cities of Europe....

 (1493), Nuremberg
Nuremberg[p] is a city in the German state of Bavaria, in the administrative region of Middle Franconia. Situated on the Pegnitz river and the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, it is located about north of Munich and is Franconia's largest city. The population is 505,664...

 (1499), and Regensburg
Regensburg is a city in Bavaria, Germany, located at the confluence of the Danube and Regen rivers, at the northernmost bend in the Danube. To the east lies the Bavarian Forest. Regensburg is the capital of the Bavarian administrative region Upper Palatinate...

 (1519), Frankfurt gained importance as a financial center. One reason for this was that the city council allowed only the most prosperous Jews to settle in the city.

During the 15th century, the guilds, facing competition from the Jewish traders, were able to increase restrictions on the Jews. Nevertheless, when Emperor Maximilian
Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor
Maximilian I , the son of Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor and Eleanor of Portugal, was King of the Romans from 1486 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1493 until his death, though he was never in fact crowned by the Pope, the journey to Rome always being too risky...

 assessed a tax on the Jewish communities to pay for his Italian
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 Campaign in 1497, Frankfurt's contribution was second only to that of the city of Worms
Worms, Germany
Worms is a city in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, on the Rhine River. At the end of 2004, it had 85,829 inhabitants.Established by the Celts, who called it Borbetomagus, Worms today remains embattled with the cities Trier and Cologne over the title of "Oldest City in Germany." Worms is the only...


The Frankfurt Ghetto

Leading up to the Ghetto

By 1431 the town council considered options for dealing with the Jews. Since the town was often in conflict with either the emperor or the Archbishop of Mainz over the Jewish population, this had become a pressing issue. The council debated the creation of a ghetto in both 1432 and 1438 without reaching a conclusion. In 1442 the Emperor Frederick III
Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick the Peaceful KG was Duke of Austria as Frederick V from 1424, the successor of Albert II as German King as Frederick IV from 1440, and Holy Roman Emperor as Frederick III from 1452...

 ordered the resettlement of all Jews living near the cathedral, as the singing in the synagogue was disturbing the Christian services in the cathedral. Then, in 1446 a murder occurred on a Jew known as zum Buchsbaum. The town council secretary recorded this in his book with three crosses, the notation Te Deum laudamus (Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 God be praised) and Crist ist entstanden (German Christ is risen). In 1452 Cardinal Nicholas of Kues visited the city to encourage the town council to enforce the Church Dress Order. That demanded, that female Jews wear a blue veil and all males wear yellow rings on their sleeves. However, adherence to these regulations was only enforced for a short time.

Construction of the Ghetto

After another order from the Emperor Frederick III, in 1458, the council finally began building houses outside the city wall and moat. In 1462 the Jews were forced to relocate into these houses. This was the beginning of the isolated and closed off ghetto. In 1464 the city established eleven houses, one dance hall, two pubs, and a community center at its own expense. The cold bath and synagogue were built by the Jewish community.

This first ghetto synagogue, known as the Altschul (German for Old School), was built on the east side of the Judengasse. As any synagogue, this was used for more than just religious services. It was also the social center of the community where members could carry out many everyday activities. This close connection between religious and everyday life was common in ghetto life. The creation of the ghetto and the corresponding isolation created a sense of self-sufficiency in the Jewish community. Within the synagogue Jewish leaders were selected, regulations from the Rabbis were issued, bankruptcies were declared and corporal punishments were carried out. The seats in the synagogue could be rented by members of the community and were auctioned off if fees were owed.

In 1465 the city council decided that the cost of further construction on the Judengasse would be left to the Jewish community. It was now possible, in 1471, to pave the road, build a second well and a warm bath. The city council maintained the rights to the land and to any houses erected, regardless of who had built them. For any developed plot within the ghetto, the city received a rent from the owner.

Within the next century, the ghetto's population grew until the original houses were no longer sufficient. The Jews were then allowed to expand the ghetto into the city moat. Following the expansion from 1552 and 1579 the Judengasse would remain virtually unchanged until the 19th Century.

During the economic growth at the end of the 14th Century the Jewish population increased from 260 in 1543 to about 2700 in 1613. As the Judengasse could not be enlarged, new houses were created by dividing existing houses. Also, on both sides of the lane backrows of dwellings were built, so that there were 4 rows of houses in the ghetto. Finally, additional stories were added to the dwellings and the upper stories were built forward over the lane until they nearly touched each other. On lower houses, large, often multi-story mansard roof
Mansard roof
A mansard or mansard roof is a four-sided gambrel-style hip roof characterized by two slopes on each of its sides with the lower slope at a steeper angle than the upper that is punctured by dormer windows. The roof creates an additional floor of habitable space, such as a garret...

s were added to increase the available room.

Life in the Ghetto

The Ghetto remained a very crowded section of town due to both rapid population growth and the refusal of Frankfurt's municipal authorities to allow the Ghetto's area to expand.

Virtually every facet of life was regulated by the council's regulations pertaining to the Jewish community. For example, Jews were not allowed to leave the ghetto during nights, Sundays, Christian holidays or during the election and coronation of the Holy Roman Emperor. In addition to isolating the Jews, these regulations included a number of arbitrary, restrictive and discriminatory rules. The laws regulated the right to live in the city, the collection of deliveries and the acceptable professions. Every Jew was required to wear a circular yellow mark on his or her clothes to identify as a Jew. Furthermore, the influx of Jews into Frankfurt was strictly limited.

Altogether only 500 Jewish families were allowed to live on the Judengasse after a new set of regulations were issued in 1616. The Laws of 1616 also stated that only 12 weddings would be permitted per year in the Ghetto. Even wealthy and influential inhabitants such as the banker Mayer Amschel Rothschild
Mayer Amschel Rothschild
Mayer Amschel Rothschild was the founder of the Rothschild family international banking dynasty that became the most successful business family in history. In 2005, he was ranked 7th on the Forbes magazine list of "The Twenty Most Influential Businessmen Of All Time"...

 were not excluded from these Laws.

The Rabbinical Conference of 1603

The Jewish community of Frankfurt was one of the most important in Germany in the 16th century. A Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

ic Academy had been established where the Halakhic
Halakha — also transliterated Halocho , or Halacha — is the collective body of Jewish law, including biblical law and later talmudic and rabbinic law, as well as customs and traditions.Judaism classically draws no distinction in its laws between religious and ostensibly non-religious life; Jewish...

 Rabbis taught. Additionally, Kabbalah
Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...

ic works were printed in the Ghetto. Whenever the Jewish communities of Germany collected money for the poor Jews in Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

, the money was sent to Frankfurt for transferral.

The central role of Frankfurt's Jews in Jewish spiritual life is best illustrated in the Rabbinical Conference held in Frankfurt in 1603. Many of the most important Jewish communities in Germany (including Mainz
Mainz under the Holy Roman Empire, and previously was a Roman fort city which commanded the west bank of the Rhine and formed part of the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire...

, Fulda
Fulda is a city in Hesse, Germany; it is located on the river Fulda and is the administrative seat of the Fulda district .- Early Middle Ages :...

, Cologne
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city , and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.Cologne is located on both sides of the...

 and Koblenz
Koblenz is a German city situated on both banks of the Rhine at its confluence with the Moselle, where the Deutsches Eck and its monument are situated.As Koblenz was one of the military posts established by Drusus about 8 BC, the...

) sent representatives to Frankfurt for this conference. The conference dealt primarily with topics that the Jews had jurisdiction over, and for which five Courts of Justice existed. Some of these topics were the fraud in trade and coinage, responsibilities to local authorities, religious questions and ritual regulations. However, the resolutions of the conference were declared treason in Germany. Emperor Rudolf II
Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor
Rudolf II was Holy Roman Emperor , King of Hungary and Croatia , King of Bohemia and Archduke of Austria...

 found that the resolutions of the Conference surpassed the privileges that he had granted. As a result, the Emperor's protection was withdrawn for some 25 years. Rebellions and pogroms resulted in several cities with a significant Jewish population. In 1631 a large fine was paid by the communities to the Archbishop of Cologne to settle the dispute.

The Fettmilch Rising

Tensions between the Patricians and the guilds led to the 1612 Fettmilch Rising, named after its ringleader Vincenz Fettmilch
Vincenz Fettmilch
Vincenz Fettmilch was a grocer and gingerbread baker who led the Fettmilch uprising of the guilds in 1612-1616 to get rid of foreigners in the city, whom they viewed as competition and usurers.Fettmilch settled in Frankfurt in 1602...

. During the riot, the Judengasse was attacked and looted and the Jews were expelled from the city.

The tension was caused by the demand of the guilds for greater participation in urban and fiscal policies. The guilds wanted a reduction in grain prices as well as some anti-Jewish regulations, such as a limitation in the number of Jews and a 50% reduction in the interest rate that Jewish moneylenders could charge. Beside the guilds, merchants and independent craftsmen supported Fettmilch in the hope of annulling their debts by restricting the number of moneylenders.

In late 1613, the Town Council reached an agreement with Fettmilch and his supporters. This granted the guilds increased power and rights. However, the population of Frankfurt then learned that the city had extensive debts and that the Town Council had misappropriated the Jewish Tax collected, Fettmilch declared the Council deposed and seized the city gates. Now the Emperor, who had been neutral, entered the conflict. He demanded a reinstatement of the Town Council and threatened anyone who opposed him with an Imperial Interdiction
Interdict (Roman Catholic Church)
In Roman Catholic canon law, an interdict is an ecclesiastical censure that excludes from certain rites of the Church individuals or groups, who nonetheless do not cease to be members of the Church.-Distinctions in canon law:...

 which would strip the offender of all rights.

Once the rebellious craftsman learned of the Imperial Interdiction, they took to the streets in protest. The mob directed its anger against the weakest member of the dispute, the Jews. They stormed the gates of the Judengasse which were defended by local Jews. After several hours of fighting at the barricades, the mob entered the ghetto. All inhabitants of the Judengasse, about 1380 individuals, were driven into the Jewish Cemetery whilst their houses were plundered and partly destroyed. On the following day, the Jews were forced to leave the city. They found refuge in the surrounding communities, particularly Hanau
Hanau is a town in the Main-Kinzig-Kreis, in Hesse, Germany. It is located 25 km east of Frankfurt am Main. Its station is a major railway junction.- Geography :...

, Höchst
Höchst (Frankfurt am Main)
Höchst is a district of Frankfurt am Main, Germany. It is part of the Ortsbezirk West, and is subdivided into 4 Stadtbezirke.Höchst am Main became part of Frankfurt am Main in 1928 together with its boroughs Sindlingen, Unterliederbach and Zeilsheim. It is situated 10 km west of downtown...

 and Offenbach.

On the 28 September 1614 the Emperor issued a sentence against Fettmilch and his followers. On November 27 Fettmilch was arrested. He and 38 others were accused of disobedience and rebellion against the Emperor, but charges for their persecution of Jews. On February 28, 1616 Fettmilch and 6 others were executed on Frankfurt's Rossmarkt square. On the same day, 20 Adar
Adar is the sixth month of the civil year and the twelfth month of the ecclesiastical year on the Hebrew calendar. It is a winter month of 29 days...

 by the Hebrew Calendar, the Jews who had fled were led back into Frankfurt by Imperial soldiers. Above the gates to the Judengasse a stone Imperial Eagle was added with an inscription reading Protected by the Roman Imperial Majesty and the Holy Empire. The first act of the returning Jews was returning the desecrated synagogue and devastated cemetery to religious use. The anniversary of the return was celebrated as Purim Vinz, after Fettmilch's first name The Purim-Kaddisch includes a merry march which remembers the joyful return.

However, the Jews never received the promised compensation for their losses. The Fettmilch Rebellion was one of the last Pogroms in Germany, until the rise of the National Socialists. The rebellion is also remarkable, as for the first time most Christian commentators had supported the Jewish community in this dispute.

The Jewish Code of Residence of 1616

As a reaction to the Fettmilch Rebellion a new set of regulations were issued in 1616. However, these laws, originating with the Imperial Commissioners from Hessen and the Mainz
Mainz under the Holy Roman Empire, and previously was a Roman fort city which commanded the west bank of the Rhine and formed part of the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire...

 palatinate (Kurmainz), were based largely on anti-Semitic attitudes and did little to support the rights of the Jewish community.

The regulations determined that no more than 500 Jewish families live in Frankfurt. In the 60 years before the Pogrom, the Jewish population had increased tenfold from 43 to 453. The law now put an upper limit on the growth that was possible in the Jewish community. Jewish marriages were limited to 12 per year, whilst Christians only had to prove that their wealth allowed a marriage.

In business the Jews were broadly granted the same rights that Christian non-citizen residents had. These non-citizen rights, which had evolved during the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, excluded them from most types of business. All non-citizens were prevented from opening shops, operating retail business in the city, entering into business ventures with full citizens, or owning business property.

One significant difference was that Jews were explicitly allowed to engage in wholesale businesses, trading commodities such as grain, wine, cloth, silk
Silk is a natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The best-known type of silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori reared in captivity...

, and other textiles. The Emperor may have allowed the Jews the wholesale business to weaken the powerful Christian traders, which had usurped the power the guilds had lost in the Fettmilch Rebellion.

A positive result of the new laws was that the regulations were not to be renewed every three years and therefore constituted a permanent grant of residency. However, the Jews continued to be treated as an alien group, who had a lower status than citizens and non-citizen residents alike. They remained subjects of the Town Council and, unlike Christians, could not apply for citizenship. The Law of 1616 explicitly forbade the Jews from even calling themselves Citizen. Finally, Jews paid more than other residents in extra tariffs and additional taxes.

The Law of 1616 was revised several times, for example in 1660. Each revision improved the situation of the Jews. However, the Jewish Laws remained a medieval legal construct until the 19th Century.

The Great Ghetto Fire of 1711

On January 14, 1711 one of the largest fires that ever occurred in Frankfurt broke out in the Judengasse. The fire started at about 8 p.m. in the House Eichel (German: Acorn) owned by the senior Rabbi Naphtali Cohen
Naphtali Cohen
Naphtali Cohen , also known as Naphtali Katz, was a Russo-German rabbi and kabalist born in Ostrowo in the Ukraine. He belonged to a family of rabbis in Ostrowo, where his father, Isaac Cohen, a great-great-grandson of the Rabbi Judah Loew, had fled during the Cossack war.- Biography :In 1663 Cohen...

. The house was one of the largest in the ghetto, with a frontage of 9.5 meter (30 ft) and was located directly opposite to the synagogue. Strong winds and the density of the buildings spread the fire. Additionally, the timber framed construction of houses, the general lack of fire walls and the corbelled upper floors allowed the fire to race through the ghetto.

Out of fear of looting, the gates to the ghetto were locked. The neighboring Christians finally allowed the Jews to flee the burning ghetto when it appeared that the fire would spread if it could not be contained. Even with the additional firefighting help the residents were unable to save the Ghetto. Within 24 hours every house had burned to the ground. Fortunately, the wind shifted before the fire could spread further.

Four people lost their lives in the flames and many valued objects were destroyed, including books, manuscripts and Torah scrolls. After the disaster the inhabitants of the lane were allowed to rent houses in Christian Frankfurt until their homes were rebuilt. Those who couldn't afford the rent were forced to search for homes in Jewish communities in surrounding communities. Jews who had lived in the Ghetto without permission were expelled. The Jewish community of Frankfurt set the date of the fire (24 Tevet
Tebet is the fourth month of the civil year and the tenth month of the ecclesiastical year on the Hebrew calendar. It follows Kislev and precedes Shevat. It is a winter month of 29 days...

) as a memorial and fast
Fasting is primarily the act of willingly abstaining from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. An absolute fast is normally defined as abstinence from all food and liquid for a defined period, usually a single day , or several days. Other fasts may be only partially restrictive,...


The first concern of the Jewish community was the reconstruction of the destroyed synagogue. By the end of September 1711 they had finished the new building. It was constructed on the old foundations and consisted of three parts: the actual synagogue (Altschul), the three story women's synagogue to the north (which was partly separate from the Synagogue) and the Neuschul or new Synagogue to the south. The Altschul was built with many Gothic
Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....

 elements including Gothic Arches, an independent Facade
A facade or façade is generally one exterior side of a building, usually, but not always, the front. The word comes from the French language, literally meaning "frontage" or "face"....

, columns, and a large Rose Window
Rose window
A Rose window is often used as a generic term applied to a circular window, but is especially used for those found in churches of the Gothic architectural style and being divided into segments by stone mullions and tracery...

. Compared to other synagogues of the Baroque era
Baroque architecture
Baroque architecture is a term used to describe the building style of the Baroque era, begun in late sixteenth century Italy, that took the Roman vocabulary of Renaissance architecture and used it in a new rhetorical and theatrical fashion, often to express the triumph of the Catholic Church and...

Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

, Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...

 or Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

) this synagogue seemed backward and medieval. The architecture may have reflected the isolation of the ghetto.

The town council required that all reconstruction in the lane follow strict building codes. The builders' drawings, collected and archived by the council, allow an excellent reconstruction of the old Judengasse.

The Ghetto Fire of 1721

Only ten years later a second fire broke out in the Ghetto on January 28, 1721. Within eleven hours, the entire northern part of the lane was in flames. Over 100 houses burned down and some houses were looted and damaged by Christian inhabitants. Due to the damage and theft, Emperor Charles VI
Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles VI was the penultimate Habsburg sovereign of the Habsburg Empire. He succeeded his elder brother, Joseph I, as Holy Roman Emperor, King of Bohemia , Hungary and Croatia , Archduke of Austria, etc., in 1711...

 demanded the town council to punish the looters and to better protect the Jewish community. After extensive negotiations, the council decided that repayment would occur but only in the annulment of taxes and fees owed. Reconstruction occurred very slowly because a majority of the community was impoverished by the previous disasters.

Following the fire, a number of inhabitants left the ghetto to live in Frankfurt with Christian landlords. It wasn't until 1729 that the town council forced the last 45 families living in Frankfurt back into the Ghetto.

The Bombardment of 1796

In July 1796 French Revolutionary
French Revolutionary Wars: Campaigns of 1796
The French Revolutionary Wars continued from 1795, with the French in an increasingly strong position as members of the First Coalition made separate peaces. Austria and Great Britain were the main remaining members of the coalition...

 troops under Jean Baptiste Kléber
Jean Baptiste Kléber
Jean Baptiste Kléber was a French general during the French Revolutionary Wars. His military career started in Habsburg service, but his plebeian ancestry hindered his opportunities...

 besieged Frankfurt. As the city was garrisoned with Austrian
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

 troops, Kléber positioned his troops to attack the garrison. The French army's cannon
A cannon is any piece of artillery that uses gunpowder or other usually explosive-based propellents to launch a projectile. Cannon vary in caliber, range, mobility, rate of fire, angle of fire, and firepower; different forms of cannon combine and balance these attributes in varying degrees,...

s were positioned north of the city between the Eschenheimer Gate
Innenstadt (Frankfurt am Main)
The Innenstadt is the central district of Frankfurt am Main, Germany. It is part of the Ortsbezirk Innenstadt I, and is subdivided into 5 Stadtbezirke. It stretches in the north and east round the district of Altstadt...

 and the All Saints Gate. Kléber hoped to make the Austrian Commander von Wartensleben surrender by bombarding the city in the evening of July 12 and the afternoon of July 13. A further shelling throughout the night of July 13–14 caused extensive damage. The northern part of the Judengasse was hit and started to burn, destroying about a third of the houses. Following the damage to the entire city, the Austrian garrison was forced to surrender.

Despite the extensive damage from the battle, the destruction was a benefit to the Jewish community. The bombardment led to the de facto
De facto
De facto is a Latin expression that means "concerning fact." In law, it often means "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established." It is commonly used in contrast to de jure when referring to matters of law, governance, or...

 abolishment of the ghetto.

The End of the Ghetto

Frankfurt was one of the last cities in Europe to allow the Jews to leave the ghetto. For this reason, the Frankfurt city council was generally anti-Jewish. In 1769 the council responded to a Jewish petition to leave the ghetto on Sunday afternoons as

... an example of the unbounded arrogance of this people, who expend every effort to take all opportunities to set themselves up as equals to the Christian citizens.

In 1779 the drama Nathan the Wise
Nathan der Weise
Nathan the Wise is a play by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, published in 1779. It is a fervent plea for religious tolerance...

 by Gotthold Lessing
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was a German writer, philosopher, dramatist, publicist, and art critic, and one of the most outstanding representatives of the Enlightenment era. His plays and theoretical writings substantially influenced the development of German literature...

, a fervent plea for religious tolerance
Religious toleration
Toleration is "the practice of deliberately allowing or permitting a thing of which one disapproves. One can meaningfully speak of tolerating, ie of allowing or permitting, only if one is in a position to disallow”. It has also been defined as "to bear or endure" or "to nourish, sustain or preserve"...

, was published. The Frankfurt town council immediately banned
Ban (law)
A ban is, generally, any decree that prohibits something.Bans are formed for the prohibition of activities within a certain political territory. Some see this as a negative act and others see it as maintaining the "status quo"...

 the book and any copies found were confiscated
Confiscation, from the Latin confiscatio 'joining to the fiscus, i.e. transfer to the treasury' is a legal seizure without compensation by a government or other public authority...

. Frankfurt's Jews intensely lobbied
Lobbying is the act of attempting to influence decisions made by officials in the government, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies. Lobbying is done by various people or groups, from private-sector individuals or corporations, fellow legislators or government officials, or...

 both the Emperor and the German Parliament
Reichstag (Holy Roman Empire)
The Imperial Diet was the Diet, or general assembly, of the Imperial Estates of the Holy Roman Empire.During the period of the Empire, which lasted formally until 1806, the Diet was not a parliament in today's sense; instead, it was an assembly of the various estates of the realm...

 in Regensburg
Regensburg is a city in Bavaria, Germany, located at the confluence of the Danube and Regen rivers, at the northernmost bend in the Danube. To the east lies the Bavarian Forest. Regensburg is the capital of the Bavarian administrative region Upper Palatinate...

 for an improvement of their status, which had not changed significantly following the Patent of Toleration
Patent of toleration
The Patent of Toleration was an edict issued in 1781 by the Holy Roman Emperor, Joseph II of Austria. The Patent extended religious freedom to non-Catholic Christians living in Habsburg lands, including Lutherans, Calvinists, and the Greek Orthodox. Specifically, these members of minority faiths...

 issued by Emperor Joseph II
Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor
Joseph II was Holy Roman Emperor from 1765 to 1790 and ruler of the Habsburg lands from 1780 to 1790. He was the eldest son of Empress Maria Theresa and her husband, Francis I...

. However, the lobbying efforts of the Jews were in vain. Only the war between France
French First Republic
The French First Republic was founded on 22 September 1792, by the newly established National Convention. The First Republic lasted until the declaration of the First French Empire in 1804 under Napoleon I...

 and the coalition
First Coalition
The War of the First Coalition was the first major effort of multiple European monarchies to contain Revolutionary France. France declared war on the Habsburg monarchy of Austria on 20 April 1792, and the Kingdom of Prussia joined the Austrian side a few weeks later.These powers initiated a series...

 of Austria
Habsburg Monarchy
The Habsburg Monarchy covered the territories ruled by the junior Austrian branch of the House of Habsburg , and then by the successor House of Habsburg-Lorraine , between 1526 and 1867/1918. The Imperial capital was Vienna, except from 1583 to 1611, when it was moved to Prague...

, England
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

 and Kingdom of Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

 brought liberty to the Jews.

In 1806 the French appointed
Confederation of the Rhine
The Confederation of the Rhine was a confederation of client states of the First French Empire. It was formed initially from 16 German states by Napoleon after he defeated Austria's Francis II and Russia's Alexander I in the Battle of Austerlitz. The Treaty of Pressburg, in effect, led to the...

 Grand Duke of Frankfurt
Grand Duchy of Frankfurt
The Grand Duchy of Frankfurt was a German satellite state of Napoleonic creation. It came into existence in 1810 through the combination of the former territories of the Archbishops of Mainz along with the Free Imperial City of Frankfurt itself....

 Karl von Dalberg
Karl Theodor Anton Maria von Dalberg
Karl Theodor Anton Maria von Dalberg was Archbishop-Elector of Mainz, Arch-Chancellor of the Holy Roman Empire, Prince of Regensburg, primate of the Confederation of the Rhine and Grand-Duke of Frankfurt.-Biography:...

 ordered that equal rights be granted to all religious creeds. One of his first acts was to repeal the old municipal law forbidding the Jews from walking on a main ring road, the Anlagen. When a new school was built for the Jewish community, the Philanthropin, he donated a large sum of money. Despite von Dalberg's efforts, Frankfurt issued a new set of Jewish regulations in 1807 that attempted to reestablish the ghetto. Finally in 1811 Dalberg's Highest Regulation, for the equality of civil right of the Jewish Municipality eliminated the requirements to live in the ghetto and abolished all special Jewish taxes. However, the Jewish community had to pay a lump sum of 440,000 Guilder
Gulden is the historical German term for gold coin Gulden is the historical German term for gold coin Gulden is the historical German term for gold coin (from Middle High German guldin [pfenni(n)c] "golden penny", equivalent to the Dutch term guilder...


The Ghetto in the 18th and 19th Century

Following the end of the Confederation of the Rhine and reestablishment of the Free City of Frankfurt
Free City of Frankfurt
For almost five centuries, the German city of Frankfurt am Main was a city-state within two major Germanic states:*The Holy Roman Empire as the Free Imperial City of Frankfurt...

 in 1816, the Senate agreed upon a series of articles to the Constitution. Acknowledging the desires of the Christian majority, the rights of the Jews were again curtailed. However, the requirement to live in the Ghetto was not renewed. In 1864 Frankfurt became the second German city, following the Grand Duchy of Baden
Grand Duchy of Baden
The Grand Duchy of Baden was a historical state in the southwest of Germany, on the east bank of the Rhine. It existed between 1806 and 1918.-History:...

 (1862), to remove all restrictions on citizens' rights and to grant civic equality to Jews.

Due to the crowded and unsanitary conditions on the Judengasse most Jews had left the former ghetto during the 19th century and settled in the neighboring suburb, "Ostend". After the Jews had moved out of the Judengasse, the poor of Frankfurt moved in. Although the picturesque streetscape attracted tourists and painters, the city wanted to redevelop the urban area. So, in 1874 the desolate buildings on the west side of the street were razed. Then in 1884 nearly all the houses on the east side of the street were also demolished. The few remaining buildings included the Rothschild family
Rothschild family
The Rothschild family , known as The House of Rothschild, or more simply as the Rothschilds, is a Jewish-German family that established European banking and finance houses starting in the late 18th century...

 home at Number 148, then used as a museum. Mayer Amschel Rothschild
Mayer Amschel Rothschild
Mayer Amschel Rothschild was the founder of the Rothschild family international banking dynasty that became the most successful business family in history. In 2005, he was ranked 7th on the Forbes magazine list of "The Twenty Most Influential Businessmen Of All Time"...

's widow
A widow is a woman whose spouse has died, while a widower is a man whose spouse has died. The state of having lost one's spouse to death is termed widowhood or occasionally viduity. The adjective form is widowed...

, Gutele Rothschild (born Schnaper), lived in this house even after her five sons were elevated to nobility in 1817.

By 1854 the Jewish community had torn down the old synagogue (built in 1711) to build a new synagogue in 1859 to 1860. The new synagogue would become the spiritual center of Reform Judaism
Reform Judaism
Reform Judaism refers to various beliefs, practices and organizations associated with the Reform Jewish movement in North America, the United Kingdom and elsewhere. In general, it maintains that Judaism and Jewish traditions should be modernized and should be compatible with participation in the...

 in Frankfurt until it was destroyed during the Night of Broken Glass
Kristallnacht, also referred to as the Night of Broken Glass, and also Reichskristallnacht, Pogromnacht, and Novemberpogrome, was a pogrom or series of attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria on 9–10 November 1938.Jewish homes were ransacked, as were shops, towns and...

 under the Nazis
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

. Following the reconstruction, Judengasse was renamed after the most famous resident Ludwig Börne
Ludwig Börne
Karl Ludwig Börne was a German political writer and satirist.-Early life:Karl Ludwig Börne was born Loeb Baruch on May 6, 1786, at Frankfurt am Main, son of Jakob Baruch, a banker. His grandfather had been a government bureaucrat.-Education:Börne and his brothers were privately tutored by Jacob...

 as Börnestraße and the old Judenmarkt (German: Jews' Market) was renamed Börneplatz (German: Boerne Platz). The Orthodox
Orthodox Judaism
Orthodox Judaism , is the approach to Judaism which adheres to the traditional interpretation and application of the laws and ethics of the Torah as legislated in the Talmudic texts by the Sanhedrin and subsequently developed and applied by the later authorities known as the Gaonim, Rishonim, and...

 Jews lived on Börneplatz and had their own Synagogue, the Börneplatz Synagogue. The Synagogue was built in 1882 and also destroyed in 1938 during the "Kristallnacht".

Following the rise to power of the Nazis in 1933 Börnestraße was renamed Großer Wollgraben and Börneplatz became Dominikanerplatz after the Dominican
Dominican Order
The Order of Preachers , after the 15th century more commonly known as the Dominican Order or Dominicans, is a Catholic religious order founded by Saint Dominic and approved by Pope Honorius III on 22 December 1216 in France...

Monastery denotes the building, or complex of buildings, that houses a room reserved for prayer as well as the domestic quarters and workplace of monastics, whether monks or nuns, and whether living in community or alone .Monasteries may vary greatly in size – a small dwelling accommodating only...

 on the west side. After the Nazis had removed
Final Solution
The Final Solution was Nazi Germany's plan and execution of the systematic genocide of European Jews during World War II, resulting in the most deadly phase of the Holocaust...

 nearly all of Frankfurt's Jews, the former Judengasse was totally destroyed during the bombing of Frankfurt during WWII
Bombing of Frankfurt am Main in World War II
Bombing of Frankfurt am Main by the Allies of World War II killed about 5,500 residents and destroyed the largest medieval city centre in Germany . Post-war reconstruction generally used modern architecture, and a few landmark buildings were rebuilt in a simple historical style...


Remnants of the Ghetto

Following the destruction of World War II, the area was completely leveled and built over. From 1952 to 1955 roads were built including the Kurt-Schumacher-Straße (named after Kurt Schumacher
Kurt Schumacher
Dr. Kurt Schumacher , was chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany from 1946 and first Leader of the Opposition in the West German Bundestag parliament from 1949 until his death...

) and Berliner Straße. Börneplatz (which would not return to this name until 1978) became the location of the Blumengroßmarkthalle (German: Flower Supermarket) which disappeared in the 1970s. Börne Street was not rebuilt, which makes it nearly impossible to identify the Judengasse.

The northern half of the current road An der Staufenmauer south of the Konstablerwache basically follows the northern end of Börne Street and the former Judengasse. Along this road the last remnants of the old wall that made up the east side of the ghetto can be seen. The wide Kurt Schumacher Street cuts across a section of the former Judengasse at an angle and covers much of the former ghetto. The main synagogue is in Kurt Schumacher Street opposite to the junction of Allerheiligen Street. A memorial plaque on the synagogue indicates the location of Number 41 Judengasse.

The south end of the Judengasse is under the Customer Service Center for the Frankfurt Public Utilities, which was built in 1990. This south end is accessible from the Museum Judengasse.

Museum Judengasse

In the 1980s, during the construction of the new Administration Building for the city's Public Utilities, portions of the Mikwe (Public Bath) and several foundations of Jewish houses were discovered. This led to a nationwide debate on the future of these remnants of Jewish culture. In 1992, the Museum Judengasse was opened in the basement of the Administration Building. The museum initially contained several foundations as well as some artifacts discovered in the construction. The museum is a branch office of the Jewish Museum Frankfurt
Jewish Museum Frankfurt
The Jewish Museum of the City of Frankfurt am Main covers the history and culture of the Jewish communities in Frankfurt from the 12th to the 20th centuries. There is another branch of the museum, the Museum Judengasse, in a different part of town....

. Near the museum, on the Neuen Börneplatzes (German: New Boerne Platz), parts of the outline of the destroyed Börneplatz synagogue have been marked on the pavement.

Jewish Cemetery on Battonnstraße

A further witness to the Jewish ghetto is the large (11,850 m² or 2.93 acres) Jewish Cemetery along the modern Battonnstraße. First mentioned in 1180, the cemetery had served the Jewish community until 1828. The oldest graves date from about 1270, which makes the Frankfurt Jewish Cemetery the second oldest in Germany (after Worms). The best known grave in the cemetery is Mayer Amschel Rothschild's tomb.

From 1828 until 1929 Jews were buried in the Jewish Cemetery, next to the main cemetery on Rat-Beil Straße. Starting in 1929 the new cemetery on Eckenheimer Landstraße was used for interments. Around this time, the old Jewish cemetery was closed and left undisturbed.

At the beginning of the 20th Century there were approximately 7000 headstone
A headstone, tombstone, or gravestone is a marker, usually stone, that is placed over a grave. In most cases they have the deceased's name, date of birth, and date of death inscribed on them, along with a personal message, or prayer.- Use :...

s in the cemetery. In November 1942 the Nazi mayor
In many countries, a Mayor is the highest ranking officer in the municipal government of a town or a large urban city....

 Friedrich Krebs ordered the destruction of the cemetery. By the end of the war, about two-thirds of the headstones were destroyed. Today only a small portion of the cemetery is still in the original condition. In 1996 11,134 small tablets were placed in the cemetery, each one engraved with the name of a Jewish citizen from Frankfurt who was murdered during the Holocaust. However, the local authority that has vital records of Frankfurt's Jews from before the Holocaust, refuses to search for any records unless one knows the person's name and birth date. So, if you know you had relatives there with your last name and a range of years to search, they will not search for it at the "Standesamt", nor will they allow you to hire a researcher to do it.

Further reading

Note: The following are all in German
  • Fritz Backhaus (Hrsg.): „Und groß war bei der Tochter Jehudas Jammer und Klage...": die Ermordung der Frankfurter Juden im Jahre 1241. Band 1 der Schriftenreihe des Jüdischen Museums Frankfurt am Main. Sigmaringen 1995, Thorbecke-Verlag, ISBN 3-7995-2315-4
  • Fritz Backhaus, Gisela Engel, Robert Liberles, Margarete Schlüter (Hrsg.): Die Frankfurter Judengasse. Jüdisches Leben in der Frühen Neuzeit. Band 9 der Schriftenreihe des Jüdischen Museums Frankfurt am Main. Frankfurt am Main 2006. Societäts-Verlag, ISBN 3-7973-0927-9
  • Michael Best (Hrsg.): Der Frankfurter Börneplatz. Zur Archäologie eines politischen Konflikts, Frankfurt am Main: Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, 1988, ISBN 3-596-24418-8
  • Amos Elon: Der erste Rothschild. Biographie eines Frankfurter Juden, Reinbek 1999 ISBN 3-499-60889-8
  • Frankfurter Historische Kommission (Hrg.): Frankfurt am Main – Die Geschichte der Stadt in neun Beiträgen. Sigmaringen 1991. Jan Thorbecke Verlag, ISBN 3-7995-4158-6
  • Walter Gerteis: Das unbekannte Frankfurt. Neue Folge. Frankfurt am Main 1961. Verlag Frankfurter Bücher
  • Isidor Kracauer, Geschichte der Juden in Frankfurt a. M. (1150-1824). 2 Bände, Frankfurt a. M. 1925/1927
  • Eugen Mayer: Die Frankfurter Juden, Frankfurt am Main 1966, Waldemar Kramer Verlag
  • Friedrich Schunder: Das Reichsschultheißenamt in Frankfurt am Main bis 1372 in: Archiv für Frankfurts Geschichte und Kunst, Heft 42, Frankfurt 1954
  • Egon Wamers, Markus Grossbach: Die Judengasse in Frankfurt am Main. Ergebnisse der archäologischen Untersuchungen am Börneplatz, Thorbecke-Verlag, Stuttgart 2000, ISBN 3-7995-2325-1

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