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The Commander of Imperial Jewry – Josel von Rosheim (c. 1480-1554)

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In the year 5306 (1545/46), our lord the Emperor came to Regensburg and commanded all the princes and dukes to attend the Reichstag (Imperial Diet) and to reconcile their differences of opinion and their disagreements on matters of faith (35). Although most of them came, the two dukes, Saxony and Hesse, and their followers were rebellious and vexed the Emperor; they rebelled against him for several years. Meanwhile, I laboured to obtain new privileges and credentials, the like of which no emperor or king had ever granted us before. Already in Speyer, the Emperor and his counsellors had promised to give them to me, and during this Diet at Regensburg I strongly urged the counsellors to keep their word. And, indeed, with the help of God, blessed be He, they were written down and sealed with the Emperor's hand and seal. Soon afterwards, the Emperor resolved to gather forces and to wage war against those two aforesaid princes. Then came the people whose tongue you cannot understand—the Spaniards—and would have attacked the Jewish people, had it not been for God who was with us, aiding us when I came to that great governor—chief minister to the Emperor—named Granvelle (36), and requested him to implore and entreat the Emperor to protect us, and he did what we asked. He went to the Emperor and said to him: "Behold, the Jews have suffered much persecution at the hands of those Lutheran heretics, and now come your own people, the Spanish, and will attack them in spite of the new privileges that you previously granted them [the Jews]. And the Emperor gave a gracious reply: "It would not be right to leave the Jews unprotected. Here are written and signed orders that no soldier from any of our armies shall lift hand or foot to injure or harm any Jews on pain of punishment." Therefore, it was publicly proclaimed by Imperial command in all parts of Germany that anyone violating the Emperor's decree would be punishable by death. All at once the Spaniards became well disposed towards the Jews, and when the Emperor arrived with his army to do battle, the Jews brought them bread and wine and supplied the forces with more than 50 wagons. The two princes, Saxony and Hesse, together with all the German cities, had huge forces, more than 100,000 foot soldiers and armoured horsemen. However, although our lord the Emperor, may he be exalted, did not possess so great and powerful an army as they did—only 40,000 in all—God came to his aid, so that he pursued and totally destroyed them. And in the end he captured the two princes. They are still in his custody. We strenuously appealed to all the Jews to pray morning and evening for the safety of the Emperor and to recite "Our Father Our King" and the Hymn of Unity (37), and in the holy community of Frankfurt the Jews prayed that God should protect our lord the Emperor, and his people Israel. For His hand is not too short to save the many and the few. The victory that the Emperor won was in the year 5307 (1546/47). And God performed miracles and wondrous acts for us: in His mercy He protected the Jewish people, so that we did not lose a single person in this great war. Blessed be God who did not fail us in His loving kindness, and delivered us twice over from those great multitudes. May He continue and do more also. Amen.

In the year 5307 (1546/47), our lord the Emperor sent the commander of the forces with 10,000 soldiers to besiege the city of Frankfurt and subdue it. If the city were to capitulate and sue for peace, he was to agree conditionally. The Jewish community sent emissaries to me to request that I intercede on their behalf with the commander, Count von Buren (38). The city was captured and the gates were opened to the commander and all his soldiers. I went with proposals to the commander bringing him a gift of 800 guilders. And there was peace for the Jews in the street (39) and in the city. The plunder and loot taken in Feuchtwangen and Darmstadt was sold cheaply to the Jews, and they were able to make a certain amount of money. Praise God, their prayers were efficacious and their mourning was turned into joy. May God continue to grant peace to all Israel.

(35) Alludes to a colloquy between Catholic and Protestant theologians, which Charles V ordered to proceed concurrently with the Imperial Diet.
(36) The Imperial chancellor, Nicolas Perrenot de Granvelle (1484-1550).
(37) Jewish penitential hymns.
(38) Maximilian of Egmont (1509-48), count of Buren and Leerdam, an Imperial commander whose army came up the Rhine to support Charles V in the campaign of 1546.
(39) Jews' Street, the heart of the Frankfurt ghetto.

Source of the English translation from the Hebrew: Joseph of Rosheim, The Historical Writings of Joseph of Rosheim: Leader of Jewry in Early Modern Germany, edited by Chava Fraenke-Goldschmidt and Adam Shear, translated by Naomi Schendowich. Leiden: Brill, 2006, pp. 314-39.

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