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The Readmission of Jews into Brandenburg (1671)

As occurred widely in late medieval and Reformation Europe, the Brandenburg Jews had been expelled from the land in 1573 in a wave of intolerance that accompanied the transition there from Catholicism to Lutheranism. Landowners and courtiers indebted to Jewish financiers often found such expulsions convenient. In 1671, Brandenburg-Prussia’s government under Frederick William, seeking to implement an ambitious program of post-Thirty Years War economic development, readmitted fifty Jewish families under the terms spelled out in the edict below. Oliver Cromwell, for different reasons, had followed a similar path in England a few years earlier. Christian merchants and other townspeople, sometimes goaded by anti-Judaic clergy, often opposed the Jews’ presence. Hence, this edict warns town magistrates to protect the Jews from discrimination and other forms of abuse.

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Edict on the Admission of Fifty Families of Protected Jews; but They Are Not to Have Synagogues

Dated May 21, 1671


We, Frederick William, by Grace of God Margrave in Brandenburg, High Chamberlain and Elector of the Holy Roman Empire, etc.,

hereby make public announcement and graciously notify all whom it may concern that We, for particular reason and at the most submissive request of Hirschel Lazarus, Benedict Veit, and Abraham Ries, Jews, have, for the furtherance of trade and traffic, decided to admit a number, to wit, fifty families of Jews from other places into Our Land of Electoral and Mark Brandenburg and most graciously to extend to them Our special protection. We hereby do this, under the following conditions:

1. We declare the admission of the said fifty Jewish families, whose names, their numbers, and the place in which each has settled are most shortly to be made known by Us in a regular announcement, into Our said Land of Electoral and Mark Brandenburg, also into Our Duchy of Crossen and the incorporated Lands, in the following fashion: that they are authorized to settle in the places and towns most convenient to them, and there to hire, buy, or build rooms or whole houses and residences, but under condition that anything they buy shall be sellable again, and what they build must be left to Christians again, perhaps after the expiration of a certain number of years, their expenses, however, being refunded to them.

2. These Jewish families shall be free to trade and traffic, conformably with Our Edicts, in the whole Land of this Our Electorate and Mark of Brandenburg, Duchy of Crossen and incorporated Lands, whereby We further expressly permit them to keep open stalls and booths, to sell cloths and similar wares by the piece or the ell, to keep large and small weights (but they are not to overreach anyone in buying or selling), without payment to the public scales or the magistracy where it keeps the heavy weights, to deal in new and old clothes, and further, to slaughter in their houses and to sell what is above their needs or forbidden to them by their religion, and finally, to seek their subsistence in any place where they live, and also elsewhere, especially in respect of wool and spices, like other inhabitants of this Land, and to sell their wares at the annual and weekly markets.

3. But as We have reminded them, above, of Our Edicts, so they must continue to conduct their traffic in accordance with the Imperial Statutes relating to Jews, and consequently abstain from all forbidden traffic, especially, as far as possible, traffic in stolen articles, not to injure the inhabitants of this country, nor anyone else, by unfair dealing, not intentionally to defraud or overreach any person, not practice usury with their money, but content themselves with the rate of interest which We have sanctioned to the Jews of Halberstadt, as also the Halberstadt procedure shall be followed with them if they have purchased stolen goods.

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