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Frederick William III, King of Prussia, "Edict Concerning the Civil Status of the Jews in the Prussian State" (March 11, 1812)

Prussian Jewish policy since 1750 distinguished between the legally protected propertied Jews and their merely tolerated co-religionists. Complicating the Prussian situation were the numerous Polish Jews acquired as subjects through the partitions of Poland (1772-1795), which saw Prussia annex large portions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The 1812 edict confined itself to the pre-1772 protected Jews, to whom a large measure of civil equality was extended in exchange for their assumption of fixed surnames, their adoption of German “or another living language” in their non-religious professional activities, and their fulfillment of common citizenly duties, including military conscription. Further stages of Prussian emancipation followed in the period 1833-67.

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We, Frederick William [III], by Grace of God
King of Prussia etc. etc.,

having resolved to grant to the members of the Jewish faith in Our monarchy a new constitution suitable to the general welfare, declare all heretofore established laws and regulations for the Jews, unless confirmed in the current edict, to be abolished, and decree as follows:

§1. Jews and their dependents dwelling at present in Our States, provided with general privileges, patent letters of naturalization, letters of protection and concessions, are considered natives [Einländer] and as state citizens of Prussia.

§2. The maintenance of this designation as native and state citizen is allowed only under the following obligation:

that they bear strictly fixed surnames;


that they use German or another living language not only in keeping their commercial records but also in the drawing of contracts and legal declarations of intention; and they should use only German or Latin script for their signatures.

§3. Within six months of the publication date of this Edict, any individual protected or licensed Jew must declare to the authority at his place of residence the surname that he will bear permanently. He must identify himself by this name both in public proceedings and documents, as well as in ordinary life, just like any other citizen.

§4. After successfully fixing upon and declaring his surname, [the individual Jew] will receive from the government of the province in which he has his domicile a certificate that states he is a native [Einländer] and citizen, which certificate shall replace the letter of protection, for him and his posterity.

[ . . . ]

§7. [ . . . ] Jews who qualify as natives shall enjoy the same civil rights and liberties as Christians.

§8. They may therefore hold any academic teaching and school posts, as well as municipal offices, for which they are qualified.

§9. We reserve the right, over the course of time, to determine by law the extent to which the Jews might be allowed to perform other public services and state functions.

§10. They are free to settle in cities as well as in the countryside.

§11. They may, like Christian inhabitants, acquire any sort of real estate and may also pursue any permitted trade, so long as they observe the general legal regulations.

§12. The right to freedom of trade that comes with state citizenship also pertains to commerce.

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