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Letter of protection for the Jews of Ichenhausen


manuscript in old writing

Until the nineteenth century, the residence and trading rights of Jews in the German territories were defined in purchased letters of protection (Schutzbriefe). In most cases these letters were awarded to individual Jews by the local nobility, and many not only specified the duration of residence and the terms of purchase, but also contained additional provisions and restrictions, including rules on the marriage of children, the inheritance of the conferred rights, travel regulations and the levying and amount of taxes.

In the second half of the seventeenth century, a growing number of letters of protection were issued to entire communities. One example is that awarded in 1717 to the Jews of Ichenhausen, which was part of the Margraviate of Burgau in Upper Swabia. This document, known as the Burgauer Rezess (Burgau Settlement), replaced and annulled all the letters that had previously been granted to individual Jewish residents of the town.

The provisions in this quite favorable letter included permanent residence rights, the entitlement of inheritance (restricted, however, to the thirty-five houses already owned by Jews), unlimited trading rights, unhindered religious practice, and the application of Jewish law in internal Jewish affairs. The letter also regulated the different taxes that could be levied on Jews and the fixed amount of Schutzgeld (protection money) they had to pay.  Finally, it demanded that Jews, who made up almost half the local population, show "all due respect and obedience."

Object Details:
Letter of protection for the Jews of Ichenhausen
Ichenhausen, October 1717
Ink on paper
35 x 21 cm
Gift of Paul Anthony Seshold, Marilyn and Jonathan Glago

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