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German States

ÜBERLINGEN, WÜRTTEMBERG

The analysis of the document and its seals in this section, dated October 26, 1332, and illustrated here, was done by a sympathetic and scholarly German, K. F. Roth von Schreckenstein, in 1872. He uses contemporary sources to describe the events that occurred at Überlingen in 1331, the year before this document was issued (Überlingen is a small town in the extreme south of the old German duchy of Württemberg). His account follows.

In 1331 the body of a Christian boy was found in a well. His death was blamed on the Jews. The corpse was carried to the Jewish quarter, where, it was alleged, the wounds started to bleed again, convincing the populace of Jewish guilt. The townspeople did not want to report the matter to Emperor Ludwig or to his representative for Upper Swabia, the district in which Überlingen was located,* because of their belief that he was partial to the Jews, so they hatched a scheme to destroy the Jews in their midst without being blamed for it. They tricked them, through so-called good advice, to take refuge in a certain solid stone house (some sources claim it was the synagogue). Once gathered there, they were locked in. A huge pile of wood was collected, placed around the house, and set alight. The victims fled to the upper story, then the roof. They threw down whatever weapons they had—knives, swords, spears, planks, and rocks—but the mob was pitiless. The contemporary account reported that the Jews were burnt to death as they sang their dirges. One who tried to slip out of the burning house was mercilessly slain by the mob. Another who was hiding in a nearby house was found and killed with an axe. More than three hundred Jews were incinerated. It should be added that the facts were reported in the contemporary literature with evident satisfaction. The grisly story ended with the Emperor Ludwig, after an investigation, punishing the people of the town by levying a special tax on them and demolishing part of the city wall.

The German Empire from the Tenth to the Thirteenth Century. From Robert S. Lopez, The Birth of Europe. Copyright © 1962 by Max Leclerc et Cie, Proprietors of Librairie Armand Colin. Copyright © 1966 Translation J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, M. Evans and Co., Inc., New York, New York 10017.

The sealed document shown here, from the Main County Archives of Karlsruhe, was issued the next year in Konstanz, across a finger of Lake Constance to the south. Three Jews of Überlingen, Mayer Aenseli, Merolt, and Moysse Tannebach (the last two being brothers whose father was named Joseph), sold a vineyard to Eberhard of Frikkenweil, a citizen of Überlingen, for 220 pfennigs (silver deniers) in weight of the currency of Konstanz. The vineyard was located at Blütschenberge, within the walls of the town. The three Jews had bought the vineyard from the emperor.* The sale was consummated not only in their own names but in the name of all the Jews. Schreckenstein questions whether this refers to the few lucky Jews who escaped the martyrdom of the previous year because they happened to be away at the time or whether “all the Jews” means the Jews of a larger district: as seen on other similar documents, this is part of the formula binding the entire Jewish community to acts involving the most influential of them.

The document is sealed with three seals of Christians: the knight Swäniger von Lichtenstain, who represents both the emperor and Count Friedrich von Zollern, one of his district representatives; Conrad dem Ruhen, another representative of the emperor; and Jacob von Roggwile, who also represents the emperor and the town of Ravensburg as well. Thus the document is sealed by three Christians and the three Jews involved in the sale. The seal of the knight Swäniger still remains, as do those of Mayer Aenseli (No. 78) and Moysse Tannebach (No. 76).

Sale of a vineyard from Überlingen, October 26, 1332, sealed by Moses and Merolt, sons of Joseph Halevi, and Meir son of Asher Halevi (half size). Main County Archives of Karlsruhe, No. 3/188.

Schreckenstein sees this document as another proof that Emperor Ludwig was angry with the people of Überlingen. It would have been customary to expropriate the property of those Jews killed in the previous year’s massacre and to refuse to readmit those who had escaped from the town. The fact that the vineyard was sold in a normal manner, and the sale approved by the emperor’s representatives, shows that he disapproved of the murders. Schreckenstein also notes the unusual fact that the brothers Merolt and Moysse had Tannebach as a surname. It may have been the name of a small town or district from which the brothers came.


*The geography of Germany is complicated. The Württemberg area was conquered by the Suevi, then by the Romans, and still later by the Franks. It was included by the Frankish emperors in the duchy of Swabia. Shortly before the events described here, a powerful local family received the title of counts of Württemberg; growing in strength, the line was raised to a dukedom in the late fifteenth century. Württemberg joined the Prussian-dominated North German Confederation in 1867.

Schreckenstein writes that “Aenseli” was used for Asher, Aenseli being the German name used for Asher, Mayer’s father.

*Schreckenstein finds this interesting because it shows the right to own real estate. Actually, throughout the Middle Ages, Jews not only owned land through purchase and foreclosure but also engaged in viticulture and agriculture, as has been pointed out earlier in this study.

*The geography of Germany is complicated. The Württemberg area was conquered by the Suevi, then by the Romans, and still later by the Franks. It was included by the Frankish emperors in the duchy of Swabia. Shortly before the events described here, a powerful local family received the title of counts of Württemberg; growing in strength, the line was raised to a dukedom in the late fifteenth century. Württemberg joined the Prussian-dominated North German Confederation in 1867.

Schreckenstein writes that “Aenseli” was used for Asher, Aenseli being the German name used for Asher, Mayer’s father.

*Schreckenstein finds this interesting because it shows the right to own real estate. Actually, throughout the Middle Ages, Jews not only owned land through purchase and foreclosure but also engaged in viticulture and agriculture, as has been pointed out earlier in this study.

In 1331 the body of a Christian boy was found in a well. His death was blamed on the Jews. The corpse was carried to the Jewish quarter, where, it was alleged, the wounds started to bleed again, convincing the populace of Jewish guilt. The townspeople did not want to report the matter to Emperor Ludwig or to his representative for Upper Swabia, the district in which Überlingen was located,* because of their belief that he was partial to the Jews, so they hatched a scheme to destroy the Jews in their midst without being blamed for it. They tricked them, through so-called good advice, to take refuge in a certain solid stone house (some sources claim it was the synagogue). Once gathered there, they were locked in. A huge pile of wood was collected, placed around the house, and set alight. The victims fled to the upper story, then the roof. They threw down whatever weapons they had—knives, swords, spears, planks, and rocks—but the mob was pitiless. The contemporary account reported that the Jews were burnt to death as they sang their dirges. One who tried to slip out of the burning house was mercilessly slain by the mob. Another who was hiding in a nearby house was found and killed with an axe. More than three hundred Jews were incinerated. It should be added that the facts were reported in the contemporary literature with evident satisfaction. The grisly story ended with the Emperor Ludwig, after an investigation, punishing the people of the town by levying a special tax on them and demolishing part of the city wall.

The sealed document shown here, from the Main County Archives of Karlsruhe, was issued the next year in Konstanz, across a finger of Lake Constance to the south. Three Jews of Überlingen, Mayer Aenseli, Merolt, and Moysse Tannebach (the last two being brothers whose father was named Joseph), sold a vineyard to Eberhard of Frikkenweil, a citizen of Überlingen, for 220 pfennigs (silver deniers) in weight of the currency of Konstanz. The vineyard was located at Blütschenberge, within the walls of the town. The three Jews had bought the vineyard from the emperor.* The sale was consummated not only in their own names but in the name of all the Jews. Schreckenstein questions whether this refers to the few lucky Jews who escaped the martyrdom of the previous year because they happened to be away at the time or whether “all the Jews” means the Jews of a larger district: as seen on other similar documents, this is part of the formula binding the entire Jewish community to acts involving the most influential of them.

The sealed document shown here, from the Main County Archives of Karlsruhe, was issued the next year in Konstanz, across a finger of Lake Constance to the south. Three Jews of Überlingen, Mayer Aenseli, Merolt, and Moysse Tannebach (the last two being brothers whose father was named Joseph), sold a vineyard to Eberhard of Frikkenweil, a citizen of Überlingen, for 220 pfennigs (silver deniers) in weight of the currency of Konstanz. The vineyard was located at Blütschenberge, within the walls of the town. The three Jews had bought the vineyard from the emperor.* The sale was consummated not only in their own names but in the name of all the Jews. Schreckenstein questions whether this refers to the few lucky Jews who escaped the martyrdom of the previous year because they happened to be away at the time or whether “all the Jews” means the Jews of a larger district: as seen on other similar documents, this is part of the formula binding the entire Jewish community to acts involving the most influential of them.

Additional Information

ISBN
9780814344859
MARC Record
OCLC
1055142843
Pages
164-166
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-02
Open Access
Yes
Creative Commons
CC-BY-NC-SA
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