publisher colophon

OETTINGEN-WALLERSTEIN

103. Seal of Pfefferkorn

[    ]ERKO[    ]

Dimensions: approximately 30 mm. Impression.

Location: Oettingen-Wallerstein Archives, Wallerstein, No. II, 46.

Bibliography: Mueller, 1900.

The small duchy of Oettingen-Wallerstein, incorporated into Bavaria only in 1806, already had a Jewish settlement in the thirteenth century. West of Ingolstadt and close to Ulm, Oettingen and Wallerstein formed part of the economic region of the Danube River basin. A document from October 18, 1345, illustrated here, is sealed by a Jew with the curious name of Pfefferkorn, “grain of pepper” in German, “Pepper-corn” in English. The seal of Pfefferkorn, though damaged, is still attached to the original parchment document. The Latin letters on the seal are blurred, but on the left edge one can just make out the letters ERKO. The central device is a shield on which can be seen three berries or grains of pepper, an excellent example of armes parlantes.

The scribe who wrote this document had a peculiar habit of bearing down more heavily on capital letters, and the writing is very uneven as a result. However, it can still be translated. In summary, Ludwig von Ramstein and Pfefferkorn the Jew stand as guarantors to Count Ludwig von Oettingen (Ludwig VI) for Guten, head of the household of Mosse from Gunzenhausen. Though Guten thus receives the protection of the count, it is carefully stipulated that she will have to leave the duchy within a period of four weeks if she overcharges anybody.*

Through this document we gain an insight into the conditions under which the Jews operated in these smaller duchies during the fourteenth century. A Jew and a Christian, obviously in close economic collaboration, stand as surety for a Jewish woman in her moneylending activities. The count, who would seem to be well paid for his cooperation, extends his protection to this woman but makes as a condition of this protection that she not charge more interest than permitted by local law. Guten is defined in her relationship as “Mosses Wirtin von Guntzenhusen.” The German word Wirtin is capable of several interpretations—head of a family, landlady, even a tavernkeeper or housekeeper. It is obvious, however, that in this context Guten and not Mosse is the dominant economic party.

The fact that Pfefferkorn was allowed to seal documents indicates that Oettingen-Wallerstein was operating independently of the rulers of Bavaria and Württemberg, its larger neighbors, and that, like independent cities such as Augsburg and Regensburg, it had the right to its own laws. These tiny autonomous areas scattered throughout Germany complicate our attempts to understand the rules applied to medieval Jewry in the Holy Roman Empire. We should note, however, that the freedom possessed by a few Jews like Pfefferkorn was of short duration. Only three years later, in the first year of the Black Death, almost all the Jews of the duchy were massacred and their property transferred to the duke by Emperor Charles IV. Unlike many other areas in the south and west of Germany, however, this community was soon reconstituted, and the enlightened self-interest of the Oettingen ruling house made the duchy a center for refugees expelled from other Bavarian cities. Important Court Jews operated there during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Hider finally succeeded in destroying a Jewry that had persisted through-out the later Crusades, the Black Death, the Reformation, and the German internecine wars.


One of the worst apostates in Jewish history was Johannes (Joseph) Pfefferkorn. The author of many anti-Jewish brochures and books, Pfefferkorn was described by the Dutch humanist Erasmus as “a criminal Jew who had become a most criminal Christian.” It is still a Jewish name; when this book was written, Martin Peppercorn was a high official of the Jerusalem Foundation, Inc.

*Dr. Volker von Volckamer of Schloss Harburg kindly provided this detailed information.

One of the worst apostates in Jewish history was Johannes (Joseph) Pfefferkorn. The author of many anti-Jewish brochures and books, Pfefferkorn was described by the Dutch humanist Erasmus as “a criminal Jew who had become a most criminal Christian.” It is still a Jewish name; when this book was written, Martin Peppercorn was a high official of the Jerusalem Foundation, Inc.

*Dr. Volker von Volckamer of Schloss Harburg kindly provided this detailed information.

The small duchy of Oettingen-Wallerstein, incorporated into Bavaria only in 1806, already had a Jewish settlement in the thirteenth century. West of Ingolstadt and close to Ulm, Oettingen and Wallerstein formed part of the economic region of the Danube River basin. A document from October 18, 1345, illustrated here, is sealed by a Jew with the curious name of Pfefferkorn, “grain of pepper” in German, “Pepper-corn” in English. The seal of Pfefferkorn, though damaged, is still attached to the original parchment document. The Latin letters on the seal are blurred, but on the left edge one can just make out the letters ERKO. The central device is a shield on which can be seen three berries or grains of pepper, an excellent example of armes parlantes.

The scribe who wrote this document had a peculiar habit of bearing down more heavily on capital letters, and the writing is very uneven as a result. However, it can still be translated. In summary, Ludwig von Ramstein and Pfefferkorn the Jew stand as guarantors to Count Ludwig von Oettingen (Ludwig VI) for Guten, head of the household of Mosse from Gunzenhausen. Though Guten thus receives the protection of the count, it is carefully stipulated that she will have to leave the duchy within a period of four weeks if she overcharges anybody.*

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Fürth, Bavaria

Additional Information

ISBN
9780814344859
MARC Record
OCLC
1055142843
Pages
206-207
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-02
Open Access
Yes
Creative Commons
CC-BY-NC-SA
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