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South and Central Rhineland

The Rhine is one of the main rivers of Europe, running some 820 miles through the heartland of the continent. It rises from rivulets in the southeastern mountains of Switzerland and flows northwest between France and Germany and then through Germany into the Netherlands, where it enters the North Sea. Because of the area it traverses and the regions it ties together, the Rhine has played a major role in the economic development of Germany. Just as Ulm, Ingolstadt, and Regensburg in Bavaria were linked by the Danube to Vienna and the Eastern trade, so the cities of Strasbourg, Mannheim, Frankfort, Koblenz, Cologne, and Düsseldorf were tied by the Rhine both to the surrounding regions and to the Low Countries.

For convenience here (though such distinctions are somewhat arbitrary), the major area which the Rhine passes is divided into three parts, the south, the center, and the north. Strasbourg is the most important French city in the south, as Karlsruhe is the most important German city.* The German state of Baden-Württemberg is to the east of the river on its early journey. Smaller cities in this area like Speyer and Worms, as well as Strasbourg itself, were very important centers for Jewish settlement in the Middle Ages.

At Mainz (Mayence) and Frankfort it may be said that the central Rhine begins, an area which extends up to Bonn and involves the German states of the Rhineland Palatinate and Hesse (formerly the Wetterau). In Westphalia, the northern Rhine, the leading cities are Cologne, Düsseldorf, and Duisburg (Cologne is the site of a Jewish settlement established before the arrival of some of the Germanic tribes that now form a part of the German nation). The Rhine then flows out of Germany and, passing by Arnhem in the Netherlands, works its way to the North Sea through Rotterdam, its chief seaport. Though the river is shallow at points, both cargo and passenger ships can travel from Basel in Switzerland to Rotterdam; thus in effect it links the interior of western Europe with the Atlantic Ocean.

The pattern of settlement of the Jews in the valleys of the Rhine and adjacent regions was the result of trade. Germany had no specific center of international trade. The Rhine and the Danube were the two broad channels through which goods flowed, moving east to Vienna and the Slavic lands on the Danube and north from Italy and south from England and the Low Countries on the Rhine. Strasbourg and Cologne, with nearby Frankfort, were the leading cities involved in Rhine commerce. Cologne gained much trade from the Flemish towns when the English began to use the city as a transit center for the Rhineland; in fact Henri Pirenne (1938) states that Cologne was the most important trade center in Germany. Strasbourg not only traded with south Germany and Italy but also had intimate connections with the Meuse and Moselle valleys to the west. The fairs at Frankfort, on the nearby Main River, replaced those of Champagne (whose decline is discussed above) in the fourteenth century, with the central position of the city a main factor in its ascendency. In 1240 Frankfort received its first imperial license for a fair in the autumn; in 1330 a fifteen-day Lenten fair was added; and two additional fairs in neighboring Friedberg formed a complete cycle. Not so coincidentally, the first pogrom against the Jews of Frankfort occurred in 1241, the year following the institution of the first fair.

Jewish Centers in German Territory Before the Crusades. From Monumenta Judaica, Katalog, ed. Konrad Schilling (Cologne: J. P. Bachem, 1964), B 2-9.

Wherever trade quickened, Jewish communities developed. By the first half of the fourteenth century, the Jews had become indispensable to the princes and noblemen of the Rhineland. A key factor was the shift from a barter to a money economy and its effect on ground rents. As Monumenta Judaica explains it (1964, pp. 213–14):

One must look at this fact in light of the great progress which the exchange of money made in the time of this commercial revolution vis-à-vis the previous economic structure. Outside bourgeois circles there was a lack of fluid capital to cover the expenses of the princes in their new territories. The nobility fell into an economic crisis through the fall of ground rents and increasing expenditures for luxuries. As a result of the great need for money, there were many opportunities for the Jews to operate as creditors.*

It should be stressed that this was a unique situation, partly because of the multitude of autonomous areas not bound by a single autocratic ruler and partly because of the reluctance of the leading Christian moneylenders to do business in many German states because of bad experiences with defaulting debtors.

For little more than half a century the Jews prospered, until their communities were destroyed as a result of the Black Death (though they retained their financial prominence in certain cities of the north Rhineland, as well as at Regensburg in Bavaria, until late in the fourteenth century). Jewish wealth in this period was great enough to rival that of the contemporary Spanish grandees and to bear comparison with the earlier medieval Jewish capitalists of England.

We have noted earlier that the leading Jewish moneylenders in the independent cities of Bavaria all seem to have been closely related. In the Jewish oligarchies of these Rhenish cities, the same process is apparent though not so obvious. In the seven documents from Trier (Trèves) involving Jewish seals, dated from 1326 to 1345, a small group of men repeatedly appear as principals. Mussin, whose Hebrew name appears on his seal as Moses son of Isaac, sealed a document dated 1332 (see No. 109). The records from Trier indicate that Muskin was treasurer to Archbishop Baldwin of Trier from 1323 (or 1328) to 1336. “Mussin” is almost certainly Muskin, the name being misread from the old German document, whose spelling and orthography are difficult to decipher even for experts. Jacob son of Daniel (called son of Nathanael on his two seals in the Hebrew; see Nos. 106 and 112) followed Muskin as treasurer at Trier and then arranged that his son-in-law Michel (No. 110) would succeed him. Jacob appears on three of these documents, associated with his son-in-law and with Vivelin the Red of Strasbourg (No. 113). Vivelin must have been recommended to Archbishop Baldwin by Jacob for the delicate and confidential job of arranging the transfer of 61,000 gold florins from Edward III of England to Trier, the sum being transmitted through an Italian banking house (this extraordinary transaction will be described below).

Abraham of Kesten (No. 107), teamed with Salemann of Wittlich (No. 108), and Isaac, the son of the same Abraham, seem unrelated to his ruling group, but we do know that Samuel, nicknamed the Little One (No. III), who appears as part of a syndicate leasing the Rhine tolls, has a seal indicating that his father’s name was Isaac. We also know from other documents that Abraham of Kesten’s father was named Isaac and that, following Ashkenazi tradition, Abraham named his own son Isaac. The conjunction of names is probably not accidental on this high an economic level in such a small community. There would be no reason for Salemann of Wittlich (Solomon son of Samuel, on the Hebrew inscription of his seal) to seal for Isaac of Trier, son of Abraham of Kesten, without a financial interest of his own in the matter unless there were a strong tie between the two of which we are ignorant. We can safely conclude that the working relations of this tiny group of financiers indicated an extraordinary level of mutual confidence, which in this period usually was created by family ties. These Court Jews of Archbishop Baldwin were the predecessors of a long line that flourished in later German and Austrian history. Were it not for the mass killings during the Black Death, truly a fourteenth-century Holocaust, these arrangements would probably have continued for many more years.

Other documents and historical references indicate that there were syndicates similar to the Trier one operating all along the Rhine, but the most important Jewish center was Strasbourg.* The tax records of Emperor Friedrich II for the year 1241, fortunately preserved, indicate that of a total Jewish assessment of 857 marks for the Empire (some 20 percent of the entire revenue from the cities), the Jews of Strasbourg paid 200 marks, the highest payment for any one group Their activities continued and expanded in the fourteenth century. As has been noted, Vivelin the Red, a nickname that must refer to red hair, was a colleague of Jacob son of Daniel, treasurer to the archbishop of Trier. The two men lent large sums to Count Walram von Zweibrücken. Vivelin’s seal, appended to a document from November 11, 1345 (see No. 114), has unfortunately fallen off.

Aaron son of David was an outstanding moneylender at Strasbourg. He did much business with Archbishop Heinrich of Mainz, Archbishop Baldwin of Trier, Margrave Rudolf III of Baden, and Count Gerlach and Count Adolf of Nassau. A document from 1340 informs us that Archbishop Heinrich owed Aaron the enormous sum of 31,500 pounds. Aaron’s seal appended to this parchment is in fragments (No. 118).

David the Older, called Walch§ (incorrectly given as “Watch” in some records), also did business with Margrave Rudolf III of Baden. In 1320–21 the margrave, attempting to escape his obligations, sued Aaron son of David and David the Older, claiming that usury was prohibited and that he was entitled to be released from payment of interest and to restitution of interest already paid on his debts. Since the Jews were under the protection of the city of Strasbourg, the margrave could not get a favorable judgment. The juxtaposition of names and their partnership in the defense in this case makes it seem evident there was a father-and-son relationship between David and Aaron.

Rudolf of Baden also was a considerable borrower from Jekelin (also spelled Jeckelin) of Strasbourg and his partners. Jekelin and his brother Mannekint (mentioned elsewhere as a colleague of Aaron son of David) were the sons of the wealthy widow of Salomon (several Salomons or Salemanns appear in documents from this time and general area). The two brothers loaned a large sum to Margrave Rudolf on the security of his crown. When they were murdered at Strasbourg in 1349 during the Black Death, the municipal council returned the crown to the sons of the margrave (who had died since contracting the debt).

Bishop Gerhard of Speyer borrowed not only from the Jewish community at Speyer but also from that of Strasbourg. A principal creditor seems to have been Jutta (also called Jutha), a widow. A Hebrew summary preserved at the foot of a debt agreement in the Main State Archives of Düsseldorf (see Nos. 132 and 133) tells us that Jutta was the widow of Meyer of Siegburg* and sealed documents with her son Moses. Jutta and her son engaged in extensive financial operations, and her name often appears in various records. She used a seal of which no impression remains; this seems to have been the seal of her dead husband.

The Strasbourg patriciate attempted to save the Jews at the time of the Black Death. The mob, however, deposed the mayor and almost completely wiped out what was one of the largest Jewish settlements in Europe. Since we know from the records that the Regensburg monied aristocracy invested with the Jews and successfully protected them from the mass terror sweeping Europe in the same period, we may presume that this was also the motive behind the unsuccessful attempt to protect the Jews at Strasbourg.

The third powerful syndicate of Jewish moneylenders in the Rhineland was the group headed by Abraham of Kreuznach, which operated out of Bingen, a small town north of Strasbourg and southwest of Mainz. Abraham, probably related to Michel, son-in-law of Jacob son of Daniel (No. 110), who also came from Bingen, had a very close relationship with Archbishop Heinrich of Mainz, as did Muskin, who had preceded Jacob as treasurer at Trier. The city archives of Bingen were destroyed during World War II, and nothing of consequence remains from the period before 1830. However, from other records we know that in 1342 the archbishop mortgaged the customs at Geisenheim to Abraham; a similar transaction occurred shortly thereafter at Ehrenfels, in which Aaron son of David from Strasbourg (No. 118) was involved. In June, 1343, Abraham, in partnership with Salmann of Bingen, took over the customs at Bingen for two years. A Jewish syndicate had done this at Koblenz under the sponsorship of Jacob son of Daniel, and in general it would seem that Abraham’s relation to the archbishop of Mainz was similar to Jacob’s relation to the archbishop of Trier. Control of these customs was of great significance, and, as James Parkes noted (1938), the tolls and duties collected by certain medieval nobles formed a significant proportion of their income.

There are many other documents extant referring to the economic activities of these men which are not discussed here either because they lack Jewish seals or because their Jewish seals are not recorded. For every document we still possess from these remote centuries there are many times more lost or destroyed; the loss is even greater with sealed documents because in the nineteenth century interest in these seals was aroused and many were stolen from the archives. However, from the evidence of the handful of documents we have, we know that these three groups of moneylenders were for all practical purposes an expanding and contracting syndicate of an oligarchy of rich Jews located mainly at Trier, Strasbourg, Bingen, and Kreuznach who “took positions,” to use modern parlance, in different deals involving varying amounts of money. A modern equivalent would be the real estate syndicate involving both limited and general partners. A document which makes this parallel clear is the declaration dated July 2, 1340, found on the back of a document dated July 1, 1340, in which Aaron son of David receives an acknowledgment from Archbishop Heinrich of Mainz that he owes Aaron 31,500 pounds (see No. 118). The declaration on the reverse indicates that Aaron himself had received some of this money from a group of Strasbourg Jews and guarantees to secure their interests. Here Aaron is a general partner, so to speak, and the organizer of the loan; those listed on the reverse are the limited partners, the smaller investors who put up money and expect “a piece of the action.” In many respects these deals were similar to those organized in England by the Jews in the twelfth and early in the thirteenth century, Aaron of Lincoln and Aaron of York being the leading examples of the earlier syndicators.

Archbishop Baldwin of Trier was a key figure in the economic history of the first half of the fourteenth century. At that period the archbishopric of Trier was an important European state, and its archbishop was one of the seven electors in the Holy Roman Empire. But the power of his position rested on more than the resources of this region. The character of Baldwin himself was an important factor: he was intelligent, resourceful, and greedy. He was the principal ally and the main force behind the elevation of his brother Henry of Luxembourg as Holy Roman Emperor. Known as Henry VII, though emperor only for a few years (1308–13), Henry’s reign gave Baldwin time to lay the foundations for a financial and political network. Immediately following his election the emperor transferred to his brother the money assessment made on the Jews from the various parts of the electorate of Trier. This income at that time was an important part of the state finances and, particularly in Germany, the most reliable source of funds. Baldwin used this money to practice usury himself, but, as this was condemned by the church of which he was an archbishop, he employed Jews to direct the work. Soon Jews were running the entire state treasury, making a nice profit for themselves and even more for their master. This revenue was the foundation of Baldwin’s power. To quote E. B. and M. M. Fryde (1963):

The most original feature of his administration was his [Baldwin’s] dependence on the Jews. From 1323 onwards three Jews succeeded each other at the head of his financial administration: Muskin (1323–36), Jacob Daniels* and, after 1341, his son-in-law Michels. The accounts of Baldwin’s treasury were kept in Hebrew and were later translated into Latin. These Jewish agents were sometimes able to borrow money for Baldwin without special security or pledging property, though his credit was not always equally good.

Following a tradition that predated Baldwin’s assumption of the post of archbishop at Trier, Jews ran the mint of the archbishopric as well. Probably the functions of mint lessee and financial adviser were combined, as it would seem they were under Muskin, Jacob, and Michel.

With so much money accumulating, Archbishop Baldwin began selling his influence on the European political market. In 1337 to 1339 Edward III of England—a man as hungry for glory as Baldwin was for money—organized his wars against France. He borrowed from Baldwin 25,500 florins, pledging his crown for their repayment (the fiscal agent is unknown). On February 27, 1339, reversing the situation, Edward paid the archbishop 61,000 florins in gold as a “persuasion,” vulgarly known as a bribe, so that he would ally himself with England in the conflict with France.§ This payment has been described as the largest individual business transaction of the first half of the fourteenth century. Only the most trusted agent could handle such a deal. Archbishop Baldwin chose Vivelin the Red, a Jew of Strasbourg and partner of Jacob son of Daniel, his treasurer, to arrange the details and receive the money. Vivelin (whose Jewish name probably was Chaim) must have thought it ironic to be dealing with the agents of a king whose grandfather had driven all the Jews out of England, and who himself was now putting into a Jew’s hands this enormous sum so that an archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church would stay neutral in the conflagration that would begin the Hundred Years’ War.

Edward III’s foreign loans were managed by the English agents of the two greatest banking houses of the age, the Bardi and the Peruzzi. In 1343, when Edward could not meet his payments, the Peruzzi went bankrupt, losing over seventy thousand pounds, followed the next year by the Bardi, whose loss exceeded a hundred thousand pounds. This was the great financial crash of the late Middle Ages. Out of this disaster Baldwin emerged unscathed, probably the richest man left in Europe, with his Jewish bankers maneuvering the ship of state.

It is not to be presumed that Baldwin used these Jews for any reasons of personal affection or sympathy. He was the supreme usurer, employing the most able men available. When the Black Death struck in 1348 and 1349, Pope Clement VI spoke up courageously and prevented the mobs from killing the Jews in the papal enclaves of France. The Jews of Trier, however, were all massacred despite the autocratic power of their protector. Baldwin then turned to the Lombards as his bankers. By the end of his long reign, from 1307 to 1354, Baldwin had amassed an enormous fortune, reputed to be three hundred thousand gulden. In 1346 he spent a small part of this money to buy the vote of the archbishop of Cologne in order to assure the election of his grandnephew, Charles of Luxembourg, as emperor. The story of Baldwin is an examplar of the use made of Jews in northern Europe during the late Middle Ages.

Because the two-volume work edited by Konrad Schilling is so often used as a standard reference, the numbers listed in the bibliographies for seals 106 through 117 are those of Monumenta Judaica. This extraordinary study was published for an exhibition “2000 Years of the History and Culture of the Jews on the Rhine,” held at the City Museum of Cologne in 1964. Rhenish seals not included in the Cologne exhibition begin with seal No. 118.

106. Seal of Jacob Son of Nathanael

*Yaacob bar Natanel

Dimensions: 18 mm. Impression.

Location: Main Provincial Archives of Koblenz, 182, No. 6.

Bibliography: Brincken, 1963–64; Schilling, 1964, 1:B153.

Debt reduction agreement from Trier, February 8, 1326, sealed by Jacob son of Nathanael, called Jacob Daniels. Main Provincial Archives of Koblenz, 182, No. 6.

This seal shows a tiny six-pointed star in the center of a larger one. The Hebrew legend is rimmed by solid border lines. The name is followed by several Hebrew letters, to read which requires imagination. Anna-Dorothee van den Brincken states that these letters are shin and yod or “That he may live,” indicating that the father of the seal owner is still alive.

The seal is appended to the parchment document illustrated here, dated February 8, 1326, 24 × 7 cm., written in Latin: “Jacob son of Daniel the Older and Jew at Trier obliges Abbot Emich of Tholey OSB [Order of St. Benedict] by declaring his willingness to grant an appropriate reduction for an earlier repayment on the face amount of a note of 61 pounds heller.”* It should be noted that the Latin text refers to Jacob son of Daniel the Older, while the Hebrew legend gives his name as Jacob son of Nathanael. This discrepancy will be alluded to again.


*This analysis follows present national borders, which, of course, are not those of the states in the late medieval period.

Frankfort is on the Main River but is part of the Rhineland.

*This source also points out, correctly, that such opportunities were open to the Lombards and other non-Jewish creditors as well. However, their financial ascendence occurred only after the massacres of the Jews during the period of the Black Death.

That there were commercial relations between the Jews of the Rhineland and Spain at this time may be inferred from the decision of the famous Rabbi Asher ben Jechiel to leave Worms and settle, after a brief stay in Provence, in Toledo, where his fame and authority became even greater than they had been in Germany.

Trier or Trèves is on the Moselle rather than on the Rhine, but it may be considered one of the cities of the Rhineland.

*“At Strasbourg likewise, the most diverse classes of society borrow from the Jews. This custom was already very widespread by the fourteenth century. Aside from simple burghers, bishops, counts, great landed seigneurs, and even emperors are the debtors of the Jews of Strasbourg during this century” (Max Ephraïm, 1924, p. 81).

This Jewish assessment does not include all Jewish taxes. The Jews of Mainz, Cologne, and Trier paid their taxes to the archbishop rather than to the emperor.

The count must have been especially pleased by the murder of the Jews at the time of the Black Death (if he did not actually incite them), for by 1339 he was heavily indebted to seventeen Jews. On December 25, 1344, for example, he borrowed 1,090 livres from Vivelin the Red and Jacob son of Daniel.

§Walch or Welsch in German is a foreigner, that is, a Frenchman or an Italian.

*Spelled Syberth in the old documents. There is no known urban center called Sieberg, and the editors of Monumenta Judaica assume that the reference is to the city of Siegburg. This Meyer of Siegburg, condemned to death at Bonn in 1334, ostensibly for permitting a counterfeiter to escape justice but actually for his money, should not be confused with Simon of Siegburg, who also was killed for his money on trumped-up charges, but later, in 1377.

Ephraïm (1923) claims that Jutha was the widow of Jeckelin of Schlettstadt. Several of her sons—Johelin, Mennel, and Löw are specifically mentioned—became prominent moneylenders. The last two were active as late as the 1380s; apparently they escaped from Strasbourg before the murders during the Black Death. Unless the records are hopelessly confused, there must have been two wealthy widows by the name of Jutta or Jutha doing business in the city in the same period.

The fury of the mob in Strasbourg, though directed against the Jews, was in reality a revolution. It was, in effect, an uprising of the guilds, supported by the Church, against the patricians. The riots led to an immediate fall of the oligarchy and a change in the constitution to favor the guilds. The mortgages and promissory notes of the murdered Jews were returned to the debtors, and the cash and personal property seized from the victims were divided among the guilds by the council.

*Jacob son of Daniel; the possessive case is written “Jacob Daniels” in the German documents.

Michel of Bingen. Most writers merge the administrations of Jacob and his son-in-law Michel, writing that the former was treasurer to the archbishop from 1341 to 1347. It would seem that Muskin was succeeded in 1336 by Jacob, who in 1341 gave over his power to Michel, though he was still alive and involved in the post to some extent. Whether Michel continued up to 1345, 1347, or 1349 is in some dispute, but it seems certain that he fell victim to the massacres at the time of the Black Death, and thus 1349 would be an ultimate date.

In some parts of medieval Spain, and for a short period in Poland, the Jews leased the mints in order to depreciate the money (lessening the silver content and/or reducing the coin sizes) for their own profit. In other medieval states this was almost always done by mutual agreement with the rulers, the two parties splitting the profits.

§This was not the only such action. Edward III also bought the support of the duke of Brabant and the counts of Guelders, Clèves, and Juliers. He made similar cash payments to Emperor Ludwig of Bavaria, who bestowed upon him the title of Vicar of the Empire but provided no troops. The weight of all these cash payments was what crushed Edward’s Italian bankers.

*The heller was a type of small silver, often equivalent to half a pfennig.

*This analysis follows present national borders, which, of course, are not those of the states in the late medieval period.

*Spelled Syberth in the old documents. There is no known urban center called Sieberg, and the editors of Monumenta Judaica assume that the reference is to the city of Siegburg. This Meyer of Siegburg, condemned to death at Bonn in 1334, ostensibly for permitting a counterfeiter to escape justice but actually for his money, should not be confused with Simon of Siegburg, who also was killed for his money on trumped-up charges, but later, in 1377.

Ephraïm (1923) claims that Jutha was the widow of Jeckelin of Schlettstadt. Several of her sons—Johelin, Mennel, and Löw are specifically mentioned—became prominent moneylenders. The last two were active as late as the 1380s; apparently they escaped from Strasbourg before the murders during the Black Death. Unless the records are hopelessly confused, there must have been two wealthy widows by the name of Jutta or Jutha doing business in the city in the same period.

The fury of the mob in Strasbourg, though directed against the Jews, was in reality a revolution. It was, in effect, an uprising of the guilds, supported by the Church, against the patricians. The riots led to an immediate fall of the oligarchy and a change in the constitution to favor the guilds. The mortgages and promissory notes of the murdered Jews were returned to the debtors, and the cash and personal property seized from the victims were divided among the guilds by the council.

*Jacob son of Daniel; the possessive case is written “Jacob Daniels” in the German documents.

Michel of Bingen. Most writers merge the administrations of Jacob and his son-in-law Michel, writing that the former was treasurer to the archbishop from 1341 to 1347. It would seem that Muskin was succeeded in 1336 by Jacob, who in 1341 gave over his power to Michel, though he was still alive and involved in the post to some extent. Whether Michel continued up to 1345, 1347, or 1349 is in some dispute, but it seems certain that he fell victim to the massacres at the time of the Black Death, and thus 1349 would be an ultimate date.

In some parts of medieval Spain, and for a short period in Poland, the Jews leased the mints in order to depreciate the money (lessening the silver content and/or reducing the coin sizes) for their own profit. In other medieval states this was almost always done by mutual agreement with the rulers, the two parties splitting the profits.

§This was not the only such action. Edward III also bought the support of the duke of Brabant and the counts of Guelders, Clèves, and Juliers. He made similar cash payments to Emperor Ludwig of Bavaria, who bestowed upon him the title of Vicar of the Empire but provided no troops. The weight of all these cash payments was what crushed Edward’s Italian bankers.

*The heller was a type of small silver, often equivalent to half a pfennig.

Frankfort is on the Main River but is part of the Rhineland.

*This source also points out, correctly, that such opportunities were open to the Lombards and other non-Jewish creditors as well. However, their financial ascendence occurred only after the massacres of the Jews during the period of the Black Death.

That there were commercial relations between the Jews of the Rhineland and Spain at this time may be inferred from the decision of the famous Rabbi Asher ben Jechiel to leave Worms and settle, after a brief stay in Provence, in Toledo, where his fame and authority became even greater than they had been in Germany.

Trier or Trèves is on the Moselle rather than on the Rhine, but it may be considered one of the cities of the Rhineland.

*“At Strasbourg likewise, the most diverse classes of society borrow from the Jews. This custom was already very widespread by the fourteenth century. Aside from simple burghers, bishops, counts, great landed seigneurs, and even emperors are the debtors of the Jews of Strasbourg during this century” (Max Ephraïm, 1924, p. 81).

This Jewish assessment does not include all Jewish taxes. The Jews of Mainz, Cologne, and Trier paid their taxes to the archbishop rather than to the emperor.

The count must have been especially pleased by the murder of the Jews at the time of the Black Death (if he did not actually incite them), for by 1339 he was heavily indebted to seventeen Jews. On December 25, 1344, for example, he borrowed 1,090 livres from Vivelin the Red and Jacob son of Daniel.

§Walch or Welsch in German is a foreigner, that is, a Frenchman or an Italian.

For convenience here (though such distinctions are somewhat arbitrary), the major area which the Rhine passes is divided into three parts, the south, the center, and the north. Strasbourg is the most important French city in the south, as Karlsruhe is the most important German city.* The German state of Baden-Württemberg is to the east of the river on its early journey. Smaller cities in this area like Speyer and Worms, as well as Strasbourg itself, were very important centers for Jewish settlement in the Middle Ages.

Bishop Gerhard of Speyer borrowed not only from the Jewish community at Speyer but also from that of Strasbourg. A principal creditor seems to have been Jutta (also called Jutha), a widow. A Hebrew summary preserved at the foot of a debt agreement in the Main State Archives of Düsseldorf (see Nos. 132 and 133) tells us that Jutta was the widow of Meyer of Siegburg* and sealed documents with her son Moses. Jutta and her son engaged in extensive financial operations, and her name often appears in various records. She used a seal of which no impression remains; this seems to have been the seal of her dead husband.

Bishop Gerhard of Speyer borrowed not only from the Jewish community at Speyer but also from that of Strasbourg. A principal creditor seems to have been Jutta (also called Jutha), a widow. A Hebrew summary preserved at the foot of a debt agreement in the Main State Archives of Düsseldorf (see Nos. 132 and 133) tells us that Jutta was the widow of Meyer of Siegburg* and sealed documents with her son Moses. Jutta and her son engaged in extensive financial operations, and her name often appears in various records. She used a seal of which no impression remains; this seems to have been the seal of her dead husband.

The Strasbourg patriciate attempted to save the Jews at the time of the Black Death. The mob, however, deposed the mayor and almost completely wiped out what was one of the largest Jewish settlements in Europe. Since we know from the records that the Regensburg monied aristocracy invested with the Jews and successfully protected them from the mass terror sweeping Europe in the same period, we may presume that this was also the motive behind the unsuccessful attempt to protect the Jews at Strasbourg.

The most original feature of his administration was his [Baldwin’s] dependence on the Jews. From 1323 onwards three Jews succeeded each other at the head of his financial administration: Muskin (1323–36), Jacob Daniels* and, after 1341, his son-in-law Michels. The accounts of Baldwin’s treasury were kept in Hebrew and were later translated into Latin. These Jewish agents were sometimes able to borrow money for Baldwin without special security or pledging property, though his credit was not always equally good.

The most original feature of his administration was his [Baldwin’s] dependence on the Jews. From 1323 onwards three Jews succeeded each other at the head of his financial administration: Muskin (1323–36), Jacob Daniels* and, after 1341, his son-in-law Michels. The accounts of Baldwin’s treasury were kept in Hebrew and were later translated into Latin. These Jewish agents were sometimes able to borrow money for Baldwin without special security or pledging property, though his credit was not always equally good.

Following a tradition that predated Baldwin’s assumption of the post of archbishop at Trier, Jews ran the mint of the archbishopric as well. Probably the functions of mint lessee and financial adviser were combined, as it would seem they were under Muskin, Jacob, and Michel.

With so much money accumulating, Archbishop Baldwin began selling his influence on the European political market. In 1337 to 1339 Edward III of England—a man as hungry for glory as Baldwin was for money—organized his wars against France. He borrowed from Baldwin 25,500 florins, pledging his crown for their repayment (the fiscal agent is unknown). On February 27, 1339, reversing the situation, Edward paid the archbishop 61,000 florins in gold as a “persuasion,” vulgarly known as a bribe, so that he would ally himself with England in the conflict with France.§ This payment has been described as the largest individual business transaction of the first half of the fourteenth century. Only the most trusted agent could handle such a deal. Archbishop Baldwin chose Vivelin the Red, a Jew of Strasbourg and partner of Jacob son of Daniel, his treasurer, to arrange the details and receive the money. Vivelin (whose Jewish name probably was Chaim) must have thought it ironic to be dealing with the agents of a king whose grandfather had driven all the Jews out of England, and who himself was now putting into a Jew’s hands this enormous sum so that an archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church would stay neutral in the conflagration that would begin the Hundred Years’ War.

The seal is appended to the parchment document illustrated here, dated February 8, 1326, 24 × 7 cm., written in Latin: “Jacob son of Daniel the Older and Jew at Trier obliges Abbot Emich of Tholey OSB [Order of St. Benedict] by declaring his willingness to grant an appropriate reduction for an earlier repayment on the face amount of a note of 61 pounds heller.”* It should be noted that the Latin text refers to Jacob son of Daniel the Older, while the Hebrew legend gives his name as Jacob son of Nathanael. This discrepancy will be alluded to again.

At Mainz (Mayence) and Frankfort it may be said that the central Rhine begins, an area which extends up to Bonn and involves the German states of the Rhineland Palatinate and Hesse (formerly the Wetterau). In Westphalia, the northern Rhine, the leading cities are Cologne, Düsseldorf, and Duisburg (Cologne is the site of a Jewish settlement established before the arrival of some of the Germanic tribes that now form a part of the German nation). The Rhine then flows out of Germany and, passing by Arnhem in the Netherlands, works its way to the North Sea through Rotterdam, its chief seaport. Though the river is shallow at points, both cargo and passenger ships can travel from Basel in Switzerland to Rotterdam; thus in effect it links the interior of western Europe with the Atlantic Ocean.

One must look at this fact in light of the great progress which the exchange of money made in the time of this commercial revolution vis-à-vis the previous economic structure. Outside bourgeois circles there was a lack of fluid capital to cover the expenses of the princes in their new territories. The nobility fell into an economic crisis through the fall of ground rents and increasing expenditures for luxuries. As a result of the great need for money, there were many opportunities for the Jews to operate as creditors.*

For little more than half a century the Jews prospered, until their communities were destroyed as a result of the Black Death (though they retained their financial prominence in certain cities of the north Rhineland, as well as at Regensburg in Bavaria, until late in the fourteenth century). Jewish wealth in this period was great enough to rival that of the contemporary Spanish grandees and to bear comparison with the earlier medieval Jewish capitalists of England.

We have noted earlier that the leading Jewish moneylenders in the independent cities of Bavaria all seem to have been closely related. In the Jewish oligarchies of these Rhenish cities, the same process is apparent though not so obvious. In the seven documents from Trier (Trèves) involving Jewish seals, dated from 1326 to 1345, a small group of men repeatedly appear as principals. Mussin, whose Hebrew name appears on his seal as Moses son of Isaac, sealed a document dated 1332 (see No. 109). The records from Trier indicate that Muskin was treasurer to Archbishop Baldwin of Trier from 1323 (or 1328) to 1336. “Mussin” is almost certainly Muskin, the name being misread from the old German document, whose spelling and orthography are difficult to decipher even for experts. Jacob son of Daniel (called son of Nathanael on his two seals in the Hebrew; see Nos. 106 and 112) followed Muskin as treasurer at Trier and then arranged that his son-in-law Michel (No. 110) would succeed him. Jacob appears on three of these documents, associated with his son-in-law and with Vivelin the Red of Strasbourg (No. 113). Vivelin must have been recommended to Archbishop Baldwin by Jacob for the delicate and confidential job of arranging the transfer of 61,000 gold florins from Edward III of England to Trier, the sum being transmitted through an Italian banking house (this extraordinary transaction will be described below).

Other documents and historical references indicate that there were syndicates similar to the Trier one operating all along the Rhine, but the most important Jewish center was Strasbourg.* The tax records of Emperor Friedrich II for the year 1241, fortunately preserved, indicate that of a total Jewish assessment of 857 marks for the Empire (some 20 percent of the entire revenue from the cities), the Jews of Strasbourg paid 200 marks, the highest payment for any one group Their activities continued and expanded in the fourteenth century. As has been noted, Vivelin the Red, a nickname that must refer to red hair, was a colleague of Jacob son of Daniel, treasurer to the archbishop of Trier. The two men lent large sums to Count Walram von Zweibrücken. Vivelin’s seal, appended to a document from November 11, 1345 (see No. 114), has unfortunately fallen off.

Other documents and historical references indicate that there were syndicates similar to the Trier one operating all along the Rhine, but the most important Jewish center was Strasbourg.* The tax records of Emperor Friedrich II for the year 1241, fortunately preserved, indicate that of a total Jewish assessment of 857 marks for the Empire (some 20 percent of the entire revenue from the cities), the Jews of Strasbourg paid 200 marks, the highest payment for any one group Their activities continued and expanded in the fourteenth century. As has been noted, Vivelin the Red, a nickname that must refer to red hair, was a colleague of Jacob son of Daniel, treasurer to the archbishop of Trier. The two men lent large sums to Count Walram von Zweibrücken. Vivelin’s seal, appended to a document from November 11, 1345 (see No. 114), has unfortunately fallen off.

Other documents and historical references indicate that there were syndicates similar to the Trier one operating all along the Rhine, but the most important Jewish center was Strasbourg.* The tax records of Emperor Friedrich II for the year 1241, fortunately preserved, indicate that of a total Jewish assessment of 857 marks for the Empire (some 20 percent of the entire revenue from the cities), the Jews of Strasbourg paid 200 marks, the highest payment for any one group Their activities continued and expanded in the fourteenth century. As has been noted, Vivelin the Red, a nickname that must refer to red hair, was a colleague of Jacob son of Daniel, treasurer to the archbishop of Trier. The two men lent large sums to Count Walram von Zweibrücken. Vivelin’s seal, appended to a document from November 11, 1345 (see No. 114), has unfortunately fallen off.

David the Older, called Walch§ (incorrectly given as “Watch” in some records), also did business with Margrave Rudolf III of Baden. In 1320–21 the margrave, attempting to escape his obligations, sued Aaron son of David and David the Older, claiming that usury was prohibited and that he was entitled to be released from payment of interest and to restitution of interest already paid on his debts. Since the Jews were under the protection of the city of Strasbourg, the margrave could not get a favorable judgment. The juxtaposition of names and their partnership in the defense in this case makes it seem evident there was a father-and-son relationship between David and Aaron.

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780814344859
MARC Record
OCLC
1055142843
Pages
209-213
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-02
Open Access
Yes
Creative Commons
CC-BY-NC-SA
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