History from 1938
Augsburg, City in Bavaria, Germany; a free imperial city from 1276 to 1806.
According to legend, the Jewish community in Augsburg originated in the Roman Period. Documentary evidence of Jews living there dates from 1212. Records from the second half of the 13th century show a well-organized community, and mention the Judenhaus (1259), the synagogue and cemetery (1276), the Ritual Bathhouse, and the "Dancehouse" for weddings(1290),. The Jews were mainly occupied as vintners, cattle dealers, and moneylenders. The Augsburg Municipal Charter of 1276, determining the political and economic status of the Jewish residents, was adopted by several cities in South Germany. Regulation of the legal status of Augsburg Jewry was complicated by the rivalry between the Episcopal and municipal powers. Both contended with the emperor for jurisdiction over the Jews and enjoyment of the concomitant revenues. Until 1436 lawsuits between Christians and Jews were adjudicated before a mixed court of 12 Christians and 12 Jews. In 1298 and 1336 the Jews of Augsburg were saved from massacre through the intervention of the municipality.
During the Black Death (1348-49), many were massacred and the remainder expelled from the City. The emperor granted permission to the Bishop and Burghers to readmit them in 1350 and 1355, and the community subsequently recovered to some extent. Later, however, it became so impoverished by the extortions of the emperor that the burghers could no longer see any profit in tolerance.
In 1424-36 Jews in Augsburg were forced to wear the Yellow Badge, and in 1439 the community, then numbering about 300 families, was expelled. The Augsburg Town Council paid Albert II of Austria 900 gulden to compensate him for the loss of his servicamerae. Thereafter Jews were only permitted to visit Augsburg during the day on business. They were also granted the right of asylum in times of war.
In the late middle ages the Augsburg Yeshivah made an important contribution to the development of the Pilpul method of study and analysis of the Talmud. The variant of the Pilpul Method evolved in Augsburg is referred to as the "Augsburg Hillukim". The Talmudist Jacob Weil lived in Augsburg between 1412 and 1438. While some Hebrew pamphlets were printed in Augsburg by Erhard Oeglin as early as 1514 of the initiative of the Apostate J. Boeschenstein, a Hebrew Press was established in 1532 by Hayyim B. David Shahor, the wandering printer from Prague, together with his son Isaac and son-in-law Joseph B. Yakar who had learned printing in Venice. Between that year and 1540 nine books appeared including Rashi's Pentateuch Commentary (1533), an illustrated Passover Haggada (1534), Jacob B. Asher's Turim (1536), a Melokhim Buch, in Yiddish 1543), a Mahzor and a Siddur, in 1530 Joseph Joselmann of Rosheim convened a synod of German community representatives in Augsburg, the seat of the Reichstag.
An organized Jewish community was again established in 1803. Jewish bankers settled there by agreement with the municipality in an endeavor to redress the City's fiscal deficit. Jacob Obermayer was one of the Jewish bankers who in 1803 loaned the City of Augsburg funds to help pay reparations to Napolean. In practice, the abrogation of the City's special status and its incorporation into Bavaria; however, the new Jewish civic status was not officially recognized until 1861. In 1871 Augsburg was the meeting place of a Rabbincial Assembly dealing with Liturgical reform. The Jewish population increased from 56 in 1801 to 1,156 in 1900.
It numbered 900 in 1938, when the magnificent Synagogue, dedicated in 1912, was burned down by the Nazis. During World War II the community ceased to exist as the result of a series of deportations, that of April 3, 1942, numbering 128 persons, being the largest. In the immediate postwar period, a camp was established there to house displaced Jews.
The Jewish community started its own Sportzplatz after Hitler passed laws preventing Jews from competing and playing sports with non-Jews. This Sportzplatz became the focal point for many community functions. The first president of the Sportzplatz was Leo Lehmann and the last president was Josef Landmann. It still exists to this day as part of a residential condominium complex's recreational field. A plaque and showcase on the site explains the brief Jewish history of the place.
In 1985, the Synagogue was restored and re-dedicated, due in large part to the efforts of the President of the new congregation, Senator Julius Spokojny, and in 1988 a Reunion was held in New York of approximately 80 Augsburgers who survived the Holocaust. Another recent event has been the Jewish resettlement (of mostly Eastern European Jews) back to Augsburg. It is estimated that there will be more than 1,000 Jews living in Augsburg by the turn of the century.
In 1996, the Descendants of the Jewish Community of Augsburg was formed to try to keep the various roots of our history from ending.
Read about Kristallnacht by Henry Landman, Survivor.
View a timeline showing the history of Jews in Germany.