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History of the Jews in Germany

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The history of the Jews in Germany goes back at least to the year 321,[2][3] and continued through the Early Middle Ages (5th to 10th centuries CE) and High Middle Ages (circa 1000–1299 CE) when Jewish immigrants founded the Ashkenazi Jewish community. The community survived under Charlemagne, but suffered during the Crusades. Accusations of well poisoning during the Black Death (1346–53) led to mass slaughter of German Jews[4] and they fled in large numbers to Poland. The Jewish communities of the cities of Mainz, Speyer and Worms became the center of Jewish life during medieval times. "This was a golden age as area bishops protected the Jews resulting in increased trade and prosperity."[5]

Quick facts: Total population, Regions with significant po...
German Jews
Deutsche Juden (German)
יְהוּדִים גֶּרְמָנִים (Hebrew)
דײַטשע ייִדן (Yiddish)
The location of Germany (dark green) in the European Union (light green)
Total population
116,000 to 225,000[1]
Regions with significant populations
Israel, United States, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and the United Kingdom
English, German, Russian, Hebrew, Yiddish, and others
Judaism, agnosticism, atheism, and others
Related ethnic groups
Ashkenazi Jews, Sephardi Jews, Mizrahi Jews, Israelis

The First Crusade began an era of persecution of Jews in Germany.[6] Entire communities, like those of Trier, Worms, Mainz and Cologne, were slaughtered. The Hussite Wars became the signal for renewed persecution of Jews. The end of the 15th century was a period of religious hatred that ascribed to Jews all possible evils. With Napoleon's fall in 1815, growing nationalism resulted in increasing repression. From August to October 1819, pogroms that came to be known as the Hep-Hep riots took place throughout Germany. During this time, many German states stripped Jews of their civil rights. As a result, many German Jews began to emigrate.

From the time of Moses Mendelssohn until the 20th century, the community gradually achieved emancipation, and then prospered.[7]

In January 1933, some 522,000 Jews lived in Germany. After the Nazis took power and implemented their antisemitic ideology and policies, the Jewish community was increasingly persecuted. About 60% (numbering around 304,000) emigrated during the first six years of the Nazi dictatorship. In 1933, persecution of the Jews became an official Nazi policy. In 1935 and 1936, the pace of antisemitic persecution increased. In 1936, Jews were banned from all professional jobs, effectively preventing them from participating in education, politics, higher education and industry. On 10 November 1938, the state police and Nazi paramilitary forces orchestrated the Night of Broken Glass (Kristallnacht), in which the storefronts of Jewish shops and offices were smashed and vandalized, and many synagogues were destroyed by fire. Only roughly 214,000 Jews were left in Germany proper (1937 borders) on the eve of World War II.[8]

Beginning in late 1941, the remaining community was subjected to systematic deportations to ghettos and ultimately, to death camps in Eastern Europe.[8] In May 1943, Germany was declared judenrein (clean of Jews; also judenfrei: free of Jews).[8] By the end of the war, an estimated 160,000 to 180,000 German Jews had been killed by the Nazi regime and their collaborators.[8] A total of about six million European Jews were murdered under the direction of the Nazis, in the genocide that later came to be known as the Holocaust.

After the war, the Jewish community in Germany started to slowly grow again. Beginning around 1990, a spurt of growth was fueled by immigration from the former Soviet Union, so that at the turn of the 21st century, Germany had the only growing Jewish community in Europe,[9] and the majority of German Jews were Russian-speaking. By 2018, the Jewish population of Germany had leveled off at 116,000, not including non-Jewish members of households; the total estimated enlarged population of Jews living in Germany, including non-Jewish household members, was close to 225,000.[1]

By German law, denial of the Holocaust or that six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust (§ 130 StGB) is a criminal act; violations can be punished with up to five years of prison.[10] In 2006, on the occasion of the World Cup held in Germany, the then-Interior Minister of Germany Wolfgang Schäuble, urged vigilance against far-right extremism, saying: "We will not tolerate any form of extremism, xenophobia, or antisemitism."[11] In spite of Germany's measures against these groups and antisemites, a number of incidents have occurred in recent years.