Ansicht der Stadt Frankfurt (Oder). Kolorierter Kupferstich von Frans Hogenberg aus dem Werk „Civitates Orbis Terrarum“, 1572 ©Public Domain
Stadtansicht Frankfurt/Oder, 1548 ©Public Domain
The first documented mention of Jewish life in Germany dates back to 321 in Cologne. The Rhineland formed the early historical center for Jewish settlements, which experienced its heyday in the 10th century. Jewish trade settlements were established along the European trade and transport routes of the Rhine, Danube, Main and Elbe. When the First Crusade began in 1096, the peaceful coexistence between Christians and Jews ended abruptly. The Jewish population of the Rhineland departed, and this is how the first Jews arrived in Frankfurt (Oder).
First Mention of Jewish Life in Frankfurt (Oder)
In the first quarter of the 13th century, presumably Frankish merchants founded a settlement on the Oder, which was granted city rights in 1253. Even before, the location was regarded as a center for East-West trade. The first mention of Jewish life in the city on the Oder can be traced back to 1294. The historical document details a dispute between Jewish and Christian butchers that was peacefully resolved through a so-called “Schlachtordnung” (codex for the ritual slaughter of animals). It can be assumed, that at this point in Frankfurt (Oder) a large and organized Jewish community existed.
Jewish Existence Between Tolerance and Persecution
The origins of Jewish settlement in Frankfurt (Oder) was similar to developments in cities elsewhere in the Holy Roman Empire. Jews became subjects of the sovereign and enjoyed privileges such as the freedom to travel. This was intended to promote their trading activities. Despite their privileges, they were always dependent upon the goodwill of the local lords. From the middle of the 15th century relations between the Christian population and their Jewish neighbors deteriorated. Around 1490, the first expulsions of Jews from Frankfurt (Oder) took place.
New Jewish Beginnings in Frankfurt (Oder)
There is no evidence of Jewish life in Frankfurt (Oder) for the next 150 years. It was during this time that the new buildings of the Viadrina University were built upon the site of the former Synagogue. It was not until the middle of the 17th century when Kurfürst (Prince Elector) Friedrich Wilhelm began to increasingly grant the right to settle to Jewish families from Austria. As the living conditions for the Jews in Frankfurt improved, a new Jewish community emerged.
Johanna Adrian and the Editors