King Christian IV of Denmark, etc., in his capacity as Duke of Schleswig, Holstein, Stormarn, and Dithmarschen, grants the Ashkenazi Jews in Altona a Letter of Protection and confirms the privileges individually listed [“General Privilege”]

Source Description

Numerous handwritten copies of this document have been preserved in the State Archives of Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg in addition to contemporary printed versions and excerpts from the 17th and 18th centuries. This alone testifies to its significance. Both the official original of this “General Privilege”—which would have been given to the Jewish community in Altona and its legal successor, the Dreigemeinde [“triple congregation”] of Altona, Hamburg, and Wandsbek formed in 1671—and the official record as an entry in the registry of the district of Pinneberg are no longer existant.

The articles—eleven altogether—ensure the following rights, among others: the congregation was to be allowed to worship in their synagogue according to the Jewish tradition and to bury their dead in their cemetery in keeping with their customs. Those who perform ritual duties within the community like rabbis, cantors, and beadles were exempted from the protection money because it was implicitly assumed that they could not practice a commercial trade. Similarly, the children of those who paid the protection money were exempted from payment as long as they resided in their father’s house, even if they were married. The Jews were permitted to participate in commercial trade and in the kosher slaughter of animals. They were permitted to lend money or act as pawnbrokers at a rate of 27% interest per week—more than twice the previous limit. The sale of pawned items was permitted after a period of one year, provided that they met certain conditions and notified the Vogt [bailiff] in Ottensen. Further legal limitations applied to what they could accept as a deposit. It was important, however, that they were permitted to amicably resolve minor differences before the rabbinical court without the involvement of the Vogt from Ottensen. Their right to exert punishments, however, was quite limited; the only significant disciplinary method at their disposal was the threat of excommunication. In addition, according to article ten they were obligated to maintain the peace, which included the punctual payment of the protection money (at Easter). Finally, it was not permitted to lodge foreign Jews (i.e. from outside the community) for longer than fourteen days.

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Recommended Citation

King Christian IV of Denmark, etc., in his capacity as Duke of Schleswig, Holstein, Stormarn, and Dithmarschen, grants the Ashkenazi Jews in Altona a Letter of Protection and confirms the privileges individually listed [“General Privilege”], edited in: Key Documents of German-Jewish History, <https://dx.doi.org/10.23691/jgo:source-2.en.v1> [September 25, 2017].