- Reaction score
- Ethnic group
- Low Saxon
As I said before, the foreigner status of the Jews during the early middle age was no discrimination but a privilege. It implied direct jurisdiction by the king/emperor instead of by local courts, freedom from armed services, and freedom from local excises and customs duties. The king/emperor could request the local nobility for armed service (knights), but could not levy taxes on them. So the royal finances depended strongly on the king's direct subjects, i.e. prince-bishops and Jews. In the late 11th century, a power struggle between king/emperor and Pope emerged over the right to install bishops. That struggle had a lot to do with who gains the tax revenue from the German prince-bishoprics (Cologne, Mainz, Trier, etc.) - and these prince-bishoprics used to control the largest and richest cities of the Frankish realm. As part of this power struggle, which was meant to reap the king/emperor of his financial base, the Vatican also targeted the Jews via the 1st Crusade. Some prince-bishops loyal to the emperor, e.g. the Bishop of Speyer, successfully protected the Jews against the Crusaders. Others, e.g. Mainz, initially protected the Jews but gave in to the Crusaders after a few days. The Bishop of Cologne from the outset seems to have given the Crusaders free hand.Perhaps the Ashkenazi Jews adopted Old High German and mixed it with Hebrew/Aramaic and some Greek/Latin before the first Crusade, i.e before the great persecutions began, while it's true that under the Frankish empire (including East Francia which would turn into the Holy Roman empire), Jews were regarded as foreigners, property of the king/kaiser, and as heretics by the church, but before the Crusades, until the late 11th century, the church still had a difficult time placing it's authority in the region (in fact, one of the reasons Pope Urban the II called for a Crusade in response to the request of a few experienced mercenaries was to expand his authority), and so Jews had it easier until that time, and perhaps they adopted the local language by interacting with the locals via trade, money landing etc.
In the High Middle Ages, the situation became more complicated, as Free Cities (also directly subject to / taxable by the emperor) arose as additional power factor. The Cologne Jews often found themselves forced to take side in the endless power struggle between the prince-bishop and the city magistrate, sometimes ending with the winning, sometimes with the losing side, but always a welcome scapegoat. The 1298 Rintfleisch massacres along the upper Danube took place against the background of the fights between Adolf of Nassau and Albert I of Austria (Habsburg). The magistrates of Augsburg and Regensburg, both loyal to Albert, protected their Jewish communities [In turn, Augsburg Jews, while theoretically freed from paying local taxes, agreed to contribute to repairing the heavily damaged city walls "in honour of the city"]. Cities favouring Adolf (Heilbronn, Rothenburg etc.), OTOH, allowed the mob to slaughter Jews there. When Albert had finally emerged victorious, he reinforced Jewish privileges. Cities that had allowed massacres to happen had to pay compensation - not to the surviving Jews, but to the emperor for foregone Jewish tax revenue.
The 1349 Strassburg pogroms formed part of the local power struggle between the magistrate, controlled by local merchants and supported by the Jewish community, and a coalition between bishop, local nobility and craftsmen. The local power struggle was embedded into the throne dispute between Charles IV (Luxemburg) and Ludwig of Bavaria (Wittelsbach). After a craftsmen revolt against the magistrate had failed, the bishop and noblemen orchestrated the pogroms just five days later, which ultimately gave them the upper side.
A much-disputed issue is why Charles IV didn't protect his Jewish subjects in Strasbourg, Cologne and elsewhere. One of the theories is that he had lost financial interest, since, for lack of funds, he had leased out the Jewish tax revenue to third parties (in the case of Strasbourg this had even been done twice, by Charles as well as by his opponent). Destruction of the Jewish community would have made the leases void, and allowed the king to re-establish (and newly lease out) taxation rights on any successor community.
Charles' son, Emperor Sigismund (1411-1437), who was chronically short of cash, in 1414 requested a "coronation gift" on top of regular taxes from his Jewish subjects. The "gift" was to amount to the "third penny", i.e. 1/3 of Jewish mobile property, and to be collected by all cities in question. City magistrates were anything but happy, especially as they in 1385 had gained taxation rights on their Jewish citizens as compensation for a payment of 40,000 Gulden to King Wenzel, but after long protests ultimately complied. Sigismund levied another "third penny" on Jews on the occasion of becoming Emperor in 1433/34. His successor (again after a civil war). Albrecht II of Austria (Habsburg), in 1438 regarded a "third penny" at coronation already as established practice, as did Frederick III in 1442 (coronation as king) and 1452 (coronation as Emperor), and most of his successors.
There is indication of several cities expelling the Jews as "temporary measure" in order to get rid of the obligation to pay the "third penny" to the Emperor and re-collect it afterwards from the Jewish community. The city of Augsburg, e.g., in 1433/34 intervened massively in favour of "our Jewish citizens" against Sigismund's "third penny". The 1438 expulsion of Jews from the city, announced after Albrecht II claimed his "third penny", included a 2-year grace period, which was obviously meant to gain time until the outcome of the fight for the crown was clear. The temporary expulsion from Mainz between 1438 and 1445, after which the synagogue and other Jewish structures were returned to their original purposes, seems to have followed the same motivation. It also appears that the expulsion of Jews from Cologne in 1424 was initially more of a tactical measure, geared at winning time until the dispute between the Emperor and the city of Frankfurt / Main on the general legitimacy of the "third penny" had been decided - many Jews just moved to suburbs across the Rhine. The 1442 expulsion from some Bavarian territories including Munich, expulsion from Erfurt in 1453, and the expulsion wave from NE Germany after 1492 are also coinciding with attempts to levy the "third penny" via the cities/ counts/ dukes in question. In several other cities, however, expulsion cannot be linked to the "third penny", and other motives (debt cancelation, getting rid of competition, using the Jewish quarters for urban projects as in Nuremberg 1349, etc.) may have played a role as well.
The various "third pennies" eroded the financial power of Jewish communities, and also their relevance to the city budgets. When the liquidity crisis of the 13th/14th century was overcome by fresh minting of Bohemian and later South American silver, Jewish trade finance lost relevance, and non-Jewish merchants saw the opportunity to engage in previously Jewish-dominated banking and long-distance trade (e.g. Augsburg's famous Fugger and Welser families). Imperial protection had already for some time not been worth the paper it was written on, former privileges turned into massive financial burdens, urban power and social struggles increased in violence and number (e.g. Hussite wars), with Jews always serving as welcome scapegoats, and the once supportive local "merchant aristocracy" gradually turned away - no wonder many Jews decided to leave towards CE Europe.
Note that Jewish expulsion/ emigration wasn't universal: The Jewish community of Frankfurt / Main existed, except for a short break between 1349 and 1360, continuously until the early 1940s. A key event here was the 1422-1424 dispute between city magistrate and Emperor Sigismund on taxation rights over local Jews. Somehow, the magistrate managed to win the dispute, remained free from having to levy the "third penny", and refuted further attempts to expel Jews, e.g. in 1515. Consequently, Frankfurt attracted many Jews expelled elsewhere, which in turn helped the city to become a major European financial centre. In nearby Worms (1487) and Mainz (1515), expulsions ordered by the local bishops were cancelled by the Emperors, who wanted to preserve the remains of their Jewish tax base. Worms' Jewish cemetery has been used continuously from the 11th century until 1911. Many Ashkenazi also settled in the German countryside, where they especially focused on cattle and horse trade, though may of them became impoverished.
However, coming back to the issue of Yiddish, any direct relation of Eastern European to Rhine-Main Ashkenazi is rather unlikely. Rhine-Main dialects haven't fully taken part in the Celtic softenting of "ch" into "sh", but also show no signs of the Alemannic hardening into "kh". I definitely think that Yiddish evolved somewhere around Basel, Strasbourg and Freiburg, and probably rather in the 13th/ 14th century than before the 1st Crusade. Berne (pogroms in 1294 and 1348, expulsion 1427) and Zurich (expulsion 1436, but no pogroms before) would be even more plausible accent-wise. Here, we are also talking 13/14th century; the first Jewish community in Switzerland was recorded in 1213.
There actually was a Judaeo-slavic language, Knaanic... But it became extinct during the late middle ages & was eventually replaced by Yiddish.
That should indicate (post-) Khazar Jewish settlement, of which I am quite sure that it took place (and I think there are also a few genetic traces of it). Wikipedia names a 9th century letter from Ruthenia as first evidence of Knaanic - time-wise and geographically quite closely connected to the Khazars. Unfortunately, Ruthenia has not been covered by any of the genetic studies that we are discussing in this thread. In the 12/13th century, i.e. before the start of the German colonisation, coins with Hebrew letters were minted in Kalisz, Poland. That suggests that Jews were anything but irrelevant in the High Medieval Polish business society. However, I would assume they mostly settled in the towns and cities (as, e.g., Georgian Jews did), not in the countryside. This also implies that their genetic traces, if existing, should rather be searched for in those cities than in remote valleys. [ This valley (link), might be an exception, and I would be really curious about the results if it ever became DNA-sampled]