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Posts tagged ‘Fraenkische Staedte’

Rothenburg ob der Tauber: medieval night glow

Many visitors to Rothenburg ob der Tauber are here for the day, and when day turns to night, you can have the place to yourself for the opportunity to view and photograph. And judging by these photographs, you may well ask yourself: where did everybody go?

A good place to start to get your bearings straight is the Marktplatz (Market Square; photo above and map below). While you wait for Hans Baumgartner to begin his Nightwatchman nightly walking tours (in English or German), you can look up the Ratstrinkstube (Councillors’ Tavern) for a modest retelling of the Meistertrunk legend. The following 90-second video shows how the figures for Mayor Nusch and General Tilly greet curious onlookers at the square at 8pm.

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Rothenburg ob der Tauber: Jewish history since 1180 AD/CE

After their stop in town, most visitors depart Rothenburg ob der Tauber with memories of a romantic medieval town that seems almost frozen in time.

But a careful measured walk also produces a deeper examination of the town’s history with clear signs to an historical and centuries-old presence of Jews. A Jewish settlement goes back to at least 1180 AD/CE in written records with the appearance of the name of Samuel Biscopf, a Jew from Rothenburg ob der Tauber (“erste Erwähnung eines Rotenburger Juden”: [ℵ1], p. 136; [ℵ2], pp. 133-135).

The centuries are marked with a growing thriving Jewish community, persecution, violent death, explusion, and a return to life.

Summary Timeline:

•   1180 AD/CE, first mention of Jewish community in Rothenburg; 1st Jewish quarter and synagogue at present-day Kapellenplatz.
•   1250-1286, Rabbi Meir ben Baruch, teaching life and times in Rothenburg.
•   1298, Rintfleisch-Pogrom!: 450 Jews killed in Rothenburg; total 5000 Jews dead in Franconia.
•   1339, some of the first set of graves buried at the Jewish Cemetery, at present-day Schrannenplatz
•   1349, Pogrom! and persecution, Jews accused of poisoning wells with corpses due to the Black Death.
•   1370, Establishment of 2nd Jewish quarter, around Judengasse.
•   1404, 1st Synagogue converted to St. Mary’s Chapel.
•   1407, 2nd Synagogue constructed close to burial ground, at present-day Schrannenplatz.
•   1520, Theologian Johann Teuschlein incites anti-Jewish hysteria, forcing expulsion of all Jews from Rothenburg. No Jews allowed in the city for next 350 years; 2nd Synagogue and Jewish cemetery destroyed.
•   1861, all Jews allowed to settle anywhere in Bavaria.
•   1870-1875, Jews begin returning to the city.
•   1872, Equality granted among Jews and Christians, after the 1871 constitution of the new German Empire.
•   1888, Prayer hall (“3rd synagogue”) at present-day Herrngasse 21.
•   1875, 2nd Jewish cemetery at Würzburger Strasse and Wiesenstrasse.
•   1938, Rothenburg declared “free of Jews” on 22 October, as last remaining 17 Jews driven out, two and a half weeks before the Reichspogromnacht.
•   1942, 2nd cemetery desecrated and destroyed. Few, if any, descendants of early 20th-century community remain or known to be alive.

! The word “pogrom” is a late 19th- to early 20th-century Russian word (“погром”), derived from the verb “gromit” (громи́ть) meaning “to destroy with violence.” While “pogrom” is used generally to describe mob violence by one ethnic or religious group on another, the term is used in this post to describe attacks on the Jewish community.

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Rothenburg ob der Tauber: medieval city by day

I’ve been hearing about this place for years. “Ya gotta come; the beautiful magical city is a dream come true.” At some point, hype bleeds into “white noise”, and attention turns elsewhere.

The day arrives when the timing is a great fit, when the city becomes the first stop on a four-week long tour of the country. I’m hitting a seasonal “sweet spot” in between the summer surge and the Christmas crush. There are far fewer tour buses and day-trippers, but even in mid-November, plenty of visitors are spellbound by the visual beauty. Freed by the weight of the crowds, the feeling collectively from Rothenburg ob der Tauber and her residents feels a lot like a big exhalation of relief.

Directly translated as “red castle over the Tauber (river)”, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is located in the Middle Franconia (Mittelfranken) region of Bavaria. The city lies at the junction of the Romantische Strasse (Romantic Road) and the Burgenstrasse (Castle Road).

From the first community established in nearby Detwang in 960 AD/CE, the Hohenstaufen “Castrum Imperiale” (Imperial Castle) in 1142, a new settlement adjacent to the castle recognized as “Civitas” in 1241, the young city’s Free Imperial City status claimed in 1274, the Reformation’s arrival in 1544, the Thirty Years’ War siege and forced occupation in the early 17th-century, an independent imperial city forced to join the Bavarian Kingdom in 1802, Allied bombing destroyed a large chunk of the old town in World War Two, to subsequent post-war reconstruction and repair, the rich and tumultuous history together with the half-timbered red-roofed houses, cobblestone streets, and the stone wall perimeter make Rothenburg ob der Tauber one of the most beautiful medieval cities in Europe.

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Summer stroll in Bamberg

It’s easy to be warmed by this colourful photo of Bamberg, Germany, standing beneath the summer sun and over the gently gurgling waters of the Regnitz river. Bamberg is one of my recommended UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Germany.

Altes Rathaus, Bamberg, Germany

Altes Rathaus and Obere Brücke, from the Geyerswörthsteg on the Regnitz river

I made the photo above on 24 June 2010. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at

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