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.
• 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.