Peter Schwarz. Star of the Messiah [Contra perfidos Judaeos de conditionibus veri Messiae].
Esslingen: Konrad Fyner, 1475.
Peter Schwarz (1434–1483) was a German Dominican who managed to learn Hebrew for use in his missionary campaigns against Jewish communities in the Holy Roman Empire. He published two extensive anti-Jewish polemics that advocated destruction of the Talmud as a blasphemous and heretical work. Though focused sharply on ending Judaism, his books also explained Hebrew vocalization and printed a few Jewish Bible passages and prayers in the original Hebrew.
This is the first attempt to print Hebrew in Germany.
Johannes Pfefferkorn. Mirror of the Jews [Speculum adhortationis iudaice ad Christum].
Cologne: Martin von Werden, 1507.
Johannes Pfefferkorn (ca. 1469-1521) converted to Christianity in 1505 and became an active anti-Jewish agitator. His mission had support from many sources, including the Franciscan and Dominican orders as well as the University of Cologne and several German princes. His pamphlets quoted (and distorted) authentic Jewish texts in order to stir Christian passions against toleration of Jewish communities in their midst. This, his first pamphlet, claims that Jewish books contain "hideous lies against Christ and Mary" and urges princes "to take the books from them and leave them nothing but the text of the Holy Scriptures."
Pfefferkorn’s tracts were published simultaneously in separate German and Latin editions. Mirror of the Jews was first published in German (Der Joeden Spiegel [Cologne: Johannes Landen, 1507]). The item on display is the first edition of the Latin version.
Johannes Pfefferkorn. The Confession of the Jews [Ich heysch eyn boichelgyn der ioeden bicht].
Cologne: Johannes Landen, 1508.
In Confession of the Jews (which first appeared in February 1508), Pfefferkorn scornfully describes Jewish holidays, especially various rituals of atonement associated with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, in order "to hold up the Jews to ridicule." Pfefferkorn also emphasizes the accusation that Jewish prayers foment hatred of Christianity, especially Avinu Malkenu ("Our Father, Our King"), which is recited during the interval from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur: "the curse you have just heard [i.e., an imprecation in Avinu Malkenu against enemies of Israel] is especially against us and no one else. Therefore it is my sincere advice according to my slight understanding that such books of curses should be taken from them."
Johannes Pfefferkorn. How the Blind Jews Celebrate Their Easter [In disem buchlein vindet Ier ain entlichenn furtrag wie die blinden Juden yr Ostern halten].
Augsburg: Erhard Öglein, 1509.
Pfefferkorn’s tracts were so inflammatory that Johannes Reuchlin claimed the author should be prosecuted for inciting civil unrest. This pamphlet, as indicated by the title page, insisted that Jews should no longer be tolerated because they had become "heretics of the Old and New Testament." Pfefferkorn also repeats his mantra that Christian authorities should outlaw Jewish moneylending, compel Jews to attend Christian sermons, and confiscate all Jewish books because they are "the mother of their criminality." The final pages include an endorsement of forced baptism of Jewish children and a plea that recalcitrant Jews be driven from the empire like "criminal dogs."
Victor Carben. A Splendid and New Work That Shows All the Errors of the Jews [Opus aureum ac novum … in quo omnes iudeorum errores manifestantur].
Cologne: Heinrich Neuß, 1509.
Victor Carben (ca. 1422-1515), formerly a rabbi, converted to Christianity in 1472 and became involved in campaigns against Jews. Like Pfefferkorn, he composed several extensive anti-Jewish polemics with support from the church and the university in Cologne. Moreover, he also published his works in Latin and German editions to reach both academic and popular audiences. In a formal recommendation (now lost), he strongly endorsed Emperor Maximilian’s proposal to destroy all Jewish books except the Hebrew Bible.
Johannes Reuchlin. Letter to Jacob ben Jehiel Loans, from The Letters of Famous Men [Clarorum virorum epistolae latinae graecae & hebraicae variis temporibus missae ad Ioannem Reuchlin Phorcensem ll. Doctorem].
Tübingen: Thomas Anshelm, 1514.
In 1492-93, Johannes Reuchlin undertook an intensive study of Hebrew under Rabbi Jacob ben Jehiel Loans, a learned physician at the Innsbruck court of Emperor Friedrich III. Reuchlin was so successful (and his accomplishment so distinctive) that the emperor honored him with the presentation of a sumptuous Hebrew Bible manuscript from the twelfth century. This letter is an excellent example of Reuchlin’s development of a discourse of respect for Jews, Judaism, and Jewish learning. Although charged with being "impermissibly favorable to Judaism," Reuchlin published the letter in 1514, in the midst of his heresy trial: "My dear master Jacob, … with deep longing I wish to see your blessed face to delight in the radiance of your bright countenance by hearing your most pure doctrine."
Johannes Reuchlin. The Rudiments of Hebrew [Principium libri Ioannis Reuchlin … de rudimentis hebraicis].
Pforzheim: Thomas Anshelm, 1506.
In 1498-99, as ambassador of the Palatinate, Reuchlin also studied Hebrew under the renowned Jewish scholar Obadiah Sforno in Rome. With the intensive instruction from Loans and Sforno, as well as his own efforts, Reuchlin was able to publish the first Hebrew grammar and lexicon for Christians. The book, written in Latin, is based heavily on the medieval Jewish grammar of Moses Kimhi and the famous Hebrew dictionary, the Book of Roots, by David Kimhi. A notable feature of the lexicon is the frequent correction of Jerome’s Vulgate translation of the Bible.
Johannes Reuchlin. Miracle-Making Word [De verbo mirifico].
Basel: Johannes Amerbach, 1494.
Reuchlin’s first major publication was this tract on Jewish Kabbalah, an interest inspired by the Florentine humanist Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. Miracle Making Word indicates Reuchlin’s goal of "Christianizing" Jewish mysticism. In this work, for example, he claims that the ineffable tetragrammaton of God’s name (YHVH) has become effable and efficacious in the new form of Jesus’s name (YHSVH). Later, Reuchlin’s publisher Thomas Anshelm used this conceit for his printer’s device (see Item II.5). This early work is notable for claiming the prime importance of the Hebrew language but also explicit in its rejections of Judaism.
Johannes Reuchlin. Art of the Kabbalah [Ioannis Reuchlin Phorcensis ll. doc. de arte cabalistica libri tres Leoni X. dicati].
Hagenau: Thomas Anshelm, 1517.
This is a major work of Christian scholarship on Judaism, one that is richly nourished by the use of several dozen Jewish sources (especially, the Zohar and works by Joseph Gikatilla). Reuchlin presents a tremendous amount of recondite and technical matters of Kabbalah (for example, Kabbalistic emanations of God as well as Kabbalistic methods of biblical interpretation), but, most importantly he portrays Jewish piety and Jewish mysticism as exemplary for Christians. Max Brod claimed that in this work Reuchlin "dared to say more and more substantial things to benefit the persecuted Jews and their disdained and misunderstood intellectual champions than in all of his earlier books combined."
Johannes Reuchlin. Accents and Orthography of Hebrew [De accentibus et orthographia linguae hebraicae]. Hagenau: Thomas Anshelm, 1518.
This is a comprehensive study of Hebrew accentuation (and vocalization). An important subtext in this work is Reuchlin’s determination to sanction Christian use of Jewish authorities. He continues to give lavish credit to Jewish scholarship: "I have written all of this according to the teachings of the Jews in the way in which they have analyzed this material in their grammatical and musical books." Once again, a major source was the medieval grammarian David Kimhi.
Johannes Reuchlin. Accents and Orthography of Hebrew [De accentibus et orthographia linguae hebraicae]. Hagenau: Thomas Anshelm, 1518.
Detail of colophon.
Device of Reuchlin's printer, Thomas Anshelm, showing Reuchlin's expansion of the tetragrammaton into Jesus' name.
Johannes Pfefferkorn. The Enemy of the Jews [Hostis iudeorum].
Cologne: Heinrich Neuß, 1509.
The last pamphlet to appear before the confiscations began was Pfefferkorn’s The Enemy of the Jews, a harsh diatribe against alleged Jewish blasphemy and hostility to Christian society. Pfefferkorn argues that Jews will never be converted and must therefore be driven out of Christian societies. Moreover, he claims that Jewish books are full of heresy and blasphemy and must be destroyed. The pamphlet is notable for carefully printing two Jewish prayers in Hebrew, with roman transliteration of the Hebrew and German translation, all of which is presented as evidence of Jewish animosity toward Christianity.
The Imperial Confiscation Mandate, as printed in Johannes Pfefferkorn’s Defense against the … Letters of Obscure Men [Defensio Joannis Pepericorni contra famosas et criminales obscurorum virorum epistolas].
Cologne: Heinrich Neuß, 1516.
With strong support from German Franciscans as well as Duchess Kunigunde of Bavaria, the emperor’s sister, Pfefferkorn persuaded Emperor Maximilian to authorize confiscation and destruction of Jewish books. The first mandate, issued on 19 August 1509, has survived in several slightly different versions. In response to political challenges, Maximilian issued a second confiscation mandate (dated 10 November 1509) that gave overall authority for the action to the archbishop of Mainz. The mandates were implemented in Frankfurt am Main and other Rhineland communities until the emperor suspended the action (in a mandate of 23 May 1510) pending a review.
Johannes Pfefferkorn. Magnifying Glass [Handt Spiegel].
Mainz: Johannes Schöffer, 1511.
From the moment Reuchlin submitted his recommendation against confiscation of Jewish books, Pfefferkorn and the anti-Jewish campaign had access to it. This work, Magnifying Glass (Handt Spiegel), was the first response to Reuchlin’s objections as well as a pernicious escalation of the assault on Jewish culture. In Magnifying Glass, Jews now appear not only as corrosive usurers and despicable blasphemers but also as bloodthirsty murderers of Christians. This work unleashed a new and dangerous wave of public anti-Jewish agitation that sought to restart the book confiscations.
Magnifying Glass appeared in early spring 1511 and immediately became the hottest item at the Frankfurt Book Fair that April. Reuchlin managed to publish his rebuttal (Eye Glasses) in time for distribution at the autumn book fair, September 1511, in Frankfurt. Thus began the international debate and pamphlet war.
The documents in this section are on display only at Jüdisches Museum Frankfurt am Main.
Protocols of Meetings: City Council and Jewish Community of Frankfurt am Main, 1509-1510.
Institut für Stadtgeschichte Frankfurt am Main, Juden Akten 779, fol. 6r-13v; 19v
This small fascicle, written as the events unfolded, is the most significant source for reconstructing the history of the confiscations in Frankfurt. It contains six entries describing encounters, most of which occurred in the Frankfurt synagogue, between the Jewish Community, representative of the City Council of Frankfurt, and the anti-Jewish Commission under the leadership of Johannes Pfefferkorn and Professor Hermann Ortlieb of the University of Mainz.
The first entry, of 25 September 1509, records the very announcement of the book confiscations in the synagogue. The Jewish Community was stunned and responded that, as "people in shock," they need time to react to this grave threat.
Other entries record the two confiscations, first on 28 September 1509 of 168 books in the synagogue library, and then on 11 April 1510 of all Hebrew books owned by members of the Community.
Petition to Emperor Maximilian I from Frankfurt am Main, 28 March 1510
Institut für Stadtgeschichte Frankfurt am Main, Juden Akten 779, fol. 36r-38v
This petition, prepared for submission to Emperor Maximilian I at the 1510 Imperial Diet of Augsburg, shows the City of Frankfurt's determination to defend the Jewish Community against the new imperial policy. Prefiguring parts of Johannes Reuchlin's defense, the City argued that the book confiscations violated the legal right Jews had under ecclesiastical and civil law to practice their religion.
The City sent three different instructions (with exact wording) for possible resolutions to its representative at the Diet. The emissary was empowered to decide which resolution to submit based on circumstances at the Diet. The most favorable petition requested return of the books confiscated from the synagogue library and suspension of the book confiscation commission.
It is not know which of the petitions was submitted, nor does a formal response from the emperor survive. Nonetheless, the outcome was dire, for a complete confiscation proceeded in Frankfurt on 10-11 April.
Inventory of Books Confiscated on 11 April 1510, 13 April 1510, with later additions
Institut für Stadtgeschichte Frankfurt am Main, Juden Akten 779, fol. 44r-55r
As part of its effort to manage, if not undermine, the assault on its Jewish Community, the City of Frankfurt insisted that this inventory of the confiscated books be drawn up and, most importantly, that all confiscated books remain in Frankfurt pending final resolution of the controversy. The inventory indicates that the books were to be sealed in seven barrels and stored in a Christian hospice near the Jewish Ghetto (St. Martha Hospiz).
The list contains some 430 entries, many of which have marks indicating multiple copies. The list more or less corroborates Johannes Pfefferkorn's boast that he had taken 1500 books in Frankfurt. Nearly all the titles are garbled, as they were written down by a Christian secretary with no knowledge of Hebrew, probably based on a hasty reading off of titles. For example, the Gemara (the major, analytic component of the Talmud) usually appears as "morar dalmut," Jewish prayer books as "villa" (a distortion of "Tefillah"), and commentaries ("Perush"), rather more clearly, as "beres."
The names at the end of the document record owners to whom the books were returned on 7 June 1510, after Maximilian suspended the confiscations in return for financial concessions the Frankfurt Jews made to Duke Erich of Braunschweig, an important ally of the emperor.
Emperor Maximilian I, Patent of Protection for the Jewish Community of Frankfurt am Main, 30 July 1513
Institut für Stadtgeschichte Frankfurt am Main, Juden wider Juden Nr. 5. Fol. 3v-5r
This is the first patent of protection that Maximilian issued for the Jewish Community of Frankfurt.
In the immediate aftermath of the suspension of the confiscation program, the political situation of the Jewish Community shifted abruptly. The City Council, which previously had defended the Community against the confiscation policy, now began considering plans to banish all Jews. Motivated by a desire to establish stronger authority over the Frankfurt Jews (and against the wishes of the City Council), Emperor Maximilian negotiated this charter of protection for the Community in return for a payment of 2,000 gulden. In a complete turnaround, the charter specifically defends the community against the campaigns of Johannes Pfefferkorn. This protection, which was reissued in a similar charter of 8 October 1514, would be of great historical importance because it provided the basis for ending a 1516 attempt to expel Jews from all territories within the see of the Archbishopric of Mainz, the only known attempt at a multi-territorial expulsion in the history of the Holy Roman Empire.
Johannes Reuchlin. Eye Glasses [Doctor Johannsen Reuchlins … Augenspiegel].
Tübingen: Thomas Anshelm, 1511.
The Eye Glasses, though also a response to Pfefferkorn’s Magnifying Glass, publishes Reuchlin’s comprehensive (forty-two page) defense of Jewish writings against the confiscation persecution. It features technical arguments based on Roman and ecclesiastical law as well as theological (and biblically based) expostulations that Christians should tolerate Jews and their writings. Reuchlin insists that Jewish learning and theology are crucial for the vitality of Christianity, and he defends Jewish writings against the charges of blasphemy and heresy. In the end, Reuchlin’s academic assessment of Jewish literature was devastating to the campaign. This was the prime reason that Hoogstraeten, Tongern, Pfefferkorn and others immediately attacked him with such ferocity.
Johannes Reuchlin. Defense [Defensio Joannis Reuchlin Phorcensis ll. doctoris contra calumniatores suos Colonienses].
Tübingen: Thomas Anshelm, 1513.
Reuchlin published this as a response to Professor Arnold van Tongern’s Articles, the first formal list of articles of heresy drawn up against his Eye Glasses. It features strident invective against the professors of theology at Cologne (whom he calls "devilogians") and Johannes Pfefferkorn (who is an "ignorant butcher," "heretic," and "half-Jew"), but it is also a serious rebuke against the anti-Jewish campaign: "With these pamphlets from Cologne they are propagating the contention everywhere that the Jews are no longer Jews, but rather heretics and our enemies." He was so bold as to write: "I know my enemies have been vexed because I said that the Jews are our fellow citizens. Now I want them to rage even more, and I hope their guts burst, because I am saying that the Jews are our brothers."
The Letters of Illustrious Men [Illustrium virorum epistolae]. Second, expanded edition.
Hagenau: Thomas Anshelm, 1519.
Reuchlin published the Letters of Illustrious Men in 1514 to illustrate his leading position in the Renaissance humanist movement. The work also features some of his correspondence with Jewish scholars and elicited further charges of heresy (excessively favorably attitudes toward Jews) from Johannes Pfefferkorn.
The second edition adds significant material that documents Reuchlin’s close ties to the Vatican, including endorsements from cardinals who had pronounced him innocent of heresy in 1516. One letter quotes Pope Leo X saying "I will not allow that man to suffer any harm." The second edition also includes a 1518 endorsement from Martin Luther.
Arnold van Tongern. Articles Suspected of Being Excessively Favorable to the Jews [Articuli sive propositiones de iudaico favore nimis suspecte ex libello theutonico domini Ioannis Reuchlin … extracte].
Cologne: Quentel, 1512.
Arnold van Tongern (ca. 1468/70-1540) was a respected professor of scholastic theology at the University of Cologne. The dedicatee of Pfefferkorn’s Magnfying Glass, Tongern wrote and published this first set of articles against Reuchlin’s defense of Jewish writings. He claimed that Reuchlin’s writings were "impermissibly favorable to Jews and Judaism" and contained some forty-three heretical or erroneous statements, which he duly listed. As condemnatory as Tongern's Articles may have been of Reuchlin, the most significant aspect of their ultimate publication is the professor’s general assault against Judaism. He repeated all the insinuations against the Talmud and Jewish prayers. Moreover, he insisted that Jews poisoned wells, desecrated the Christian Eucharist, and ritually murdered Christian children, issues that had nothing to do with Reuchlin's defense. While these vile innuendos marred Christian-Jewish relations in the late Middle Ages, it was unusual for an academic authority to propagate them.
Jacob Hoogstraeten. Destruction of the Kabbalah [Destructio cabale, seu cabalistice perfidie ab Ioanne Reuchlin Capnione iampridem in lucem edite].
Cologne: Quentel, 1519.
Jacob Hoogstraeten (ca. 1460-1527) was professor of theology, prior of the
Cologne Dominican convent, papal inquisitor for the province of Teutonia, and Johannes Reuchlin’s most determined prosecutor. He brought several cases against Reuchlin in Germany and personally prosecuted the effort against him in Rome from 1514 until 1518. This tract, which is an extensive critique of Reuchlin’s Art of the Kabbalah, challenges the new humanist methodology of biblical philology. At one point, Hoogstraeten also threatens inquisitional proceedings against Erasmus’s new edition of the Bible (1516, etc.).
Johannes Pfefferkorn. Fire Glass [Abzotraiben und aus zuleschen eines vngegrunten laster buechleyn mit namen Augenspiegell … Dar gegen ich meyn vnschult allen menschen gruntlich tzu vernemen vnd tzu vercleren in desez gegenwyrdigen buechgelgyn genant Brantspiegell gethan hab].
Cologne: Herman Gutschaiff, 1512.
This response to Reuchlin’s Eye Glasses is one of Pfefferkorn’s most venomous pamphlets. It lists some thirty-four errors in Eye Glasses, excoriates Reuchlin’s Hebrew scholarship, and alleges Jews have bribed and corrupted their defender. It also calls for an immediate end of Judaism in the empire (even urging forced baptism of Jewish children). The pamphlet reveals that Pfefferkorn’s strategy was to focus first on the destruction of the the three most important Jewish communities in Germany: Frankfurt, Worms, and Regensburg.
The Letters of Obscure Men [Epistolae obscurorum virorum]. First edition of second part.
Publisher and place of publication unknown, 1517.
Ranked among the classics of humoristic literature, The Letters of Obscure Men made a mockery of Reuchlin’s opponents (especially Pfefferkorn, Hoogstraeten, Tongern, and another Cologne professor, Ortwin Gratius). The fake letters of the "obscure men" describe their various sexual escapades, drunken and gluttonous entertainments, absurd disputations on theological issues, and petty squabbles with humanist professors throughout the empire. Despite the coarse, slap-stick humor, many serious issues appear, such as clerical discipline, humanist studies, scholastic theology, and speculative philosophy. By far the most frequently reprinted tract from the Reuchlin Affair, The Letters of Obscure Men illustrates the tendency in Germany after 1514 to focus on the issue of humanism versus scholasticism in addition to the campaign against Judaism.
Publication of such brazen lampoons of a papal inquisitor and professors of theology carried extreme peril, making it necessary to print the work anonymously and preserve strict secrecy about its authorship. We now know that it was the work of three men, Crotus Rubeanus, Ulrich von Hutten, and Hermann Busch. The second part, on exhibition, features Hutten’s acerbic contributions.
Acts of the Trials [Acta iudiciorum].
Hagenau: Thomas Anshelm, 1518.
Likely edited by Reuchlin himself or one of his supporters, the Acts of the Trials is an early history of the Reuchlin Affair that faithfully quotes many official documents from the trial, including prosecutorial statements against Reuchlin. It is of extreme value for any reconstruction of the Reuchlin trials. The work records Reuchlin’s success in preliminary trials in Speyer (1514) and at the Roman Curia (1516). The work ends with a premature celebration of Reuchlin’s victory: "Finally, … (Hoogstraeten) departed from the Roman Curia, where he had personally labored for four years with various methods to invalidate the Speyer trial, and he returned to Cologne with empty hands. The Speyer judgment still remains in force and will remain so forever."
Johannes Pfefferkorn. An Impassioned Protest [Ajn mitleydliche claeg vber alle claeg].
Cologne: Servas Kruffter, 1521.
Despite Reuchlin’s many victories, Eye Glasses was finally condemned by Leo X on 23 June 1520: "The named book, Eye Glasses, was and is scandalous and offensive to the pious ears of Christians and is excessively favorable to the impious Jews and moreover it must be removed from circulation and from the hands of Christians and its use must be inhibited, etc." The pope almost certainly made this decision in order to bolster the authority of the church in Germany as it faced the major threat of Luther’s movement.
In this book, the last publication in the Reuchlin Affair, Pfefferkorn calls for a civil trial of Reuchlin at the Diet of Worms and for the public execution of Reuchlin as a heretic. Although Reuchlin, too, had called for a civil trial, it did not take place and he was not condemned and executed. He died in Stuttgart on 30 June 1522.
Martin Luther. On the Jews and Their Lies Von den Jüden vnd jren Lügen.
Wittenberg: Hans Lufft, 1543.
In the aftermath of Reuchlin, many scholars continued the study of Hebrew and Jewish scholarship. Some would adopt relatively favorable positions on the status of Judaism, but many would not. Martin Luther was a supporter of Reuchlin and also an early example of a biblical scholar who learned Hebrew from Reuchlin’s grammar. Nonetheless, during the 1530s and 1540s, he advocated violent destruction of Jewish books and communities in several of his publications, including his notorious On the Jews and Their Lies. Horrified by the violence of Luther’s anti-Semitism, the Swiss reformer Heinrich Bullinger wrote: "If today that famous hero Reuchlin were to return to life, he would declare that Tongern, Hoogstraeten, and Pfefferkorn had returned to life in this one person, Luther."