||This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the German Wikipedia. (March 2009)|
|• Lord Mayor||Dr. Christian Moser (CSU)|
|• Total||77.21 km2 (29.81 sq mi)|
|Elevation||314 m (1,030 ft)|
|• Density||410/km2 (1,100/sq mi)|
|Time zone||CET/CEST (UTC+1/+2)|
Deggendorf is a town in Bavaria, capital of the district Deggendorf. The earliest traces of settlement in the area are found near the Danube, about 8,000 years ago. Both Bronze Age and Celtic era archeological finds indicate continuous habitation through the years. Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor established in 1002 his supremacy over the area.
The Deggendorfer Gnad was an anti-Jewish pilgrimage taking place annually in the Bavarian town Deggendorf until recent past. It was based on an alleged host desecration by Jews in 1338. In the course of events, a massacre was committed against the Jewish population of the town and a series of miracles are told to have occurred in its wake. Only in 1992 was the pilgrimage ended by the bishop of Regensburg who asked for forgiveness for the centuries-long defamation.
In the beginning of the 1330s, Deggendorf was an expanding market town with commerce and trade. In the beginning of this new decade, however, it was caught in the middle of a conflict between the Bavarian dukes. A fire damaged large parts of the town. Possibly this was one of the reasons for the high levels of debt to the local Jewish community. First reference to the murder of the Jews is found in an official document by Duke Henry XIV. originating from 1338. In this document, the duke forgives the citizens of Deggendorf the murder of the Jews sparing them any kind of punishment. He even grants them to keep all the possessions they took away from the Jews in the act.
Further cues to the committed murder are found, for example, in the annals of some important monasteries of the time and also in the works of Johann von Viktring († ca. 1346). For 1338, these sources mention a plague of locusts which destroyed much of that year’s crop. Johann von Viktring refers to this infestation even in connection to the murder of the Jews of Deggendorf.
Yet, the inscription in the basilica of Deggendorf differs from all former sources. As the date of events it gives 1337. The Jews are purported to have set fire to the town. The body of God was found so that the community of Deggendorf started to build a church.
''„Im Jahre des Herrn 1337, am nächsten Tag nach St. Michaels-Tag, wurden die Juden erschlagen, die Stadt zündeten sie an, da wurde Gottes Leichnam gefunden, das sahen Frauen und Männer, da hob man das Gotteshaus zu bauen an.“
In the year of the Lord 1337, on the day after Michaelmas, the Jews were slain. They had set fire to the town. Then the body of God was found. This was seen by women and men and the building of the house of God was begun.
The wrong date indicates that this inscription stems from a much later date. The mention of the body of God points to a host desecration. It must be assumed that the accusation of host desecration had already taken on a life of its own at that time so that further explanations were not needed. Everyone was familiar with the narratives of this legend.
The fully formed legend of the host desecration by the Jews of Deggendorf and about the miracles happening after their “punishment” appears in a composite manuscript in the library of the monastery St Emmeram in Regensburg not before the 15th century. “Das Gedicht von den Deggendorfer Hostien” (The poem of the hosts of Deggendorf) has strictly no credibility at all. Its sudden appearance centuries after the actual events took place makes just one piece of evidence for this. Its content is schematic and clichéd. Stereotypically, Easter Day is given as the date and the accusation of well poisoning is added even though it had never been mentioned before in this context. Details that could be interpreted as specific to Deggendorf are left out. The only name given is that of Hartmann von Degenberg who could not be identified as an actual historical person. A complete deformation of reality becomes manifest in the poem. What happened in Deggendorf in 1338 is probably that the pogrom came about because of the high debts the Christian citizens owed the Jews. The locusts destroying much of the crop tightened the situation. The end of September or the beginning of October 1338 is likely the correct date (around the payday on Michaelmas. This means the Jews were murdered for economic reasons. Events were reworked later to justify the act so that in the 15th century the stereotypical legend took on its own life.
The course of the “Deggendorfer Gnad”
1.Genesis and development of attendences
In the years following the economical downturn and the afore-mentioned massacre, Deggendorf regained some of its former wealth. Thus, the construction of the basilica („Heilig-Grab-Kirche“) could be completed until 1400. By the beginning of the 15th century the fully formed legend had already spread far enough to encourage more and more people to pilgrimage to Deggendorf. An average of 40.000 people per year traveled to Deggendorf and its famous hosts. The development of the pilgrimage to become a time of worship of the magic hosts of Deggendorf was particularly promoted by pastor Johannes Sartorius (1599-1609) and Duke Albrecht of Bavaria (1584-1666). The much admired hosts, however, had been retrospectively purchased and had to be replaced regularly. During the 18th and 19th century and especially in 1737 (year of the 400-year-jubilee) the “Gnad” reached its peak attracting six-figure attendances. The pilgrimage constituted one of the major factors of the Deggendorf economy. Yet, after its peak, attendances decreased steadily until 1927. In 1970, only about 10.000 pilgrims mainly from the Deggendorf area took part in the festivities. The supra-regional significance of the “Deggendorfer Gnad” had been lost. In addition, only older people seemed to keep participating in the Gnad. Due to these developments the town pursued a thorough advertising campaign combined with a redesign of the festivities in 1976 resulting in a slight increase in younger peoples’ attendance figures. The growing critique of the “Deggendorfer Gnad” can also be regarded as a reason for the decrease in attendance figures.
2.The course of the pilgrimage
The pilgrimage started with a ceremonial inauguration and the ritualized unbarring of the “Gnadenpforte”, aka the church door of the basilica “Heilig-Grab-Kirche”, on 29 September (Michaelmas Day). On 30 September, a church parade with the magic hosts in a monstrance constituted the highlight of the pilgrimage. In 1962, a vespertine church parade was added to the programme in order to increase the pilgrimage’s appeal. The pilgrimage concluded with a sermon at 4pm on 4 October and the ritualistic barring of the basilica’s church door. In 1973, the vespertine church parade was rescheduled from the 30th September to the 4th October and from then on combined with the concluding rituals.
The End of the Pilgrimage
It was not before the 1960s that the “Deggendorfer Gnad” attracted more and more criticism. It was demanded to remove all anti-Jewish depictions showing them in the middle of the alleged host desecration. Among these was a cycle of 16 oil paintings, the hosts themselves and the “Judenstein” (an anvil with Jewish figures around it and floating hosts). Even though the debate quickly became a heated topic in the press – abroad as well as domestic -, it took till 1968 that the first four of the 16 oil paintings were finally removed, which was a first concession. The debate was polarized quickly. While some saw the “Deggendorfer Gnad” as anti-Semitism in its purest form, others just thought it a piece of Bavarian folklore. The diocesan chapter of Regensburg invoked the long tradition of the pilgrimage and assured that the Jews as its cause were hardly ever mentioned in the sermons.
In the 1980s, Manfred Eder (University of Regensburg) started work on his doctoral thesis carefully researching the origin and development of the “Deggendorfer Gnad”. On the basis of his findings, the diocese of Regensburg finally decided to abolish the pilgrimage. Bishop Manfred Müller asked for forgiveness for the centuries-long defamation of the Jews.
Displaced Persons Camp
Deggendorf was the site of a displaced persons camp for Jewish refugees after World War II. It housed approximately 2,000 refugees, who created a cultural center that included two newspapers, the Deggendorf Center Review and Cum Ojfboj, theater group, synagogue, mikvah, kosher kitchen, and more. The camp even issued its own currency known as the Deggendorf Dollar. Many of the camp's residents were survivors of the concentration camp at Theresienstadt. The camp closed on June 15, 1949.
- "Fortschreibung des Bevölkerungsstandes". Bayerisches Landesamt für Statistik und Datenverarbeitung (in German). 31 December 2012.
- cp. Julius H. Schoeps (Hrsg.), Stichwort: Deggendorf, in: Neues Lexikon des Judentums. Gütersloh/München 1998, p. 182.
- Manfred Eder, Die „Deggendorfer Gnad“. Entstehung und Entwicklung einer Hostienwallfahrt im Kontext von Theologie und Geschichte. Deggendorf 1992, pp. 196.
- Ibd., pp. 199-202.
- Ibd., pp. 203-221; esp: pp. 212-214.
- Ibd., pp. 223-226.
- cp. Gerhard Czermak, Christen gegen Juden. Geschichte einer Verfolgung. Nördlingen 1989; here: pp. 59-63. Friedrich Lotter, Hostienfrevelvorwurf und Blutwunderfälschung bei den Judenverfolgungen von 1298 ('Rintfleisch') und 1336-1338 ('Armleder'). In: Fälschungen im Mittelalter. Teil 5: Fingierte Briefe, Frömmigkeit und Realienfälschungen (= Monumenta Germaniae Historica 33.5). Hannover 1988, pp. 533–583.
- Eder (Ann. 2), pp. 230-244.
- Ibd., pp. 287-288.
- Manfred Eder, „Wär besser euer Moses im Nilschlamm ersoffen…“ Hintergründe, Geschichte und Ender der umstrittenen Hostienwallfahrt zur „Deggendorfer Gnad“. In: Jüdisches Museum Wien (Hrsg.), Die Macht der Bilder. Antisemitische Vorurteile und Mythen. Wien 1995, pp. 105f.
- Ibd., p. 107.
- Eder (Ann. 2), pp. 506.
- Eder (Ann. 10), p. 107.
- Eder (Ann. 2), p. 507.
- Ibd, p. 509f.
- Ibd, p. 506.
- Ibd., p. 534f.
- Ibd., pp. 660-661.
- Ibd., p. 664.
- Ibd., p. 689.
- Ibd., p. 668-669.
- Ibd., p. 669-671.
- Eder (Ann. 10), pp. 102-109.
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