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Schutzjude (German for "Protected Jew") was a status for German Jews granted by the imperial, princely or royal courts.

Within the Holy Roman Empire, except some eastern territories gained by the Empire in the 11th and 12th centuries (e.g. Brandenburg), Jews usually had the status of Servi camerae regis. This status included imperial protection and the levying of special taxes on the Jews for the Empire's treasury (Latin: camera regis). But the emperors, always short of money, alienated — by sale or pledge — their privilege to levy extra taxes on Jews, not all at once, but territory by territory to different creditors and purchasers. Thus Jews lost their — not always reliable — imperial protection.

Many territories, who gained supremacy over the Jews living within their boundaries, expelled them. After the general expulsions of the Jews from a territory often only single Jews — if any at all — were granted the personal — sometimes inheritable by only one son, rarely by all sons, sometimes uninheritable — privilege (usually called Geleitsbrief, Schutzbrief, in Brandenburg the pertinent deed issued was called Patent) — to reside within a territory. Jews holding a Schutzbrief (writ of protection), Geleitbrief (writ of escort) or Patent were thus called Schutzjuden, vergeleitete Juden or Patentjuden as opposed to Jews (unvergeleitete Juden), who had no right of residence. Unvergeleitete Juden were not allowed to marry, thus they spent their life unmarried as a member of the household of a privileged relative or employer, holding a privilege.

For example, in October 1763 King Frederick II of Brandenburg-Prussia granted Moses Mendelssohn, until then under protection by being employed by a Patentjude, a personal, uninheritable privilege, which assured his right to undisturbed residence in Berlin. His wife and children, who had no independent permission to reside, lost their status of family member of a Patentjude when Mendelssohn died in 1786. They were later granted multi-son inheritable Patents. In 1810 Stein's Prussian reforms introduced a freely inheritable Prussian citizenship for all subjects of the king, doing away with the different prior legal status of the Estates, such as the Nobility, the burghers of the chartered cities, the unfree peasants, the officialdom at the court, the Patent Jews, and the Huguenots.

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