Erfurt massacre (1349)

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Erfurt massacre
Part of Black Death persecutions
Date21 March 1349 (1349-03-21)
Attack type
Massacre, pogrom
MotiveAllegations that Jews were responsible for the Black Death

The Erfurt massacre refers to the massacre of the Jewish community in Erfurt, Germany, on March 21, 1349.[1] Accounts of the number of Jews killed in the massacre vary widely from between 100 and up to 3000.[2][3] Some Jews set fire to their homes and possessions and perished in the flames before they could be lynched.[4]

The many Black Death persecutions and massacres that occurred in France and Germany at that time were sometimes in response to accusations that the Jews were responsible for outbreaks of the Black Death, and other times justified with the belief that killing the local Jews would prevent the spread of the Black Death to that locale.[5] Although these beliefs, and the accompanying massacres, were frequently encouraged by local bishops or itinerant Flagellants, the Catholic Church, including Pope Clement VI under whom the Flagellants and the Black Death began, and his successor, Innocent VI, were firmly against it. In a papal bull condemning the Flagellant movement in late 1349, Pope Clement VI criticized their "shedding the blood of Jews".[6] Erfurt later suffered the ravages of the Black Plague, where over 16,000 residents died during a ten-week period in 1350.[7]

Massacres were generally accompanied by extensive looting. One of the items looted in the Erfurt massacre was what is now the oldest remaining manuscript of the Tosefta, which dates from the 12th century. The Erfurt Manuscripts, including the Tosefta, came into the possession of Erfurt City Council after the Massacre, and in the late 17th century ended up in the library of the Lutheran Evangelical Ministry, at Erfurt's former Augustinian Monastery. The Ministry sold them to the Royal Library in Berlin, the present day Berlin State Library, in 1880, where they are now kept.[8] According to one reference, there are bloodstains on the Tosefta manuscript.[9] Many of the Jews of Erfurt preemptively hid their valuables. Some of those valuables, probably belonging to merchant Kalman of Wiehe, were found in 1998, and are now referred to as the Erfurt Treasure.[10]

Among those murdered was prominent Talmudist Alexander Suslin.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Other records attest that the massacre occurred on March 2, 1349 or in August of that year.
  2. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906. Black Death.
  3. ^ Heinrich Graetz (31 December 2009). History of the Jews, Vol. IV (in six volumes): From the Rise of the Kabbala (1270 C.E.) to the Permanent Settlement of the Marranos in Holland (1618 C.E.). Cosimo, Inc. p. 109. ISBN 978-1-60520-946-3. Retrieved 22 April 2011. In Erfurt, out of a community of 3000 souls, not one person survived.
  4. ^ Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in Erfurt.
  5. ^ Julia Weiner. The golden age that the pogroms couldn’t destroy, Jewish Chronicle, February 5, 2009. "The resulting hysteria led to pogroms such as the one that took place in Erfurt, the capital of the German state of Thuringia, where 1,000 Jews were killed in a single day of violence on March 2, 1349."
  6. ^ Philip Ziegler (1969). The Black Death. p. 96.
  7. ^ George Christakos (2005). Interdisciplinary public health reasoning and epidemic modelling: the case of Black Death. p. 129.
  8. ^ Erfurt Collection: Erfurt Hebrew Manuscripts (Accessed: 8 June 2017)
  9. ^ Eliyahu Gurevich. Tosefta Berachot: Translated into English with a Commentary. Eliyahu Gurevich. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-557-38968-1. Retrieved 22 April 2011.
  10. ^ "Streit um die Bezeichnung des Erfurter Schatzes". Welt. November 3, 2009.
  11. ^ Marvin J. Heller (2004). The Sixteenth Century Hebrew Book: an abridged thesaurus. Brill. p. 615. ISBN 978-90-04-13309-9. Retrieved 22 April 2011.