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 was a massacre of the Jewish community in Erfurt, Germany, on 21 March 1349.[1] Accounts of the number of Jews killed in the massacre vary widely from between 100 and up to 3000.[2][3] Any Jewish survivors were expelled from the city. 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]

Among those murdered was prominent Talmudist Alexander Suslin.[8]

A few years after the 1349 massacre, Jews moved back to Erfurt and founded a second community, which was disbanded by the city council in 1458.

Erfurt manuscripts[edit]

Massacres were generally accompanied by extensive looting. The items looted in the Erfurt massacre included the Erfurt manuscripts, written in Hebrew, including a Tosefta, which is now the oldest surviving such manuscript, dating to the 12th century.[9]

After the massacre, the Erfurt manuscripts, including the Tosefta, came into the possession of Erfurt City Council and in the late 17th century ended up in the library of the Lutheran Erfurt Evangelical Church Library, at Erfurt's former Augustinian Monastery. They were found in the church library in 1879 and 16 of these manuscripts were transferred in 1880 to the Royal Library in Berlin, the present day Berlin State Library, where they are now kept, and called the Erfurt Collection.[9] According to one reference, there are bloodstains on the Tosefta manuscript.[10]

Many of the Jews of Erfurt preemptively hid their valuables before the attack. One such hidden cache of valuables probably belonging to merchant Kalman of Wiehe was found in 1998. The cache is now referred to as the Erfurt Treasure and is on permanent display at the newly restored 11th-century Old Synagogue museum in Erfurt.[11][12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Other records attest that the massacre occurred on 2 March 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. ISBN 9780061315503.
  7. ^ George Christakos (2005). Interdisciplinary public health reasoning and epidemic modelling: the case of Black Death. p. 129. ISBN 9783540281658.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ a b Erfurt Collection: Erfurt Hebrew Manuscripts (Accessed: 8 June 2017)
  10. ^ Eliyahu Gurevich (2 May 2010). Tosefta Berachot: Translated into English with a Commentary. Eliyahu Gurevich. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-557-38968-1. Retrieved 22 April 2011.
  11. ^ "Jewish Treasures From Medieval Ashkenaz At Yeshiva U. Museum" Archived 2008-12-26 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Streit um die Bezeichnung des Erfurter Schatzes". Welt. November 3, 2009.