JewishGen Discussion Group #JewishGen Re: Protected Jew #general

Judith Romney Wegner

This is simple. Protected Jew means that he paid Schutzgeld-a bribe to
the government so that he could stay in the town.
Well, not quite that simple and not necessarily a bribe. In general,
protection in the middle ages had the technical meaning of being under the
protection of the monarch or some lessor local lord (for whatever reason,
and not necessarily in return for a money payment). For instance, a "letter
of protection" was a safe-conduct, a document >from the King of England
granting immunity >from arrest to some person travelling in his service.

In medieval Germany, the term Schutzjude specifically meant a Jew who held
a "Schutzbrief" >from the Holy Roman emperor (and later, in return for a
fee, >from some noble or municipality to whom the emperor had "transferred"
the local Jews). Schutzjuden were tolerated because of the indispensable
part they played in the economy, for instance as money lenders to the
nobility in the period before the rise of banking.

In many medieval European towns, local Jews were directly under the
protection of the local prince, lord of the manor, or whatever the title of
the local panjandrum -- as opposed to being under the protection of the
general laws. Medieval common law dealt with people according to their
status in the feudal system -- and the Jews were neither members of the
nobility, nor churchmen, nor burghers, nor peasants, they were an alien
element that was never an integral part of the feudal system as such.

Protection could sometimes be a blessing, as when a local lord actually
saved Jews >from medieval mobs out to get them, (either at Eastertime as
"Christkillers" or at some arbitrary time when the mob's passions were
inflamed by"blood libel" allegations. On the other hand, local lords
sometimes demanded heavy payments (or release >from their debts to Jewish
moneylenders) as protection money. King John is said to have pulled out
the teeth of a Jewish creditor until he agreed to tear up the I.O.U.

Judith Romney Wegner

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