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Vienna Exhibition Shows Role Jews Played in Middle Ages

An exhibition staged by the Vienna Provincial Archives proves that Jews had a highly respectable and important position in medieval Vienna. The exhibition, The Jews of Vienna in the Middle Ages, also shows that the flourishing life of the Jewish community was extinguished by a program ordered by Duke Albrecht V, in which almost all Vienna Jews were killed and the rest banned from the city.

“The existence of Jews in a community were the precondition for the establishment of a medieval city,” said Dr. Klaus Lohrmann, the organizer of the exhibition. The first Vienna Jew who is known by name is Shlom, produced coins for Duke Leopold V in the last decade of the 12th Century. Another Jew, Teka, lent Duke Leopold VI money in 1225 to conclude a peace treaty with Hungary.

The exhibition shows that the immigration of Jews to Vienna came from the west, especially from towns on the Rhine, where Jews no longer felt safe in the time of the Crusades. The Vienna Jews had their own jurisdiction and privileges and were under the special protection of the Austrian dukes. Throughout the Middle Ages they were closely linked to the monarchs.

The Vienna ghetto, in the Middle Ages, included a synagogue, a hospital and a ritual bath. The Jewish cemetery was outside the city walls. The Jews were not only traders, but also financiers and ducal officials, the exhibition proves. They played an important part in the medieval tax policy, as they had to pay special taxes an all loans they granted.

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