The Jews of Hungary
Saul Gorenstein - May 20, 2009
Some believe that Jews have lived in Hungary since the time of Roman Empire and there are historical records that show correspondence referring to the Jews of “Hungarin” in the 9th century. There are also references to small Jewish communities is several areas of Hungary including Ratisbon, now Regensburg in the 11th Century. During the 12th and 13th centuries there were public proclamations against Jews taking Christian wives and owning Christian slaves and beginning with the reign of King Coloman Jews were restricted in their movements and activities. Some Jews even obtained high public offices but an outcry by the nobles of the time had them removed from their positions and relegated to living in ghettos and being forced to wear a special Jewish badge in public.
Rabbi Shlomo Köves in Budapest
In the 14th century the Jews were expelled from Hungary many times only to be recalled when the Hungarian rulers fell into economic distress. During the 15th century an official was appointed as the “judge of all the Jews living in Hungary” and this position was responsible for collecting taxes from the Jews and to hear their complaints. Years of persecution and heavy taxation caused the Jews of Hungary to appeal to the German Emperor Maximilian for protection which was provided but short lived and soon both German and Hungarian authorities were confiscating and embezzling Jewish funds.
In the late 17th century the Hapsburgs captured Hungary and many Jews were murdered or captured and held for ransom. Jews were forced to endure double taxation and were not permitted to engage in agriculture or to own any real estate. Despite these severe restrictions Jews continued to arrive in Hungary from Poland and Moravia and by 1735 there were 11,600 reported Jews in the country.
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