After the death of Erbmarschall, Count Konrad of Pappenheim, in 1603, his son Maximilian was invested as the new ruler in Stühlingen. He halted the eviction of the Jews and in 1615 granted them a letter of protection – the so-called Jews’ Privilege (Juden Privileg).
In today’s world, most of us are “privileged.” Privileges are little or not-so-little perks to which we feel entitled. But it has not always been this way. The term “privilege” derives from Latin privilegium, a special law applying to a given individual or to a defined group of individuals – a restricted “social contract” long before that term was invented by Rousseau. It sets reciprocal rights and duties of two parties entering into a formal relationship. Sometimes such contracts are symmetrical, often they are not; such asymmetry surely applies to the Jews’ Privilege. In fact, the German term Schutz- und Satzbrief (letter of protection and obligations) provides a better characterization of the contract. Schutz means “protection,” while Satz stands for rules of conduct and conditions. This contract offered a promise by the dominion to protect the Jews in return for the latter submitting to a set of special rules, restrictions, and obligations. It is the ultimate vestige of the earlier Imperial Servitude (Kammerknechtschaft), after it had been delegated to local rulers.
The wording of the 1615 Stühlingen Schutz- und Satzbrief would not rank highly in a literary contest. Various topics were thrown together helter-skelter, without a clear order, and phrased in nearly endless sentences without structure. To assist in the discussion to follow, and to maintain some internal thematic unity, the translated prose of the Jews’ Privilege that follows has been broken down into individual, numbered paragraphs.