12. When the Music Stops
¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 A mosaic often fails to show a continuous image, particularly at its edges; this is true also for the representation of the Stühlingen Jewish community. An individual’s time line suddenly appears, and equally suddenly vanishes, often without revealing the circumstances. Of the 190 distinct male individuals, death was reported explicitly for 27%. Another 21% departed for a clear destination. At the time of the final eviction in 1743, 13% left for unknown destinations. Another 10% over the previous 140 years were simply reported as having left. That leaves us with 29% whose fate remains a mystery. Some of those may have died quietly, some may have moved in with their children and stopped running their own households; but a large number just moved on. Jews might have left Stühlingen for a variety of reasons. They might have been living in Stühlingen illegally to begin with; their employment might have come to an end; they might have run afoul of the law; they might have been unable to pay their protection tax; or they were simply caught up in the final global eviction of 1743.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Jews could not simply pull up their stakes and take up residence wherever they wished. They were required to acquire a precious letter of protection where available; they had to find a place in a protected household; they had to be lucky enough to find protection-exempt community employment, or they vanished into the black hole of homeless Jews, the fate of probably 20% to 30% of our sample. For the other roughly 350 Jews who had lived in Stühlingen at one time but never really reached an identifiable documentary presence (see chapter 11), this percentage must have been even higher.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 What do we know about the fate of these castaways? According to some authors, they might have amounted to as much as 90% of Western European Jewry,1 likely an excessive estimate. The reality of the roaming gangs of homeless Jews during the late Middle Ages and early modern period is one of history’s accidental secrets. Jewish scholars were too embarrassed to acknowledge their existence, and they have become of interest to gentile historians only recently.2 It is to the credit of another Jewish refugee and scholar, Dr. Rudolf Glanz, that their history was finally told; Glanz began research on the topic in 1936 in Vienna, and the book was eventually published thirty years later in New York.3
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0
1Hippel, “Armut, Unterschichten, Randgruppen,” 41.
3Glanz, “Geschichte des niederen jüdischen.”
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