Retracing history by Alfred Damm
In 1614 Jews without special authorization (unbefreyt) were required to leave Vienna. A Jewish settlement is mention in the records of Weitersfeld in the county of Hardegg from 1619. The author Alfred Damm asks whether there is any connection between these two facts.
After four years of intensive research in the relevant archives he now presents documents and comments on references to the Jewish inhabitants of Weitersfeld and, as far as possible, reconstructs the living conditions and economic circumstances of these traders, peddlers and peasant farmers.
The rising prices of agricultural products in the middle and end of the sixteenth century prompted the noble landowners in Lower Austria and elsewhere to intensify their own farming activities, producing not only for their own consumption but also for sale. To sell these goods – grain, for example – on the markets there was thus a need for intermediaries. With their wide-ranging connections, Jewish traders were ideal for this purpose. This was no doubt an incentive for the economic leaders of Lower Austria to allow Jews to settle in their region. The records before 1670 would almost make it seem as if Jews were distributed according to a plan and settled deliberately throughout the north of Lower Austria.
Numerous illustrations of old eighteenth-century maps, Jewish seals, and signatures in Hebrew on sales contracts, along with information on the cemetery and synagogue in Schaffa provide a vibrant picture of an unknown and distant era of Jewish history in Austria and Moravia.
Published by Verlag Bibliothek der Provinz; hardback: 288 pages, ISBN-13: 978-3990280720, €28.00
Jewish Museum Vienna