000/2243 and 000/2251 Images of the Frankfurt Judengasse
early twentieth century
The Frankfurter Judengasse (from German: “Jews' Alley”) was the Jewish ghetto of Frankfurt and one of the earliest ghettos in Germany. It existed from 1462 and was home to Germany's largest Jewish community in early modern times. It was here, that confined by many restrictions, the Jewish community lived. Some time in the 16th century, one Izaak Elchanan had moved to the house zum roten Schild, where the family became to be known by the name Rothschild.
It was Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812), son of a money-changer and cloth dealer, who set the family on their rise to fame and fortune. A trader, he came to the attention of Crown Prince Wilhelm of Hesse, an enthusiast for antique coins in which Mayer dealt. By careful cultivation of this relationship, Mayer Amschel was made Court Agent to the Crown Prince in 1769, and by the early 1800s he was Imperial Crown Agent to the Habsburg Emperor. In 1770, Mayer Amschel married Gutle Schnapper, daughter of another Judengasse merchant. The marriage produced ten children: five boys and five girls. Instilling into his sons the values of partnership and enterprise, Mayer Amschel encouraged them to leaves the confines of the Judengasse to establish financial businesses in London, Paris, Vienna and Naples. Within a generation, the Rothschilds were the most important bankers of the age.
The Rothschild Archive has a number of postcards dating from the early twentieth century of the buildings of the Judengassse. In November 2014, the Archive was fortunate to acquire by gift a rare copy of the Stammbuch der Frankfurter Juden, by Dr Alexander Dietz. Published in Frankfurt in 1907, this volume is a significant survey of the Frankfurt Jewish families from 1349-1849, together with a copy of a plan of the Judengasse dating from 1711.
At the end of the 19th century, most of the buildings in the Judengasse were demolished. The area suffered major destruction during the Second World War and reconstruction has left no visible signs of the ghetto in today's townscape of Frankfurt, making these documents important sources for the history of this vanished area.