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FREDERICK, DUKE OF AUSTRIA, "Charter of the Jews in the Duchy of Austria" (July 1, 1244)

[From Jacob Marcus, The Jew in the Medieval World, pp. 28-32.]

Frederick, by the grace of God Duke of Austria and Styria and lord of Carniola, offers greetings at all times to all who will read this letter in the future. Inasmuch as we desire that men of all classes dwelling in our land should share our favor and good will, we do therefore decree that these laws, devised for all Jews found in the land of Austria, shall be observed by them without violation.

  1. We decree, therefore, first, that in cases involving money, or immovable property, or a criminal complaint touching the person or property of a Jew, no Christian shall be admitted as a witness against a Jew unless there is a Jewish witness together with the Christian.

  2. Likewise, if a Christian should bring suit against a Jew, asserting that he had pawned his pledges with him and the Jew should deny this, and then if the Christian should not wish to accord any belief in the mere statement of the Jew, the Jew may prove his contention by taking an oath upon an object equivalent in value to that which was brought to him, and shall then go forth free.

  3. Likewise, if a Christian has deposited a pledge with a Jew, stating that he had left it with the Jew for a smaller sum than the Jew admits, the Jew shall then take an oath upon the pledge pawned with him, and the Christian must not refuse to pay the amount that the Jew has proved through his oath.

  4. Likewise, if a Jew says that he returned the Christian's pledge as a loan to the Christian, without, however, the presence of witnesses, and if the Christian deny this, then the Christian is able to clear himself in this matter through the oath of himself alone.

  5. Likewise, a Jew is allowed to receive all things as pledges which may be pawned with him-no matter what they are called without making any investigation about them, except bloody and wet clothes which he shall under no circumstances accept.

  6. Likewise, if a Christian charges that the pledge which a Jew has, was taken from him by theft or robbery, the Jew must swear on that pledge that when he received it he did not know that it had been removed by theft or robbery. In this oath the amount for which the pledge was pawned to him shall also be included. Then, inasmuch as the Jew has brought his proof, the Christian shall pay him the capital and the interest that has accrued in the meantime.

  7. Likewise, if a Jew, through the accident of fire or through theft or violence, should lose his [own] goods, together with the pledges pawned with him, and this is established, yet the Christian who has pledged something with him nevertheless brings suit against him, the Jew may free himself merely by his own oath. [The Jew loses the money advanced and the Christian, his pledge.]

  8. Likewise, if the Jews engage in quarreling or actually fight among themselves, the judge of our city shall claim no jurisdiction over them; only the Duke alone or the chief official of his land shall exercise jurisdiction. If, however, the [criminal] accusation touches the person, this case shall be reserved for the Duke alone for judgment.

  9. Likewise, if a Christian should inflict any sort of a wound upon a Jew, the accused shall pay to the Duke twelve marks of gold which are to be turned in to the treasury. He must also pay, to the person who has been injured, twelve marks of silver and the expenses incurred for the medicine needed in his cure.

  10. Likewise, if a Christian should kill a Jew he shall be punished with the proper sentence, death, and all his movable and immovable property shall pass into the power of the Duke.

  11. Likewise, if a Christian strikes a Jew, without, however, having spilt his blood, he shall pay to the Duke four marks of gold, and to the man lie struck four marks of silver. If he has no money, he shall offer satisfaction for the crime committed by the loss of his hand.

  12. Likewise, wherever a Jew shall pass through our territory no one shall offer any hindrance to him or molest or trouble him. If, however, he should be carrying any goods or other things for which he must pay duty at all custom offices, he shall pay only the prescribed duty which a citizen of that town, in which the Jew is then dwelling, pays.

  13. Likewise, if the Jews, as is their custom, should transport any of their dead either from city to city, or from province to province, or from one Austrian land into another, we do not wish anything to be demanded of them by our customs officers. If, however, a customs officer should extort anything, then he is to be punished for praedatio mortui, which means, in common language, robbery of the dead.

  14. Likewise, if a Christian, moved by insolence, shall break into or devastate the cemetery of the Jews, he shall die, as the court determines, and all his property, whatever it may be, shall be forfeited to the treasury of the Duke.

  15. Likewise, if any one wickedly throw something at the synagogues of the Jews we order that he pay two talents to the judge of the Jews.

  16. Likewise, if a Jew be condemned by his judge to a money penalty, which is called wandel ("fine"), he shall pay only twelve dinars to him.

  17. Likewise, if a Jew is summoned to court by order of his judge, but does not come the first or second time, he must pay the judge four dinars for each time. If he does not come at the third summons he shall pay thirty-six dinars to the judge mentioned.

  18. Likewise, if a Jew has wounded another Jew he may not refuse to pay a penalty of two talents, which is called wandel, to his judge.

  19. Likewise, we decree that no Jew shall take an oath on the Torah unless he has been summoned to our [the Duke's] presence.

  20. Likewise, if a Jew was secretly murdered, and if through the testimony it cannot be determined by his friends who murdered him, yet if after an investigation has been made the Jews begin to suspect some one, we are willing to supply the Jews with a champion against this suspect.

  21. Likewise, if a Christian raises his hand in violence against a Jewess, we order that the hand of that person be cut off.

  22. Likewise, the [Christian] judge of the Jews shall bring no case that has arisen among the Jews before his court, unless he be invited due to a complaint.

  23. Likewise, if a Christian has redeemed his pledge from a Jew but has not paid the interest, the interest due shall become compounded if it is not paid within a month.

  24. Likewise, we do not wish any one to seek [to coerce] quarters in a Jewish house.

  25. Likewise, if a Jew has lent money to a magnate of the country on his possessions or on a note and proves this documentarily, we will assign the pledged possessions to the Jew and defend them for him against violence.

  26. Likewise, if any man or woman should kidnap a Jewish child we wish that he be punished as a thief [by death].

  27. Likewise, if a Jew has held in his possession, for a year, a pledge received from a Christian, and if the value of the pledge does not exceed the money lent together with the interest, the Jew may show the pledge to his judge and shall then have the right to sell it. If any pledge shall remain for a "year and a day" with a Jew, he shall not have to account for it afterwards to any one.

  28. Likewise, whatever Christian shall take his pledge away from a Jew by force or shall exercise violence in the Jew's home shall be severely punished as a plunderer of our treasury.

  29. Likewise, one shall in no place proceed in judgment against a Jew except in front of his synagogues, saving ourselves who have the power to summon them to our presence.

  30. Likewise, we decree that Jews shall indeed receive only eight dinars a week interest on the talent. . . .

Given at Starkenberg, in the year of the incarnation of the Lord, 1244, on the first of July.