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Attempts at a more encompassing control

From mid-14th century onwards, Austrian towns strove to achieve a more encompassing control over the Jews. The increasing decline of the ducal protection offered considerable leeway for the towns to shift competences to their favour, allowing them to tighten their grip on the Jews perceptibly. In addition to limiting the pawnable objects, particular attention was paid to the extent to which their citizens indebted themselves, especially with regard to the mortgaging of houses and real estate. In this regard, municipalities used the office of the Judenrichter: according to the 1244 privilege, Jewish debtors could submit a request to the Judenrichter for permission to sell the collateral after one year of the pawning, provided that the capital and interest of the original loan had not exceeded the pledge’s value; after a year and a day, the Jewish creditor had the general right of disposal over the collateral (Wiedl 2009, pp. 290-2), a time frame generally common in the pawnbroking business (Shatzmiller2013,pp. 10-11 (.While the Judenrichter played an important role in the municipal supervisory measures of the late 14th century, he often had to share responsibility of the control over Jewish credit and pawn business with the municipal judge. In the Salzburg-ruled town of Ptuj (Lower Styria, today’s Slovenia), the task was divided between the municipal judge, to whom the Jews had to submit their promissory notes annually, and the Judenrichter, who supervised their moveable pledges on a weekly basis; according to St. Pollen’s town law of 1338, it was the exclusive right of the municipal judge to request the town’s Jews to submit their debenture bonds and pledges thrice annually for approval. In 1396, several towns in Styria received a privilege by Duke Wilhelm that, among other articles, gave equal control to the municipal judge and the Judenrichter by ordering that debenture bonds from citizens of the respective municipality to Jews had to be corroborated by seal by both of them. It is however still unclear to what degree this regulation was put into practice on an everyday level; this double-sealing has only been evident in some cases in the materials analysed to date (and had not been unheard of before the privilege). For example, a document issued by the Jew Gutel from Graz in 1398 was sealed by both the municipal judge and the Judenrichter but concerned her sale of a forfeited pledges to a third party and not a debenture bond as such (Brugger & Wiedl 2018, p. 203, no. 2170). Furthermore, in only four of the nine privileged cities a Jewish presence can be traced for the time period; it is however not uncommon for ducal privileges and municipal laws to include articles concerning Jews irrespective of an actual Jewish presence (e.g. Brugger & Wiedl 2015, pp. 11-12, no. 1145: municipal law of Kitzbiihel that included articles on the selling of meat by Jews, without any trace of Jewish settlement).

Jews as subjects of municipal administration

In the late 14th century, the towns’ aim of monitoring Jewish business was extended beyond the producing and certifying of documents; municipal administration most notably strove to include the many transactions of small(er)-scale lending and pawnbroking, most of which had not been documented in writing at all until then. Of particular interest to the municipal administration was control over the mortgaging of houses and their potential subsequent forfeiture, whereas registers of moveable pledges, particularly jewellery, as can be found in many cities (Shatzmiller 2013, pp. 45-50), are not transmitted for Austria. To ensure the control over the mortgages, many towns set up a Judenbuch (liber iudeorum, Peter 2007) as well as registers of Jewish house-ownership. The Judenbuch, usually administered by the Judenrichter, was the place where all the business transactions conducted by and with Jews had to be registered in but it also provided some protection for the Jews: the entries rendered it impossible for debtors to claim that bonds presented by Jews were forgeries, and Jews could produce the Judenbuch as proof before court. It is important to note that these tightening municipal control measures were not exclusive to the Jewish inhabitants: some of the Judenbiicher were included in the general Satzbuch (mortgage register), as is the case for the Judenbuch of the Scheffstrasse (Goldmann 1908). The Scheffstrasse, a small community outside the Vienna city walls and subjected to the duchess of Austria, had its own register, kept by both ducal officers and representatives of the city of Vienna. While the manuscript’s first part was a cadastral register, the second and third parts are dedicated to loans among Christians and Jews respectively. The entries of the Judenbuch registered loans granted by Jews, Viennese as well as Lower Austrian and Bohemian Jews, to inhabitants of the Scheffstrasse, who were mostly small-scale craftsmen, for the years from 1387 to 1421 (Wiedl 2014, pp. 140-2).

The setting up of Judenbiicher was not exclusive to the cities: rulers and monasteries, as well as the Estates of Styria and Carinthia in the 15th century tried to keep track of their debts by means of Judenbiicher (Brugger et al. 2013, pp. 161-2). The setting up of a Judenbuch also seemed to be subjected to ducal approval (e.g. Duke Albrecht Ill’s permission to Bruck/ Leitha, Brugger & Wiedl 2018, p. 26, no. 1886), signifying the duke’s sovereignty over the Austrian Jews.

Apart from the Judenbiicher, most of which were lost during the persecutions of 1420/1421 that ended Jewish settlement in the duchy of Austria, the Jewish credit market within towns can also be traced in the general municipal cadastres and title registers that document the pawning of houses and real estate by Christian debtors to their (not only) Jewish creditors. It is however crucial for an extensive survey of an urban credit market to include the administrative records of manorial lords, particularly monasteries, within a city; for example for Vienna, there are over 30 manuscripts to add to the (already extensive) municipal records, stemming from provenances such as the Scottish Monastery, the Teutonic Order, and the Citizens’ Hospital (Geyer & Sailer 1931).

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