By: Gotthard Deutsch
Personal tax, for the benefit of the emperor, imposed upon the German Jews by Ludwig the Bavarian in 1342. The general principle governing the treatment of the Jews in Germany from the earliest times was that they were crown property, and that therefore all taxes paid by them went to the emperor. From the thirteenth century the growing power of territorial rulers encroached upon the imperial privileges; the barons claimed for themselves the right of taxing the Jews, and during the course of the fourteenth century this right was often ceded to them by the emperor, either in return for services rendered or as a compromise in a case of political conflict. Ludwig the Bavarian (1314-47) was often in great financial straits; therefore, as security for loans, he frequently surrendered temporarily to vassals the right to tax the Jews (see Thiele, "Bilder aus der Chronik Bacharachs," p. 32, Gotha, 1891; L. Müller, "Aus Fünf Jahrhunderten," pp. 8 et seq., Nördlingen, 1899; "Allg. Zeit. des Jud." 1902, p. 405). Wishing to secure for the imperial treasury an inalienable income from the Jews, he introduced, in 1342, a special tax, the Goldener Opferpfennig, which consisted of one florin, payable annually by every Jew and Jewess over twenty years of age and possessing property of no less than twenty florins in value. The basis for this tax was the "half-shekel" which, in accordance with the Talmudic interpretation of Ex. xxx. 11-16, every male person was required to pay into the Temple treasury and which Vespasian, after the destruction of the Temple, diverted to the imperial treasury. The German kings, who claimed to be the heirs of the Roman emperors, were according to Ludwig's conception entitled to this tax. According to an agreement with the Jews this tax could not be ceded or pledged to anybody, but was to be paid only into the imperial treasury. This stipulation, by which the Jews expected to protect themselves against further extortions, was not kept faithfully, and in 1413 Emperor Rupert sold one-half of the taxes, including the Opferpfennig payable by the Jews of Brunswick-Lüneburg, to the dukes of that territory. Occasionally a community compromised by paying one large sum instead of the per capita tax. Thus the Jews of Augsburg, about 1429, paid 200 florins annually for their taxes, including the Opferpfennig.
- Wiener, Regesten zur Gesch. der Juden in Deutschland, i. 44, Hanover, 1862;
- Stobbe, Die Juden in Deutschland, pp. 30-32, Brunswick, 1866;
- Grätz, Gesch. viii. 325;
- Nübling, Die Judengemeinden des Mittelalters, pp. 261-263, Ulm, 1896.