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 Infobank Judengassse Frankfurt am Main
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The fire of 1711

On 14 January 1711, a Wednesday, a fire broke out in the Judengasse at around 8 pm. Within 24 hours the fire had destroyed all but one of the houses in the street. The narrowness of the street, the large number of houses with overhanging upper stories, a strong wind, the shortage of water and the unwise behaviour of the Jewish inhabitants all helped the rapid spread of the fire, which had started in the home of the chief rabbi Naphtali Cohen. In justified fear of looting the Jews kept the gates to the Judengasse closed for a long time. However, even after the Christian inhabitants had forced their way in, they were unable to put out the fierce fire. Four Jews died in the fire, and most of the inhabitants lost all their belongings. Precious books, manuscripts and Torah scrolls, including the rabbi's valuable library, were burnt.
The Mönchsturm, a fortified tower on the eastern side of the Judengasse which was filled with powder and all kinds of ammunition, was spared by the fire, as were the nearby Christian houses. The fact that the wind turned was interpreted by the Christian theologians as a miracle, the "hand of God".
After the fire, Jews were allowed to rent Christian houses as a temporary measure. The poorer Jews, who were unable to afford the high rents in Frankfurt, had to go to Hanau, Offenbach, Rödelheim and other surrounding areas. Jews who had been living in the Judengasse without having right of residence were expelled.
An ascetic mood established itself in the community: the community leadership banned all performances of comedies and all games except chess. Penitential prayers and hymns were collected, and the day of the fire (the 24th of Teveh in the Jewish calendar) was declared a day of fasting and penitence.
After the fire the city council passed a detailed building code for the rebuilding of the Judengasse. An exact plan had to be submitted for each house to be rebuilt. Most of these plans have been preserved in the registers of buildings and have been used by the Jewish Museum as a basis for the reconstruction of the Judengasse and its individual houses.

© Jüd. Museum Frankfurt 1992-2002 /  Sources